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Happy Saint Bernard de Menthon Day!

May 28, 2009

Among the many benefactors celebrated on May 28th by the Catholic Church is Bernard of Menthon (or Bernard of Mountjoux, if you so desire, you saucy little minx, you).

Bernard was the son of a rather prosperous nobleman who had set up a sweet deal of a marriage for him. Bernard, however, balked at the proposition, declaring that he did not like her, that the woman he wanted to marry needed to have a special...something. His father was confused, as the girl he had selected to be his daughter-in-law was beautiful, rich, and had huge...tracts of lands. Apparently, they lived in a swamp and needed all the land they could get.

Undaunted, Bernard's father went ahead with the wedding. Bernard, deciding he'd rather live the rich and prosperous life of a monk, jumped out of his bedroom window, was caught by a pack of angels, and delivered safely on the ground below. Did I mention that he did this a mere handful of hours before he was set to walk down the aisle? Bernard of Menthon is the Patron Saint of Cold Feet.

He grew up in Savoy, which is a region down in the southeast of France near the Italian border. Apparently, Bernard was a man much to my own liking for, when faced with the choice of heading toward the beach or the mountains, he chose the latter and fled toward Italy. There, he joined up with the Benedictine monks. His heart remained in the mountains, however, as he heard that the peoples of the Alps were still largely suffering under the blissful ignorance of Paganism, so he dedicated the remainder of his days to preaching the gospel to those crazy Helveticans.

However, Bernard wasn't done there. A pass through the Alps leading from the area of Switzerland called Valais to the Aosta Valley in northern Italy was a frequently used highway for pilgrims from Germany, France and other points north on the pilgrims' way to and from Rome. The pass is, to say the least, a bit treacherous. Allow me to digress for a moment and remind you that Hannibal's armies were dealt more damage by the weather in the Alps than they ever were by the Roman Legions. Hannibal's route through the mountains weakened the forces from Carthage enough that it probably led to the eventual outcome of the Punic Wars, wherein Rome defeated Carthage, and also for that reason why we have a Friday Morning Latin Lesson and not a Friday Morning Carthaginian Watered-Down Phoenician Dialect Lesson.

Seeing that travel through this particular pass has a history of sucking donkey balls, Bernard oversaw the building of a hospice and monastery at the highest point in the pass so that travelers would have somewhere safe to stop over on their ways to and from Rome. Once he received the blessings from the Pope, Bernard populated the monastery with Augustinian monks and...the local herding dogs, which were much accustomed to the snowy climate. The pass, to this day, still bears his name--Great St. Bernard's Pass. If there's a great, then there must be a little, right? Well, in fact, there is. In another pass--cleverly named Little St. Bernard's Pass--St. Bernard established yet another hospice and monastery, and again gave it over to the Augustinians and their dogs, as well.

St. Bernard of Menthon is symbolized by the mountains and by the herding dogs that also bear his name. He is considered the Patron Saint of Mountaineers, the Alps, and Skiers (see, I wasn't really joking when I said he was the Patron Saint of Cold Feet, per se) as well as big, lovable dogs that dig you out of the snow, pour themselves a drink, and then return to the monastery.

Now, before some asshole points out a fallacy in the story here, I'll add that the St. Bernard breed of dog was never used to transport casks of brandy through the mountains, though they have been used as rescue dogs in a region prone to avalanches (and still, they do not carry brandy with them then, either). However, the monasteries keep small flasks of brandy around so that tourists can take pictures of the dogs with the booze fantasy intact.

So, let's all celebrate St. Bernard of Menthon or Mountjoux or Mount-Joux or wherever the fuck. I think it's only appropriate that you drink brandy today, or fuck a girl named Brandy. Or, hell, get Brandy drunk on brandy before bedding her, though you might want to leave the Meriadoc Brandybuck references at home if you're looking to get laid tonight.

9 comments:

red said...

Puppy!!

I don't like brandy...or girls named Brandy usually. How will I celebrate, Mjenks? How?!?!?

the iNDefatigable mjenks said...

@ red: I see a lot of Elliot Lurie in your future.

Anna Russell said...

Come to think of it, my feet are a little cold.
I'll jump out a window whilst praying to St Bernard and if it all goes horribly wrong, I'm blaming you.

Del-V said...

They spoke a dialect of Phoenician in Carthage, not Carthaginian.

Sorry, I have a degree in archaeology.

the iNDefatigable mjenks said...

@ Anna: Maybe try some socks before going to any drastic leaping from on high measures.

@ Del-V: There. Happy now? *mutters under his breath about salting the earth*

Nej said...

The St. Bernard we had when I was a kid was named Brandy.

I thought it was a boring name, but most people thought it "clever."

Wasn't until I was older when I figured it out.

Eric said...

Haha, imagine telling someone you speak a little watered-down Phonecian...

mmmmm... Brandy...

Vic said...

I KNEW there was an occasion I forgot to buy a card for! Do you know anyone who carries Happy Saint Bernard de Menthon Day cards?

Pfangirl said...

What's interesting is that the St Bernard dogs as we know them aren't the original super rescue breed. Most of that line was killed off during avalanches in the 1810s, and cross breeding afterwards left the dogs overly heavy with long coats inappropriate for snowy environments.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barry_(dog)