Patron Saint of Gardeners and Cab Drivers of Paris
Born in Ireland
Did you know that even gardeners and cabdrivers whose taxis are called fiacres have their own patron saints? He is none other than St. Fiacre or Fiachrach as he is sometimes called.
Born in Ireland around the beginning of the 7th century of noble descent and ordained a priest, Fiacre loved solitary daily devotional practices and growing crops and herbs. These are what appealed to Fiacre the most.
So he went to a monastic school to study herbal literature and agricultural practices. Then he built for himself a hermitage on the Nore River in County Kilkanny, Ireland. Having done that he developed a garden that became so famous that he was inundated with visitors especially when his reputation as a healer also grew.
This was because at that time medicine was based on a knowledge of herbs. The only trouble was that this influx caused him great distractions from his prayer and work as a grower of herbs. To get away from it all he soon moved to a more remote location. Unfortunately he was still sought after both for his knowledge of herbs and for his talent of healing.
Moves to Meaux, France
In the meantime his father who was a warrior chieftain getting on in age asked Fiacre to come home and take over the leadership of their tribe. Fiacre refused and to get away from it all Fiacre in 628 decided to willingly leave his homeland Kilfiachra, Ireland and sail over to France. He was in quest of greater solitude that unknown to the world he might devote himself to God.
At Meaux, France he was welcomed by St. Faro, their bishop. Given a small plot of land for a hermitage at Breaul, Brie about 30 miles from Paris he was able to make a small oratory in honor of the Blessed Virgin and garden and revert back to the solitary religious life that he earlier enjoyed in Ireland. This and a life of severe self-denial was all this humble man of God ever wanted.
Unfortunately word of his holiness, piety and proficiency as a healer soon spread so that once again people came flocking to him. However this time they came not only for healing remedies from his garden but also to learn about Christianity and get spiritual direction and advice. Even the poor came for relief.
Flooded with a constant stream of visitors Fiacre compassionately built a hospice for travelers as they were far from home and had no shelter. He entertained all comers personally serving them himself. Then when they showed intentions of staying permanently he built houses for their shelter and tilled the soil to grow what they needed for their food. This developed into the village of Saint – Fiacre in Seine-et-Marne.
Fiacre once more appealed to the bishop for more land. When he was told that he could have all the land he could cultivate in one day a strange, mysterious, miraculous event took place. As he marked off the boundaries he wanted rocks by themselves suddenly were cleared away, trees were uprooted and the soil unbelievably plowed.
A witness attests to seeing Fiacre on his knees praying on the tilled land. Rushing over to see this miracle Bishop Faro could only gape at the vast portion of land now cleared and cultivated.
Because of his apparent dedication and self-sacrifice he brought about the conversion of the whole community. He was held in special great esteem for his work with the spade.
In thanksgiving Fiacre built a monastery at Prodilus, Brie to house his many converts, disciples and followers that he attracted and that grew in number until the 17th century. He became known for his charity and aid to the poor whom he befriended and for his spiritual wisdom. His many miracles of healing were legendary.
No Women Allowed
For some strange reason he never suffered any woman to enter the enclosure of his hermitage and even to his chapel. It is said that those who broke his rule suffered for it like losing their senses. So even Annie of Austria, Queen of France was just content offering her prayers outside the door. Thus Fiacre gained a reputation for misogyny.
Patron Saint of Gardeners
But it is because of his skill at gardening and written records of herbs and gardening that are still standard references that Fiacre is the patron saint of gardeners. His knowledge of herbal medicine was so extensive and vital especially in those day when medicine was based on a knowledge of herbs.
Patron Saint of Cabdrivers of Paris
How Fiacre became the patron saint of cabdrivers of Paris is also fascinating. In the seventeenth century when there were a large number of pilgrims who wanted to go visit the saint’s grave outside Paris they would converge to make the first stop of their journey the Hotel Saint Fiacre in Paris. The pilgrims would then hire four-wheeler or hackney carriages from a taxi stand near the Hotel in Paris which was named after him. These first coach-for-hire or cabs were then called fiacres and today the word is still used in France to describe taxicabs.
Patron Saint for Venereal Disease Sufferers
Because he gave special care for those who suffered from this disease people pray to him for their cure.
He died in about 670 (some say 675) and his feast kept on August 30. His cult grew steadily and flourished in France unti the 1700s, a thousand years later because the shrine had become so famous for its miraculous cures. Since 1568 his relics are now at a shrine in the cathedral of Meaux, France where they are invoked against all sorts of physical ills.
SOURCES of REFERENCE
August 30 ( September 1)
Butler’s Lives of the Saints – Vol. 3 – pp 460-461
The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Saints – p 90, p 244
Pocket Dictionary of Saints – pp 186-187
The Watkins Dictionary of Saints – pp 86 – 87
A Year With the Saints – August 30
Illustrated Lives of the Saints – Vol. I – pp 389 – 390
The Everything Saints Book – p 269
The Way of the Saints – pp 160-161