Egeria vs. Arnulf of Metz

Who's ready for a full week of madcap Saintly Sixteen action? Well, ready or not, it's coming your way as Lent Madness 2021 continues in earnest.

Today it's Egeria vs. Arnulf of Metz as they vie for a shot at the Elate Eight. To get here, Egeria made it past Tarcisius while Arnulf took down Vincent of Saragossa.

If you missed Friday's result, Catherine Booth marched past Constantine 70% to 30%. Go vote!


Egeria—pilgrim, writer, journalist, and popularizer of the definite article—sent letters back to her community in Spain throughout her travels in the late 4th century.

Her writings are easily available today for our perusal and appreciation—so it might be surprising to learn that the fragments we have were not translated into English until 2005. (Earlier fragments were referenced in other works, and it was partially translated as early as the end of the 1800s, but by and large, the thoughts of a world-travelling religious woman were not widely considered important until relatively recently.  Our loss.)

According to academics, her writing style was not polished: she misspells words and does not appear educated. But she wrote the way she talked, and so her writing gives us an insight into what a fourth century traveller thought and cared about—the way her mind worked. Recent translations work hard to preserve the loose, breezy way she wrote, and her voice. (The recently-released edition from Liturgical Press is very good.)

Egeria appears to be the subject of a letter written by a Spanish monk in the late 7th century named Valerius to his fellow monks. He seems to honestly be impressed with Egeria, though that can be hard to discern, amidst his general issues with women. Throughout the letter, he spells her name four different ways (bless his heart). He describes her as a virtuous, faithful Christian, even though she was in the form of a “weak woman”(!), and hopes all the monks back at home will emulate her. He proclaims that all the local saints in his region loved Egeria, and that he was sure that “she will return to that very place where in this life she walked as a pilgrim.”

It’s worth noting Egeria’s casual mention of armed escorts at various places in her letters. Pilgrimages were extremely dangerous in the late 4th century, and it wasn’t rare for thieves to waylay travelers on isolated roads. It is also remarkable that Egeria mentions, on the one hand, “helpful Roman soldiers who assist us in the name of public safety” and—on the other hand—meeting with confessor bishops while on her journeys. “Confessor” was a title used by local Christians to refer to someone who had been arrested and tortured, but not martyred, for their faith by Rome.  In the 380s, those who had lived through the last Roman persecutions were still in church leadership—albeit fewer and fewer in number. Egeria is basically chronicling the change between a persecuted church and a church that can run the world.

--Megan Castellan

Arnulf of Metz

While in this century, Arnulf (Arnold) of Metz is best known by his association with beer and breweries, in his own time he was renowned for his deep pastoral care and compassion for the people entrusted to his oversight.

Arnulf was born into wealth and privilege – a condition which can predispose one to a sense of entitlement. But Arnulf went in the other direction. At every opportunity he used what he had for the good of others.

His hometown of Metz became a destination for the poor, vulnerable, and destitute of the kingdom, who trusted so much in the Bishop’s generosity that they travelled great distances to be in his presence. And once they were, Arnulf would put his own clothes on these travelling beggars, give them food and water from his own table, and follow the Lord’s example by washing their feet.

Once, Arnulf is remembered as saying “Don’t drink the water, drink the beer.” This too was a pastoral concern. The brewing process meant that the beer was safer to drink than the local water supply. In a time of pandemic and disease, Arnulf relied on the wisdom of experience to direct his parishioners to the best practices to preserve their own health and the well-being of the community.

Similarly, Arnulf stood between the people of Metz and destruction when a fire broke out in the town. As a fire in the palace threatened to spread through the town, causing untold destruction, Arnulf said “If God wants me to be consumed, I am in His hands.” He stood in front of the fire, and making the sign of the cross commanded the fire to abate – and it did.

