Shoemaking and Saints


Like most crafts, Shoemaking and repair had their patron saints. Shoemaking and Christianity have had a long relationship, or so it would appear from the Vitae and legends of the various Saints and legendary figures. Numerous saints, alleged saints and religious folk are either linked in legends as either being shoemakers or having had something to do with shoemaking. These include:

Alexander

Alexander was appointed to the See of Comana and was Martyred 270 CE. He was a shoemaker. (Source: Wright, Thomas. The Romance of the Shoe. London: C.J.Farncome & Sons, 1922)

Anianus of Alexandria

The apocryphal acta of Saint Mark relates that Anianus (or Annianus) was a shoemaker who, while making a new thong for the Apostle Mark's shoe was stabbed himself with an Awl. The Apostle healed him, and Anianus converted to Christianity. He later became Bishop of Alexandria, dying in 80 - 84 CE.
(Sources: Roman Martyrology; Wright, Thomas. The Romance of the Shoe. London: C.J.Farncome & Sons, 1922; Benedictine Monks of St. Augustine Abbey, Ramsgate. The book of saints: A dictionary of persons canonized or beatified by the Catholic Church. NY: Thomas Y. Crowell, 1966;  Husenbeth, Rev. F. C. .Emblems of saints in works of art. Longmans, Green & Co., 1860).

Aquila and Prisca

This 1st century Jewish tentmaker, and his wife (also called Priscilla) are often shown in art with tentmaker's tools or making tents, or they might also be shown with shoemaker's tools and each of them holding a sword, or with Saint Paul
(Sources: Roman Martyrology; Roeder, Helen. Saints and their attributes: With a guide to localities and patronage. Chicago: Henry Regnery Company, 1955).

Bartholomew

Nathaniel Bar Tolmai, Apostle, may be the oldest patron of shoemakers in Christian mythology, apparently because he was martyred by being flayed alive (Source: Petr Hlavácek, "Patron Saints of Shoemakers" (3 May 1999) http://"www.shoeinfonet.com/history/patrons/hi_patrons.htm").

Blasius

Also known as Blasius of Sebast. This 4th century Bishop is regarded as a patron of cobblers because he was martyred by being flayed alive (Source: Petr Hlavácek, "Patron Saints of Shoemakers" (3 May 1999) http://"www.shoeinfonet.com/history/patrons/hi_patrons.htm").

Catherine of Alexandria

This major saint was adopted by a number of trades as patron, including teachers, speakers, lawyers, tanners and shoemakers (Source: Petr Hlavácek, "Patron Saints of Shoemakers" (3 May 1999) http://"www.shoeinfonet.com/history/patrons/hi_patrons.htm").

Crispian and Crispinian

These are the best known of Shoemaking's patrons in Heaven, although it often seems to me that Saints Crispian and Crispinian are best known today for being a part of Shakespeare's "band of brothers" speech in Henry V. However, Crispian and Crispinian are part of a much older tradition than the Bard's. There are a number of differnent legends about these saints. The documents on them are dubious at best, not only unable to agree on whether Crispinian was a separate saint, a description of Crispian, or where Crispian came from.

Essentially, however, Crispian and Crispinian, were of Roman origin (legend has it that Crispian, at least, was of a Noble family), they were cast out of their family when they converted to Christianity. They followed St Quentin (or St. Quintinus) on his mission to the Gaulish pagans, and are reputed to have founded Noviodunum (now Soissons, France). Rather than be supported by the faithful, they chose to practice the profession of shoemaking, making shoes for the poor at night, after preaching all day. The leather for their shoes was brought to them nightly by angels. Eventually the local pagans complained to the Emperor, Maximian (or this occured during the persecutions of Diocletian), and they were arrested (c.290), and handed over to Rictiovarus (or Rictio Varus), who may have been the governor, or some other position, or perhaps never existed at all. Rictiovarus had them stabbed with awls, had them thrown into the Aisne with millstones around their necks, and performed other tortures that vary in description by source. Eventually, having failed to kill them, Rictiovarus killed himself, and they were decapitated on the orders of the Emperor. They may have been buried in Soissons, they may have been carried back to Rome and buried with honor in the church of St. Laurence in Panisperna. Another legend has them remaining in Rome, where they died around 285-88, and their relics were translated to Soissons in the 6th century. French hagiographers created the story that they were martyred in Soissons, and eventually it was even popularly believed that they were from the Soissons area. Engish traditions have them fleeing to Faversham during persecutions and plying their trade at the location of the Swan Inn in Preston Street, or having their headless bodies being tossed into the sea and floating to the Romney Marsh. Finally, the story told about them in Deloney's The Gentle Craft, and later sources, is even more exotic being a tale of epic adventure of the two sons of the King of Logria. The boys disquise themselves to escape the Tyranny of the Emperor Maximinus, learned shoemaking from a aged Cordwainer in Faversham. Crispin marries the Emperor's daughter, Ursula, while Crispianus goes off to defeat the Persians in a war against the French. The story finally ends with Maximinus becoming a a good person, at the site of his grandchild, and everyone lived happily ever after.

