The Pantheon of Woolly Saints

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.

Who’s Who?

An overview of the trades, their patron saints and feast days.

Patron Saints of Medieval Wool Workers
TRADE SAINT FEAST DAY
Shepherds Cuthbert, 20th March
Dyers Maurice 22nd September
Carders Blaise 3rd February
Spinners St Catherine of Alexandria 25th November
Weavers Maurice, Blaise, Crispin 22nd Sept, 3rd Feb, 25th Oct
Fullers Anastasius the Fuller 7th September
Farmers George 23rd April
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

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The Pantheon of Woolly Saints

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