Northants Bee Keepers Association

Northamptonshire Beekeepers' Association (NBKA) Registered Charity No. 295593


Northants Bee Keepers Association

Copyright © NBKA 2007-2018

Northants Bee Keepers Association

A member organisation representing beekeepers in the County of Northamptonshire

Bee-Lines (A selection from our quarterly magazine)

May 2012

Who is the Patron Saint of Beekeepers?


The usual answer is St Ambrose, C Bishop of Milan. There is a legend that as an infant, a swarm of bees settled on his face while he lay in his cradle, leaving behind a drop of honey. His father considered this a sign of his future eloquence and honeyed tongue. Among other patronages, he is the patron saint of bees, beekeepers & candle makers.


St Gregory is responsible for opening the flowers on 12th March. A few weeks later on 21st March, St Benedict summons the bees to search for nectar. According to legend, St Bartholomew was martyred by being flayed alive and because of this

fate he became the patron saint of tanners. In many parts of Britain, he was also patron saint of beekeepers, probably because his feast day on 24th August coincided with the gathering of honey until the 1950s, the village of Gulval in Cornwall

celebrated St Bartholomew’s Day with blessing the mead, while the annual St Bartholomew’s Fair in London was famous for its honey-coated apples.


St Kharlamii was a bishop and healer from Asia Minor. He did not recognize any other methods

of treating ailments except by way of natural healing, performing most of his healing arts with honey and beeswax. In Bulgaria, special pies and flat cakes were baked & decorated with a symbol of a hive or cross. These and honeycomb were

brought to the church. After the service they were handed to friends and relatives. In some localities, honey was blessed and kept behind the altar for 40 days and then used for medicinal purposes


St. Gobnait was born in Ireland in the 5th or 6thC. Gobnait is Irish for Abigail meaning brings joy. As the patron saint of beekeepers, her name has been anglicised as Deborah, meaning honeybee. Bees have long been important in Ireland and were part of the ancient laws called the Bech Bretha or Bee Judgements. In prehistoric times the soul was thought to leave the body as an insect, either a bee or a butterfly. Many accounts exist of how St Gobnait prevented invaders (said to have been O'Donoghues of the Glens) from carrying off cattle. On their approach she let loose the bees from her hives and they attacked the invaders, forcing them to flee. One version of the tale has the beehive turning into a bronze helmet and the bees themselves turning into soldiers. There is a statue of her near the site of the community she founded at Ballyvourney, showing her in nun’s habit standing on a skep surrounded by bees.


St Dominic (Modomnock, Domnock or Dominick) started beekeeping in Wales and, when he returned to Ireland, he gave his hives to St David. Brother Adam of Buckfast Abbey in Devon is a recent example of the strong link between the Church and

beekeeping. Obviously, the religious life and beekeeping are closely entwined.


Brian Dennis