Their shrine in Soissons was later rebuilt by St. Eloi (d.660) (or St. Eligius). Faversham was a pilgrimage site as late as the 17th century. There is an alter to their honor in the Faversham parish church.  There is a painting of them in Týn Cathedral in Prague.

They are the patron saints of Cobblers, Shoemakers and Leatherworkers, or in the words of Randle Holme, they are "The Patron of Souters, Cordwiners; and Shoe-makers Journey-Men." Their feast day is 25 October, the "Shoemaker's Holiday", when in less rigid times, cobbler's, bootmakers and shoemakers traditionally closed their shops in celebration and commemoration of them (Sources: Holme, Randle. Academy of Armory & Blazon, 1688; Kelly, Sean and Rosemary Rogers. Saints Preserve Us. NY: Random House, 1993; Metford, JCJ. Dictionary of Christian Lore and Legend. London: Thames and Hudson Ltd, 1983; Petr Hlavácek, "Patron Saints of Shoemakers" (3 May 1999) http://"www.shoeinfonet.com/history/patrons/hi_patrons.htm").

Erhard of Regensburg

This 7th century French Bishop is venerated in Alsace, Austria and Lower Bavaria.   His feast is on 19 January. (Source: Petr Hlavácek, "Patron Saints of Shoemakers" (3 May 1999) http://"www.shoeinfonet.com/history/patrons/hi_patrons.htm").

Euseus of Serravalle

This  4th (or14th) century hermit in the Piedmont plied the cobbler's trade. His feast is on the 15th of February, and he is the Patron of Shoemakers. Saint Euseus is portrayed as a hermit with shoemaker's tools.
(Sources: Kelly, Sean and Rosemary Rogers. Saints Preserve Us. NY: Random House, 1993; Roeder, Helen. Saints and their attributes: With a guide to localities and patronage. Chicago: Henry Regnery Company, 1955; Benedictine Monks of St. Augustine Abbey, Ramsgate. . The book of saints: A dictionary of persons canonized or beatified by the Catholic Church. NY: Thomas Y. Crowell, 1966; Petr Hlavácek, "Patron Saints of Shoemakers" (3 May 1999) http://"www.shoeinfonet.com/history/patrons/hi_patrons.htm).

Genguplphus

Also called Gangolf, this Burgundian noble from Varennes was murdered in 760 (Source: Petr Hlavácek, "Patron Saints of Shoemakers" (3 May 1999) http://"www.shoeinfonet.com/history/patrons/hi_patrons.htm").

Homonobus of Cremona

An Italian merchant, he was born around 1150, died 13 November 1197, and was canonized in 1199, and his feast is on the 13th of November. He is the patron of several craft guilds, including tailors, drapers and clothworkers, and shoemakers (Source: Kelly, Sean and Rosemary Rogers. Saints Preserve Us. NY: Random House, 1993;  Petr Hlavácek, "Patron Saints of Shoemakers" (3 May 1999) http://"www.shoeinfonet.com/history/patrons/hi_patrons.htm").

Hugh

Hugh may never have been actually venerated as a Saint, as say, Crispian and Crispianus were, as there is no mention of him before his appearance in Thomas Deloney's The Gentle Craft (1598) and Thomas Dekker's The Shoemakers Holiday (1599), although from those sources it seems likely that his story did not originate with these authors specifically. He is also mentioned in 'The Cobbler's Jig'.

According to Deloney's The Gentle Craft, and later sources, Hugh was born son of Arviragus "king of Powisland" (probably Pwys in modern day Wales, unless it refers to the whole of the Welsh as the remaining Britains), St. Hugh romantically persued a Christian princess, Winifred of Flintshire (modern Clwyd). She eventually converted him to Christianity, and he persued his craft of shoemaking, while preaching to faithful. He and Winifred were "among the first" to be imprisoned for his faith under Diocletian, and eventually executed, ostensibly for rabble-rousing, about 300 A.D. But even during this time, his fellow shoemakers stood by him, maintaining a constant vigil over him, supplying his needs during his imprisonment. Winifred was beheaded, and He was forced to drink her blood before being hung from a gibbet. Winifred was buried by the well that bears her name, and his friends pulled his body from the gibbet and dried his bones. to make them into tools for making shoes. A shoemaker's tool kit was thereafter called St. Hugh's Bones. At least according to people who followed Deloney and Dekker and believed them.

