There are so many ways and places that this blog could start and ideally it would be truly chronological. However because the British Medieval History Group on Facebook are having a themed week – Medieval taverns, feast days, cuisine and culinary ettiquette – starting tomorrow it seemed to sensible to put together a couple of posts looking at the Saints of the Medieval Wool Industry.
Why Did Wool Workers Need Saints?
Saints were people who had died, who had either lead an exemplary, holy life, been martyred for the faith or performed miracles, often posthumously. During the medieval period, people were taught that they could not pray directly to God directly but needed an intercessor or intermediary, namely a priest or a Saint. Different groups of people adopted patron saints as their intercessor, for example women might pray to Mary or her mother St Anne, whilst men in a battle situation would call upon Saint George to help them.So if a piece of wool was spinning badly the spinster might pray to her patron saint for aid in making the process easier. The patron saint also gave people a sense of belonging to a named group, often a trade guild. The Feast Day of the Saint also gave rise to a social occasion, a celebration of the Saint’s life.
An overview of the trades, their patron saints and feast days.
|Spinners||St Catherine of Alexandria||25th November|
|Weavers||Maurice, Blaise, Crispin||22nd Sept, 3rd Feb, 25th Oct|
|Fullers||Anastasius the Fuller||7th September|
|Wool Merchants||St Blaise||3rd February|
The next post will focus on St Blaise – he was the universal Saint of wool workers and had a rather unfortunate, wool related, death. There are churches throughout England dedicated to Blaise, at least one town named after him and his feast day was a highlight in some places.
References and Bibliography
Caulfield SFA & Saward BC (1989), Dictionary of Needlework, London, Blaketon Hall Ltd (reprint from 2nd Ed 1885)
Riches, S & Gill M () Pilgrims and Pilgrimage – Medieval Saints, [online] available at: http://www.york.ac.uk/projects/pilgrimage/content/med_saint.html accessed 25.10.11