Beyond these powerful stories, Arnulf found ways to fight for the people even in the mundane work of ecclesial and political administration. Arnulf had his hand in the formation of the Edict of Paris (615), which has been compared to the Magna Carta. Among the laws enacted by the Edict was a change that demanded that bishops be elected by the people, rather than appointed by kings.

The legacy of Arnulf is of ecclesial and pastoral authority that is consistently working for the good of God’s people in all things.

--David Hansen

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90 comments on “Egeria vs. Arnulf of Metz”

  1. The diarist known as Egeria
    Who they say came from Gaul or Iberia
    Wrote of Holy Land sites
    And 4th century rites;
    Just as well that there was Pax Imperia!

  2. I wouldn't be a loyal great grandson if I didn't vote for my 36GGF. I'm keeping today's vote in the family with a cheer for Beer as time goes by

  3. Egeria for me. I love her misspelled words and breezy writing style. You have to admire her courage. Plus, I paid the rent through college y working closing shift at a fast food place. Mopping green vomit out of the salad bar and bathroom does tend to change one's
    perspective on St. Patrick's Day.

  4. A few years ago I read Egeria's words during Lent, hearing her talk about her journey and about how Lent & Easter were celebrated in Jerusalem was such a blessing - to see the change and continuity.

    I also love that when she addresses the women she was writing to she calls them "ladies, light of my eyes".

    1. Especially Sarah, I’m with you! I hope Egeria picks up more votes. No question her writings bring life and vitality as well as first-hand information about liturgical practices. Not to mention her contribution to language and her courage! Egeria supporters, please vote soon!!!

  5. A tough choice. My vote goes to Egeria whose writings deserve attention. Arnulf 's beer and washing the feet of visitors is already well known. Learning about daily life of the past helps us cope with our own daily trials.

  6. Egeria's story had me at "pilgrim, writer, journalist." I'm sure Arnulf was a terrific guy, but I was smitten by the idea of an adventurous 4th century gal hitting the open road, breezily chronicling her travels (spelling errors and all), and charming Roman soldiers (in her unpolished way). Lovely.

  7. This was a hard choice, but trying to free the Church from government influence gets my vote. (Did the Edict of Paris have any effect? Anglican bishops were chosen by government officials.)

  8. Although Arnulf is indeed a very worthy man, , I am voting for Egeria, who struck out for dangerous territories in search of roots of evolving Christianity, and sent back such detailed description of religious life at many levels, for the regular services, for feast days, for seasons. for baptism and more. i discovered that in the 40 days before being baptized back then, in addition to receiving much instruction, these 40 days were days of fasting, and at the end of it, the candidate still had to be declarer worthy by others. The fact that religious people over the years did not respect her research and documentation over the years because she was a mere woman cemented my vote. you may read at

  9. This has been the most difficult choice of Lent Madness this far. Reading about Egeria made me want to vote for the woman who impressed a monk, though being of the weak form of a woman. (Grrr...) Then I read through Arnulf, and how he consistently showed love to those less fortunate than him. I do appreciate the image of having to clean green barf out of the salad bar...

  10. Since my Norwegian Great-great grandfather was a devout Lutheran and one of the early founders of Luther College, while running a successful farm and BREWERY, I have to vote for Arnulf. By the way, in the mid-19th century, Lutherans drank beer at church events - hence the "ale bowl" that was passed around at funerals etc.

  11. I’d like to vote for Egeria, but I think that Arnulf is more deserving of the golden halo.

  12. Arnulf's dates, according to Wikipedia, are c. 582 – 645. For those wondering. He was also an ancestor of Charlemagne.

  13. I was going to vote for Egeria as I read about her...a commendable woman...but then, when I read about the beer saint...and craft beef at that, no doubt...I just had to vote for Arnulf. He used is position and wealth to help others and definitely had a strong faith in the goodness of God.