According to one version of the legends, St. Hugh was a prince of Britain, son of Arvarigus, King of Powisland, in about 300 AD. He fell in love with Winifred, daughter of the king of Flintshire. She became a Christian, and Hugh adopted her faith, and he began to preach the Gospel.

Hugh learned to be a shoemaker to support himself after losing his wealth in a shipwreck. He preached the gospel by day and made shoes at night. He was eventually arrested and put to death for his beliefs. When Hugh was in prison, awaiting death, his fellow journeyman shoemakers remained with him, giving him everything he needed, for which he named them the "gentleman of the gentle craft".

After his death, his brother shoemakers took his bones from the gibbet and made them into tools, hence the name "St. Hugh's Bones".

[Note:Arviragus is mentioned in Hollinshead and British legendary history as a King of Britain, a son of Cymbeline (the historical Cunobelinus). Arviragus, also known as Arviragus Gwenivyth, King of Siluria, aka Arfyrag, is supposedly the king from whom Joseph of Arimathea received his land grant of 12 hides from when they brought Christianity to Britain in 37 or 63 CE. His brother was, according to Geoffrey of Monmouth, killed during Claudius' invasion of Britain in 43 CE. He is referred to in Juvenal. Arviragus put away his British wife and son and daughter, and married Venissa, or Genissa (or Venus) the daughter of a Roman official (some say Claudius himself) in the hopes of protecting himself from Rome.]
[Note:Winifred is a Welsh Saint, a 7th century virgin, who was from Flintshire and had a very active, and very inventive cult in the Middle Ages. Her cult, centered on Holywell and Shrewsbury, do not appear to mention a husband or lover named Hugh. Her Feast day is 3 November, although in some Welsh Churches it is either 19/20 September or 4 November. Her Translation is 4 November.]

John of Egypt (Lycopolis)

John was born at Asyut [Assiut, Lycopolis], in Egypt, about 304; died near there in 394. John was a shoemaker (or a carpenter) at Asyut. At the age of 25 he became a hermit, moving in with an old hermit on a nearby mountain, where he remained for the next 12 years. During his time there, his humility and obedience were tested by a number of bizarre act ordered by the older hermit. After the old man's death, he spent 4 years moving about between various monastaries. At the age of 40, he walled himself up in a cell on the top of a rock near Lycopolis. Speaking only on Saturdays and Sundays, and not eating until after sundown, and then only a slight amount he developed a reputatation for miracles, prophecy and reading men's souls. He was very popular, consulted by Emperors
(Sources: Roman Martyrology; Attwater, D. The penguin dictionary of saints, 2nd edition, revised and updated by Catherine Rachel John. New York: Penguin Books, 1983;
Attwater, D. Saints of the East, 1963; Benedictine Monks of St. Augustine Abbey, Ramsgate. . The book of saints: A dictionary of persons canonized or beatified by the Catholic Church. NY: Thomas Y. Crowell, 1966;  Gill, F. C.  The glorious company: Lives of great Christians for daily devotion, vol. I. London: Epworth Press, 1958;  Husenbeth, Rev. F. C. .Emblems of saints in works of art. Longmans, Green & Co., 1860)

Joseph of Kopertine

St. Joseph was born 17 Jul 1603 in Kopertine, Italy. He was apprenticed to a shoemaker.   He eventually became a Franciscan.  He died on 18 September 1663 in Osima.   He is also he patron of astronauts, and military pilots (Source: Petr Hlavácek, "Patron Saints of Shoemakers" (3 May 1999) http://"www.shoeinfonet.com/history/patrons/hi_patrons.htm").

Martin

"Patron of the Master Cordwiners or Shoe-makers." (Source: Holme, Randle. Academy of Armory & Blazon, 1688).

Mary Magdalene

(Source: Petr Hlavácek, "Patron Saints of Shoemakers" (3 May 1999) http://"www.shoeinfonet.com/history/patrons/hi_patrons.htm", http://"www.zlin.vutbr.cz/asc/people/hlavacek/patrons.htm").

