Did you know that there is a patron saint of gardeners? Of course there is! There’s a patron saint for almost everything!
A few years ago a friend here wanted to celebrate finishing a gardening course she’d undertaken but she wanted the party to become the means for people interested in gardens or nature or growing their own food to come together to share plants and seeds and, this being Italy, share a good lunch too! She did some research and found that the patron saint of gardeners is San Fiacre and that his feast day is either 30th of August or 1st of September. To make it easy for people to participate the celebration has taken place on the last Sunday in August.
The end of August is probably the time an Italian garden looks at its very worst so not ideal for people to show off the beauties of their gardens! The feast has been held in a different garden for the past eight years but the number of people volunteering to host the event has become a problem; no-one wants their garden to be seen when it isn’t looking great.
Last year the Botanic Garden of Viterbo was offered as the venue which had plusses and minuses; it lost its individual garden appeal but it had to be held on a different day so opening up the possibility that we could celebrate on various dates of our choosing. The venue for this year had been decided many months ago but some late problems meant that another garden needed to be found quickly so that we could celebrate with a meal outside and October was going to be too late; so that although I hosted the event in 2009 I offered to host again this year. There followed a frantic couple of weeks trying to make the garden presentable.
About 40 friends were expected; the day was perfect with sunshine and a few high clouds. Each of the guests brought with them a dish they had prepared (many with produce from their own gardens); gardeners here seem to have a sweet tooth and there were as many desserts as there were savoury dishes! But of course many had fruit to harvest so fruit based desserts were an obvious choice.
So who was St. Fiacre?
St. Fiacre (Fiachra) is not mentioned in the earlier Irish calendars, but it is said that he was born in Ireland, that he sailed over to France in quest of more solitude, in which he might devote himself to God, unknown to the world. He arrived at Meaux, where Saint Faro, who was the bishop of that city, gave him a solitary dwelling in a forest which was his own patrimony, called Breuil, in the province of Brie. There is a legend that St. Faro offered him as much land as he could turn up in a day, and that St. Fiacre, instead of driving his furrow with a plough, turned the top of the soil with the point of his staff. The anchorite cleared the ground of trees and briers, made himself a cell with a garden, built an oratory in honour of the Blessed Virgin, and made a hospice for travellers which developed into the village of Saint-Fiacre in Seine-et-Marne. Many resorted to him for advice, and the poor, for relief. His charity moved him to attend cheerfully those that came to consult him; and in his hospice he entertained all comers, serving them with his own hands, and sometimes miraculously restored to health those that were sick. He never allowed any women to enter the enclosure of his hermitage, and Saint Fiacre extended the prohibition even to his chapel; several rather ill-natured legends profess to account for it.
The fame of Saint Fiacre’s miracles of healing continued after his death and crowds visited his shrine for centuries. Many people found relief from their maladies. Anne of Austria attributed the recovery of Louis XIII at Lyons, where he had been dangerously ill to the meditation of this saint; in thanksgiving for which she made, on foot, a pilgrimage to the shrine in 1641. She also sent to his shrine, a token in acknowledgement of his intervention in the birth of her son, Louis XIV. Many miracles were claimed through his working the land and interceding for others.
The prizes were all plants of course!
I picked masses of the Jerusalem artichoke flowers and some stems of Aster Monch to quickly put together some flowers for all the tables. On Monday I showed the arrangement in the pewter jug that graced the table on which the food was served. Here are some images of the other vases.
I gave a couple of tours of the garden, explaining my plant choices and the ideas behind my design. During the early evening as some people began to leave and others chose a warmer place to sit (shade had been sought out by everyone for lunch) I managed the capture some images of how the garden looked on the day. You may spot a small statue of San Fiacre who was present in the garden for the celebrations.
As I think we’d all appreciate some help with trench digging or any digging, come to that. Maybe next year we bloggers could all post on 30th August about some miracle in our own gardens, what do you think?