  14. I am choosing to vote for Egeria. It seems a shame that she was criticized for misspellings and lack of education by the very men who denied her that education. Her contribution to our understanding of the early church, encouragement of the faith of those to whom she wrote, and her amazing fortitude for pilgrimage in dangerous times is a message for us today. Seeking God, and sharing God is our calling no matter where it takes us.

    1. Thank you for your point about the criticism of Egeria for a lack of the education that was denied her. To that should be added the fact that spelling was not standardized even by the Elizabethan period in England: Shakespeare himself spelled his name various ways. I doubt that it was standardized anywhere a thousand years before.

  15. We owe a huge debt to Egeria, whose writings give us a description of the worship services and liturgical seasons of the early church. As we approach Holy Week beginning with Palm Sunday and culminating in the Easter Vigil, many of us accept that the rituals of this Holy Week will be adapted to pandemic precautions. That we know anything at all about these liturgies in the
    early church is due to Egeria’s eyewitness reporting. She has my vote.

    1. Beautifully said, Deborah. Thank you. Egeria has my vote too, and my admiration.

  16. I gotta go for (Egarian license) intercessory prayer that puts out fires. Arnulf for me.

  17. I wanted to vote for Egeria, but Arnulf got to me with his public health concerns. Don't drink the water, drink beer! Today he'd be exhorting the faithful: "And wear your @#$% mask!"

  18. I had to read Egeria in that execrable Latin. No one was into consistent spelling (until the 18th C), and medieval Latin--if you can figure out what to look up in when you're not sure if what you see is "correct" spelling, or not--is not well dictionary'd. Or wasn't, back then. The late Roger Hornsby's advice, when we asked for help Looking Things Up, was "Think" (his advice on length of assignments: "Read faster"). You've put her in a more favorable light than reading the original did, but... it's a close race, my deacon's heart goes to Arnulf.

  19. Egeria all the way! Happy to lift a toast to Arnulf, but why isn't he in the dust of the intrepid pilgrim who recounted with breezy passion how the earliest Christians observed the holiest days of the Church year. How impoverished our faith and worship would be without her witness!

  20. The more extensive descriptions of the saints are helpful. Our church has an internal competition and people are asked to commit to choices before the process begins. It was necessary to determine my criteria early and hold to them. If I were to vote today, based on the sensitive description of Egeria above, I would probably have voted for her but my choice of Arnulf still stands, not just because of the beer.

  21. By all rights the final pairing for the Golden Halo should be Absalom vs. Egeria!

  22. I have loved Egeria for ages. She is so brave and resourceful. The spirit of one woman pilgrim cries out to another, and so she has my vote. She is most worthy of the golden halo.

  23. Egeria gave us a precious glimpse of how Lent and Holy Week were celebrated in the Holy Land in her day. Her writing style allows us to share the impact those observances had on her. Reading her lends depth to my own practices, reminding me of the roots of our traditions.

  24. I don't know all that much about Egeria, but this world languages teacher feels compelled to vote for she who correctly used her definite articles.
    ...and a note: I was curious to know if Egeria had been translated into languages other than English prior to 2005 because, of course, English is only one of many languages associated with Christianity , and while monotheism is central to Christianity, monolingualism can certainly be overcome through the study of languages. There appears to be a 1919 translation to English (M.L. McClure and C.L. Feltoe, London, 1919) as well as an 1887 translation into Spanish that was annotated in 1955 by Juan Monteverde (Buenos Aires).

    1. Yes, the definitive article almost swung me to voting for Egeria. Articles are sadly neglected by current writers. But had to go with Arnulf, whose story resonated with me because of public health and the pandemic.

  25. As a resident of a great brewing city (Cincinnati) which is also home to the Supreme Executive Council, how could I not vote for Arnulf?

  26. Most of my choices from the first round were eliminated, but I'm three for three in this round. I am aware that if this trend continues it's going to make voting in the Elate Eight excruciating. I was curious why neither of the Celebrity Bloggers included writings from their saints in this Quirks and Quotes round, especially Egeria whose main claim to fame is her writings.