Arnulf of Metz vs. Vincent of Saragossa

Like a fine wine or a craft beer, Lent Madness goes down smoothly with notes of penitence and joy. Fortunately, with today's battle, we have both possibilities at play. Arnulf of Metz is the patron saint of beer brewers; Vincent of Saragossa is the patron saint of wine makers. They have other identities as well, as you'll soon discover.

Yesterday, in what any commentators are calling a major upset, Catherine Booth doused Joan of Arc 63% to 37%.

You know, one of the things we love about Lent Madness is the ecumenical nature of both the bracket and the participants. We're happy to give our Lutheran friends some love, and bid you to check out the brilliant video podcast Reflections on Faith by the Rev. Tim Westrmeyer of St. Philip the Deacon Lutheran Church in Plymouth, Minnesota. Enjoy!

And then go vote.

Arnulf of Metz
Very few saints have the pedigree of Arnulf (also Arnold, c. 582–642). He was born into the royal Merovingian dynasty and became the third greatgrandfather of Charlemagne.

Arnulf’s life and career began in politics. As an administrator and military officer, he was intimately involved in the palace intrigues and power plays of his day. This eventually led to his appointment as the bishop of Metz, a position imbued with both political and religious importance in the empire.

Whatever his faith life was before his ordination and consecration, the position seems to have transformed him. He was known to be generous with his wealth, redistributing it to those in need. The people of Metz faced constant threat of illness, so the bishop advised them to drink more beer, which was boiled in the brewing process, rather than the water of questionable quality. During one particularly virulent outbreak of illness, Arnulf plunged his pectoral cross into a brew kettle, telling his parishioners, “Don’t drink the water, drink the beer.”

Troubled by the violence among the royal houses and worried that he had contributed to the feuds, Arnulf tossed his episcopal ring into a river and prayed that God would return the ring to him as a sign that he had been forgiven for his earlier life. Legend has it that years later, a fisherman brought dinner to the bishop; cutting into the fish, they discovered the ring in its belly.

At about forty years old, Arnulf withdrew to the monastic life. With a few close friends, he lived as a hermit in the French mountains. The former courtier and bishop lived out the rest of his days in prayer and contemplation.

One more outpouring of grace awaited. In the middle of the summer of 642, a group from Metz traveled to Arnulf’s mountain retreat to gather their beloved bishop’s remains and return them to the city. Trudging over the hard terrain in the heat, the group came to an inn and stopped to refresh themselves. Unfortunately, the innkeeper only had enough ale for one mug. However, as they passed the one mug between themselves, the beer never ran out. All of them had enough and were refreshed. Arnulf reminds us of the importance of life’s second act, and the value of a refreshing mug of beer.

Collect for Arnulf of Metz
O God, our heavenly Father, who raised up your faithful servant, Arnulf, to be a bishop and pastor in your Church and to feed your flock: Give abundantly to all pastors the gifts of your Holy Spirit, that they may minister in your household as true servants of Christ and stewards of your divine mysteries; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

—David Hansen


Vincent of Saragossa
Vincent of Saragossa was the first Christian martyred in the country of Spain. He was killed under the persecution of the emperor Diocletian in the year 304 in the northeast of Spain.

Vincent was born in Huesca, near Saragossa. He was ordained a deacon and became a preacher and spokesman for the bishop of Saragossa, Valerius, who had a speech impediment. Together, they were brought to Valencia and tried by Dacian, the governor of Spain under Diocletian. Vincent suffered extreme torture—being stretched on a rack, torn at with hooks, and burned on a hot gridiron. Through it all, he remained peaceful and refused to denounce the gospel or burn the Bible. His tranquility while suffering such pain converted his guards, which is a common occurrence in the narratives of early Christian martyrs.

While the elderly bishop Valerius was punished with exile, Vincent died upon a bed of pottery shards. He was wrapped in a sack and thrown into the sea, but his fellow Christians recovered his body and carried it to a spot now called Cape Vincent in Portugal. It is believed that ravens protected his body from vultures, and they continued to guard the shrine where his relics were interred. When Arabs ruled the region, they named this shrine the Church of the Raven. In the twelfth century, Saint Vincent’s body was exhumed and brought to Lisbon to buried at the cathedral.

Vincent is a widely venerated saint, thanks to many popular hagiographies of the Middle Ages. There are churches that honor him all over Spain, including Castres on the pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela. When Christopher Columbus and his crew were the first Europeans to discover an island in the Caribbean on January 22, Saint Vincent’s feast day. Columbus named the island St. Vincent to honor the saint. Vincent is the patron saint of Valencia, Saragossa, and Portugal as well as wine, vinegar, and brickmakers.

His popularity reminds us of the power of the stories of the early Christians whose bravery and faith were so great they inspired the growth of the church. Vincent’s witness helps us remember not to oppress other minorities and reminds us that Christianity is a religion of peace, humility, and sacrifice, not domination or complacency.

Collect for Vincent of Saragossa
Almighty God, whose deacon Vincent, upheld by you, was neither terrified by threats nor overcome by torments: Strengthen us to endure all adversity with invincible and steadfast faith; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

—Amber Belldene


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Arnulf of Metz: XIIIfromTOKYO / CC BY-SA (
Vincent of Sargossa: Tomás Giner / Public domain


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171 comments on “Arnulf of Metz vs. Vincent of Saragossa”

    1. Although I am much more of a wine drinker, I had to vote for Arnulf. He seems to have put his money where his mouth is.

      1. Me, too, Ann. I don‘t like beer; I do love wine! — but I can‘t see the connection with Vincent, and obviously Arnulf was a zealous promoter of his beverage! The use of beer in preference to water for health reasons continued through many centuries — it was essential to the survival of early English colonies in North America (for good or ill).

