Trick or Treat was last night, our gardens were a popular stop.
Now that the "Eve of all Hallows" has past, we thought we'd honor "All Saint's Day" by talking about one of the Saints in our garden. Of course we have Saint John's Wort, the terrific wound healing plant for nerve pain and depression. We also have a charming Saint Francis, the favored Saint of birds and small animals. But our favorite is Saint Fiacre considered the patron Saint of Gardeners.
Of saints remembered for their connection with horticulture St Fiacre is the favorite of gardeners and herbalists. Born about 590 A.D., the eldest son of pagan Irish King Eugene IV, St Fiacre was reared a Christian by his mother and Bishop Conan of Soder. Tiring of court life early in manhood, Fiacre and his sister Sira journeyed to Meaux, France, where they were welcomed by Bishop Saint Faron and his sister Abbess St. Fare.
Admitting his royal background, Fiacre explained his desire to serve God in peace and quiet. Recognizing his sincerity, the bishop gave him a lonely spot in the forest of Breuil. Living the simple life of a peasant, he worked from dawn till dusk making a clearing, raising a cell and chapel, and planting a garden of fruits, vegetables, flowers and herbs.
His devotion, kindness to animals and the luxuriance of his garden attracted the attention of visitors from far and near. They brought the troubled, the ailing, the sick and he fed, consoled, cured them, allowing them to work in his garden. So Hortitherapy was born – the first record of helping men’s minds by working the soil.
Presently a hospital, monastery and more land for gardening were needed. Permission to expand was readily granted by Bishop Faron, but legend says he could have only what he could encircle with a furrow between sunrise and sunset. Tradition gives two versions: after a night of meditation and prayer her dug a prodigious amount; or , the ground miraculously opened at the touch of his spade.
Once more Fiacre set busily to work felling trees, opening trenches, building. All was upheaval when a lady of high degree passed by. Horrified, she hurried to Bishop Faron saying Satan himself was wrecking a private estate. When the bishop investigated a miracle occurred – a stone became a comfortable seat. Again the bishop gave his blessing, ordering all women to keep their distance henceforth.
Eventually Fiacre was invited to return to Ireland as king but he refused, and lived out his life in France, praising God and doing good to all men. On August 13th, 670, Fiacre died, but his fame lingered on. For generations French gardeners have observed his anniversary attending services on flower decked chapels dedicated to him.
Oddly enough, he is the patron of cab drivers, too, for so many people hired Paris cabs to visit his tomb at Meaux, the drivers adopted him, and their vehicles became “fiacres”.