Friday, January 22, 2010

The Patron Saint of Gardeners

Growing up in Louisiana, surrounded by Catholics, I've always been enchanted by the idea of saints. Which is sortof strange, considered my family was Southern Baptist, and pretty much had no use for saints. What's even stranger is that as an adult I'm not religious at all, and I still like the idea of saints.

So naturally I lean towards having a saint in my garden (hoping he or she can undo some of the mistakes I constantly make). I always thought St. Francis was the proper saint for the basil rows, with his arms outstretched and the birds perched on his shoulders. Turned out that was because he is the patron saint of animals.

But now I've discovered St. Fiacre. Who it turns out is THE saint to go to for gardening help. St. Fiacre was born in the 600s in Ireland in a monastery where he was educated and taught about all sorts of plants and seeds the common people would never hear of.

Traveling to France, he was granted forestland to build his monastery on and plant his gardens. He planted so many flower and herb gardens he ran out of land. St. Firo offered Fiacre as much land as he could turn up in a day. Legend says Fiacre took his cane and drew a trench in the ground, then prayed. By the next morning, all the soil was turned. As a result of this miracle, one woman reported Fiacre to the local Bishop for using magic. But the Bishop decided it was a miracle, proclaimed Fiacre a Saint, and then turned around declared the woman a witch. (One man's miracle is another's magic).

Fiacre grew amazing herbs and was know far and wide as an accomplished healer. He also had an extreme dislike of women, never allowing any women to enter his gardens or chapel. This may dull my enthusiasm for him in the long run, but at the moment I like the idea that he was a herbalist who managed to avoid being called a witch.

Probably cause he was a man.

At any rate, I'm in the market for a St. Fiacre statue, if he'll have me and my female garden. I'd like to have one by September 1st, St. Fiacre Day. Also known as the traditional Labor Day. And the date of the first publication of Mary Had A Little Lamb, but that's not really pertinent. Unless you have sheep in your garden, in which case it's a lovely connection.


  1. cool about Fiacre. I'd never heard of him before.

  2. Interesting story about Fiacre. I had not heard of him before, but I'm sure my husband has... he went to Catholic schools as a boy and they had religion class every day. I will have to go look him up in my books on the Saints. I bet you can find a statue of him in either a Catholic bookstore, or else a gardening center. I have a couple of wonderful books about the Saints and a few figures (Santos) from the years that I lived in South America, where Catholicism is the predominant religion.