Arnold of Soissons

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Arnold of Soissons
St. Arnold of Soissons is often depicted with a bishop's mitre and a mash rake.
Born 1040
Tiegem, Flanders
Died 1087
Venerated in Roman Catholic Church
Canonized 6 January 1120 by Pope Callixtus II
Feast August 14
Attributes As a bishop, with a mash rake
Patronage hop-pickers, beer brewing

Arnold (Arnoul) of Soissons or Arnold or Arnulf of Oudenburg[1] (ca 1040–1087) is a saint of the Roman Catholic Church, the patron saint of hop-pickers and Belgian brewers.


Arnold, born in Brabant, the son of a certain Fulbertus[2] was first a career soldier before settling at the Benedictine St. Medard's Abbey, Soissons, France. He spent his first three years as a hermit, but later rose to be abbot of the monastery. His hagiography states that he tried to refuse this honor and flee—a standard literary trope (compare Jiménez de Cisneros)— but was forced by a wolf[3] to return. He then became a priest and in 1080, bishop of Soissons, another honor that he sought to avoid. When his see was occupied by another bishop, rather than fighting, he took the opportunity to retire from public life, founding the Abbey of St. Peter in Oudenburg.[4]

At the abbey, he began to brew beer, as essential in medieval life as water. He encouraged local peasants to drink beer, instead of water, due to its "gift of health." The beer normally consumed at breakfast and during the day at this time in Europe was called small beer, having a very low alcohol content, and containing spent yeast. Thus the drinker had a safe source of hydration, plus a dose of B vitamins from the yeast which grew during the fermentation of the beverage.[citation needed]

The miracle tale says, at the time of an epidemic, Arnold was an abbot in Oudenburg, Belgium. Rather than stand by while the local Christians drank water, he had them consume his alcoholic brews. Because of this, many people in his church survived the plague.[5] During the process of brewing, the water was boiled and thus, unknown to all, freed of pathogens. This same story is also told of Arnulf or Arnold of Metz, another patron of brewers. There are many depictions of St. Arnold with a mashing rake in his hand, to identify him. He is honoured in July with a parade in Brussels on the "Day of Beer."[6]

Arnold had encouraged the local people to consume the beer for the "gift of health". Because of this, it is more likely that people in the local area normally consumed small beer from the monastery, or made their own small beer at the instructions of Arnold and his fellow clergymen. Then, when an outbreak of Cholera began (cholera is most often transmitted by tainted water), those communities drinking the beer avoided the outbreak. The cholera miraculously passed them by. Communities that did not consume small beer, but drew water from ground-wells, would have be susceptible to a cholera outbreak.[citation needed]

Miracles that were reported at his tomb were investigated and approved by a council at Beauvais in 1121; Arnold's relics were translated to the church of Saint Peter, Aldenburg in 1131.[7] St. Arnold's feast day is 14 August.[8]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Arnold has no connection with Oudenaarde, where several barons bore the name Arnulphus of Oudenaarde.
  2. ^ "a gentleman of Brabant" according to John McClintock, Cyclopaedia of Biblical, Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature 1889 s.v. "Arnulph (St.)"; "a French nobleman" according to Alban Butler, Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs, and Other Principal Saints (1866), s.v. "Arnoul, or Arnuphus, C.".
  3. ^ Arnulf signifies "[noble] eagle-wolf".
  4. ^ At Oudenburg he is known as Arnold of Oudenburg; the abbey was demolished at the time of the French Revolution.
  5. ^ Gately, Iain (2009). Drink: A Cultural History of Alcohol. New York: Gotham Books. p. 85. ISBN 978-1-592-40464-3. 
  6. ^ DC Beer. Original article written 28/08/2009 Retrieved 25/05/2016
  7. ^ Patron Saints Index: Saint Arnulf of Soissons Archived March 22, 2009, at the Wayback Machine.
  8. ^ Patron Saints Index: Saint Arnulf of Soissons Archived March 22, 2009, at the Wayback Machine.


  • R.I.A. Nip (ed.), Lisiardus, Hariulfus. Vitae, Miracula, Translatio et alia Hagiographica sancti Arnulphi episcopi Suessionensis (= Corpus Christianorum. Continuatio Mediaevalis 285), Turnhout: Brepols Publishers, 2015 (ISBN 978-2-503-05301-1)

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