Farm Life

Turnips to taxis

We should have known this before embarking on our agricultural adventure, but it is only recently that we learned that the patron saint of gardeners is Saint Fiacre (Fiachra is an ancient pre-Christian name from Ireland). Apparently he was as effective at healing haemorrhoids as he was at growing turnips. Saint Fiacre, represented more often than not holding a spade, was long a popular patron saint. Although he lived in Ireland and France in the 7th century A.D., his popularity surged in the 10th century. His interest in things agricultural manifested itself, or so the story goes, when he founded a monastery and gardens, the bounty of which was shared with beggars, passersby and travelers. Legend also has it that the Bishop Faro de Meaux allowed him as much land as he might entrench in one day with a furrow, so Fiacre turned up the earth with the point of his staff, toppling trees and uprooting briers and weeds. It is this staff which morphed over time into his gardener’s spade. Finally, there is the bit about the origin of the French word ‘fiacre,’ used to designate a small horse-drawn four-wheeled carriage. This term is attributed to the fact that the Hotel de Saint Fiacre in Paris rented carriages beginning in the late 17th century. People who had no idea who Fiacre was referred to the small coaches for hire as “fiacres”. And so it is that the patron saint of gardeners, almost miraculously it seems, became the patron saint of … taxi drivers.