  1. Give a shout-out today to Saint Vince,
    Who determined to not even wince
    At the griddle and rack
    So when he got the sack
    They’ve been widely admiring him since.

    1. Including naming the southwesternmost point of Portugal (where his body was reportedly watched over by ravens) "Cape St. Vincent". It has been the site of numerous sea battles, and is world-renowned today as the site of the Leszte Bratwurst vor Amerika (Last bratwurst until America) food truck. I shall pay them a visit when I go to Portugal, although I may avert my eye from the griddle.

      1. I am hoping to walk the Portuguese route of the Camino de Santiago this fall and will definitely try to fined the Leszte Bratwurst vor Amerika food truck if I am able to make the trip

    2. My advice is to place all your bets
      On the blessed saint Arnulf of Metz;
      When ill health is the fear,
      The good saint suggests beer--
      So vote Arnulf, and have no regrets.

  2. Well, I gave it to the man who told his people to drink beer, instead of water. Not because it was beer, but because he could see that the water would make people sick. Much like the scientist who have been telling us to wear masks. It's obvious that they help to stop the spread of COVID. So, as a preventer of disease spread, I have to vote for Arnulf.

    1. That's why I voted for Arnulf as well. He doubtless saved many lives with his advice not to drink the water.

  3. My wife shared this heartfelt thought: “Beer is prof that God loved us and wants us to be happy.” We know how she’ll vote....

    But though I love beer, I have celiac disease, so remain flummoxed (yet again!) by these maddening brackets!

    1. An inaccurate quote. *sigh* It's still a good statement, but the historical roots are from a letter by Benjamin Franklin to Andre Morellet. I won't quote the entire passage, but suffice to say, Franklin was actually talking about wine and how God provided rain for vineyards and thus for wine.

    2. New Grist...Glutenberg! My wife has celiac, yet we can still enjoy beer, just gluten-free!
      Love the scientist reminder about beer being safer than the water, and he was very generous with his wealth, etc. but hunkering down in hermitude is not as convincing as Vincent who converted guards with his just dedication to his faith. So I'm wavering in the direction of Vincent...Ach! Whom shall it be??

  4. Another really tough contest. As a long-time acolyte, I am in favor of Vincent; as a historian, I'm naturally interested in Arnulf and his connection to Charlemagne. In the end I went with Vincent.

  5. We can only hope that recent political leaders would take Arnulf's example and withdrew to the monastic life as hermits. I vote for Vincent who spoke to power with the conviction of his very life.

    1. Sympathy on the celiac and not being able to enjoy a beer.

      How about cider? Gluten free and also refreshing, and (with a nod to Arnold) like beer, much less likely to carry disease than water.

  6. I am orignally from Wisconsin, can you geuss who I voted for.
    Besides it was the best to keep people from getting sick.

  7. While at first glance the idea of “drink more beer” gave me a smile, it was the closing paragraph of Vincent’s biography that gained my vote.... that and learning his shrine in along the Way to Campostello

  8. For St Vincent the International Order of St Vincent is named- lifting up the ministry of the laity in the Episcopal Church and inviting us all to prayer, study, and service. And after all, God gives us wine to make the heart glad!

  9. The Ravens almost got Vincent my vote. But perhaps they held services for Arnulf too, only no one remembers that bit.

    1. Vicki, I almost voted for Vincent just because of the Ravens. But I liked how Arnulf had public health measures in mind, and used his episcopal authority to support them. Even though I'm gluten-free and dislike hops and much prefer wine!

  10. Practical Christianity. Drink beer and live. And a great name to boot. Raise a stein to Arnulf of Metz.

  11. I voted for Arnulf because he is more important to what I teach. But I did have to think about it because we kiiiiiiiind of don't know if his wife was dead and all his children were grown, or if he just pulled an Augustine and said "later, fam. I am off to be with God now." He was married for a solid 30 years so it's entirely possible his family didn't need him anymore. But since he was around 14 when he married and his wife was certainly no older, it's also possible they still had wee ones 30 years in. And since there are many ways of being holy without abandoning your family I am always a little leery of folks who make a mid-career shift when history doesn't record what domestic situation they left behind.

    1. This is an interesting point. I didn't do any research beyond reading the post, so I had no idea, but now I wonder about his family, too. (Too late, because I already voted for him.)

    2. I was wondering about Mrs. Arnulf, too. Since he was a direct ancestor of Charlemagne .

      Same situation in the Gospels when there's a mention of Peter's wife or John's mother and one then considers what privations the families must have endured with the breadwinners trailing off to follow a preacher from Nazareth around Galilee for years at a time.

  12. "Don't drink the water. Drink the beer." wins it for me. Although I am not a drinker, I understand the historic significance of healthy alcohol vs. tainted water in a time of disease. Arnulf may not have understood it, but he was going with the science.

  13. In these days of covid, when we're all stuck in quarantine, it's hard not to vote for the dude who supplied endless beer. But I am going to go with the very early hagiographies, laden with phantasmagoria (emphasis on "gore") as they were. I appreciate Amber's effort to remind us that in matters of faith and doctrine it's not so much the events as the meanings we construe from them that are important. One detail stood out to me: Vincent "refused to burn the Bible." So they had books? This was not a manuscript? Literacy versus alcohol today? It's no contest. I'm going with the reader. I prefer to emerge from covid more learned than soused.

  14. I vote for the patron saint of bricklayers, a noble profession. They have contributed to many beautiful churches and cathedrals.

    1. A vote for Vincent, in honor of my dear friend from Valencia, and for Vincent's ministry of speaking for the Bishop with the stutter.