Maurus

St. Maur[us] A Benedictine, d.584, He is the patron saint of charcoalburners, coppersmiths, etc. -- in Belgium he is the Patron of shoemakers. He is invoked against gout, hoarseness, colds, and so on. He was a disciple of St. Benedict, and his chief support at Subiaco. His feast day has traditionally been January, but has recently been moved to 25 October.
(Sources: Kelly, Sean and Rosemary Rogers. Saints Preserve Us. NY: Random House, 1993; Roeder, Helen. Saints and their attributes: With a guide to localities and patronage. Chicago: Henry Regnery Company, 1955; Benedictine Monks of St. Augustine Abbey, Ramsgate. . The book of saints: A dictionary of persons canonized or beatified by the Catholic Church. NY: Thomas Y. Crowell, 1966; Husenbeth, Rev. F. C. .Emblems of saints in works of art. Longmans, Green & Co., 1860) ).

Other Saints Maurus (who probably have nothing to do with shoemaking):

Nevolo

Also known as Novelonius.  He was originally a cobbler from Amila province in France.  He was led by St, James to become a Franciscan.  He died in 1280 in Faenzi, and there is regarded as the patron of cobblers (Source: Petr Hlavácek, "Patron Saints of Shoemakers" (3 May 1999) http://"www.shoeinfonet.com/history/patrons/hi_patrons.htm").

Rene of Soreta

A 3rd or 4th century Bishop.  He is the patron of "clog" makers (Source: Petr Hlavácek, "Patron Saints of Shoemakers" (3 May 1999) http://"www.shoeinfonet.com/history/patrons/hi_patrons.htm").

Sir John Shorne (c.1290-1314)

(Also called Master John, or Reverend John, his surname given as either Shorne or Schorne)
According to legend, Shorne was a devout man, and the rector of North Marston, Buckinghamshire, at the close of the thirteenth century. He blessed a well, which in time became the destination of pilgrims, bringing in a revenue of some 500 Ł per annum. By 1481, his shrine and relics had been removed to Windsor. His greatest feat, however, was conjuring the Devil into a boot, which explains his affinity with shoemakers. His local cult was reputed to have been even bigger than Beckett's, though this is doubtful. He was effectively an uncanonised saint, and was prayed to in cases of ague.

     To maister John Shorne, that blessed man borne.
     For the ague to him we apply.
     Which juggleth with a bote; I beschrewe his herte rote
     That will trust him, and it be I.
     ---Fantassie of Idolatrie

(Sources: Brewer, E. Cobham, The Dictionary of Phrase and Fable,1894, 1989; Wright, Thomas. The Romance of the Shoe. London: C.J.Farncome & Sons, 1922.; Correspondence with D.A. Saguto)

Theobald of Alba

Also known as Blessed Theobald Roggeri of Vico (or of Alba). Patron of Porters, Shoemakers, and/or Cobblers and is invoked against fever and sterility. His feast day is the 2d of June. In art, Theobald is a pilgrim with shoemaker's tools. He is venerated in Liguria and the Piedmont. Theobald was born into a noble Piedmontese family (or perhaps a noble family at Vico, in Liguria), but was so moved by reading of the Gospel that he gave all that up, adopted a more simple life, and subsequently apprenticed himself to a cobbler in Alba. He became so skilled at the trade that it was his master's dying wish that Our Saint marry his daughter. Theobald, bound as he was by a vow of chastity, departed on a pilgrimage to Compostella, in Spain. Upon his return to Alba, he sought even more menial employment, earned his living as a carrier, carrying sacks of grain and giving away his meager salary to the poor and suffering until his death on 1 June 1150. (Sources: Roeder, Helen. Saints and their attributes: With a guide to localities and patronage. Chicago: Henry Regnery Company, 1955;  Kelly, Sean and Rosemary Rogers. Saints Preserve Us. NY: Random House, 1993; Petr Hlavácek, "Patron Saints of Shoemakers" (3 May 1999) http://"www.shoeinfonet.com/history/patrons/hi_patrons.htm")

Theobald of Provence

Also called Dietbald, he was originally from a wealthy family in Luxemburg, and died in 1066 in Salaniga in Italy.  He was Canonized in 1073.  There may be some confusion with Theobald of Alba.  He is considered the patron of shoemakers, tanners, and beltmakers (Source: Petr Hlavácek, "Patron Saints of Shoemakers" (3 May 1999) http://"www.shoeinfonet.com/history/patrons/hi_patrons.htm").


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Footwear of the Middle Ages - St. Crispan and St. Crispinian, Copyright © 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2001 I. Marc Carlson.
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