The Ice Saints

Churches in France are full of plaster and wooden images of saints long gone. I was once in a church in la Tour d’Aigues and the priest happened to be there at the same time. Behind an iron gate was the bust of a saint painted and with gold trim. I asked the priest who it was and he told me that he didn’t know. This might be because there are thousands of saints in Catholic tradition. In fact, every day of the year is named after one saint or another and on November 1st, All Saint’s Day, the ones who don’t have a day named after them all get put into this one day. I am not, nor have ever been Catholic and know very little about saints other that the most common such as St. Joseph. In many churches you see the same ones over and over such as Joan of Arc and this guy:

whose name I don’t know.
Anyway, there are festivals all over the place in France and, living in Provence, I see signs about various festivals and traditions taking place in our area. A near-by town called Manosque has a festival for St. Pancrace. I had never heard of him, as usual, and did a little web search. He was a Roman matyr who was killed for his Christian beliefs when he was fourteen. He has become a saint for young people but is also known as the Ice Saint along with two other saints, Mamert and Servais. They each have the dates May 11th, 12th and 13th, or they did in the past. The Catholic church took them off the roster as I guess they were considered a little too pagan. It doesn’t stop celebrations of them, of course. They are called the Ice Saints because these three dates are known to be Spring days when temperatures often plummet and anyone who does planting never plants a thing until these dates are past which makes me worried about my little vegetable garden. Apparantly, the earth passes through some cosmic dust at this time every year and affects the sun, and thus the weather changes sometimes. Stuff like this amazes me. I love learning new information from centuries past that still affect us today. So, I plan to make a trip to Manosque for that festival and also to Grambois, a very nearby perched village which, I found out, considers Saint Pancrace their patron saint, not only a guide to planting but they also feel that he protected them from the plague in the 1700’s. There is a little part of the church there devoted to him. I am hoping to find the church open and take a photo of his bust there.

Here are two photos having nothing to do St Pancrace but just of how lovely Provence can be–if it ever warms up.

8 thoughts on “The Ice Saints

  1. My mother, who was born in Germany, always told me about the Ice Saints. When I was a child we lived in Massachusetts for a couple of years, and my mother tells a funny story about how one year on the 11th of May there was a huge snowstorm, and this was too much for them so two weeks later they packed everything up and moved to California. It really does seem to be true that every year the temperature plummets at this time, even after a couple of weeks of warm weather. I find it really interesting too about the Earth passing through some dust. Today is quite chilly in Paris, I had to put on a sweater even though last friday I was in sandals and a dress. I guess the Saints have arrived a couple of days early this year

  2. See, isn’t this amazing? There are actually other people out there, not from France, who have heard of the ice saints. It is a small world. Linda

  3. I’m a converted catholic (married into it) and I have never heard of the ice saints which doesn’t say much. But I love the story. (Let’s see if the weather turns cold tomorrow! So interesting!) I have always been fascinated with saints. I pray to many –my most frequent being to St. Anthony for lost items, and it always works. He always helps me find what I have misplaced. Never fails. I was once told that Italian immigrant bricklayers used to put a St. Joseph statue in the buidling of fireplace chimneys to bless the home. When we finished the basement for my mom to move in with us and have her own suite, I put a small St. Joseph statue in the wall before they closed it off. I hope it works and blesses her. So far, so good. I was also fascinated with the covering of all the statues in the chuches in Europe with black fabric during lent. We definately don’t do that here. I just love all the old traditions.

    Love the pics, as usual. That wide arched door is so pretty framed with the foliage. And those stone stairs, so well worn with age. Beautiful.

  4. I don’t pray to saints but I do light candles in front of them at churches as a sort of prayer, to send out thoughts into the universe. I don’t know if it works but it makes me feel better. And I always pick female saints to light candles in front of as women are so much more giving, don’t you think? I have heard of burying a small statue in a yard of a house you wish to sell-maybe Dianne should have done this. I think he has to be upside down. People are a superstitious lot. Linda

  5. I’ll have to write Dianne and ask her if she wants me to bury one for her–hehe. Not that I want the house sold, I’m still holding out for their changing their minds! Wishful thinking, huh.

  6. Rosa-Somehow I don’t think Dianne-my sister, for anyone who is wondering-will be moving back to Nashville, but nothing in life surprises me anymore. We will have to ask her if she wants you to bury a saint in her front yard. Couldn’t hurt.
    Paris Parfait-glad to pass on any little tidbits I find out. It is all so new to me, and rather amazing at times, that I love researching and learning new things. Wish the French language would come to me in the same way. Linda

Comments are closed.