Patron Saints and the Gentle Craft

By Manolo the Shoeblogger

Manolo says, the Manolo’s internet friend Charlotte has reminded the Manolo that today is St. Crispin’s Day, the feast day for the twin saints Crispin and Crispian, two of the most important of the patron saints of the cobbler.

What many of the Manolo’s friends may not know is that few occupations have as many patron saints as that of the shoemakers. Indeed, the distinction of patron may be applied to several dozen holy figures of the past ( the partial list of which may be seen at this website), including such luminaries as Catherine of Alexandria, Mary Magdalene, Homobonus, and Gangolfo.

Also not well known, is that most of these tutelary saints began life as aristocrats who later humbled themselves in the service of God, producing through the honest labor of their hands beautiful shoes for the those who had none. This is why shoemaking has historically been called the “Noble or Gentle Craft“, because its patrons saints were usually nobility.

But none of this is news to those few who have read the Manolo’s Consolation of the Shoes, which describes in detail the period in the young Manolo’s life when he was ardently devoted to the cults of many of these noble saints.

And now, in secular celebration of this holy day, the Manolo gives you that most appropriate of poems, The Shoemakers, by John Greenleaf Whittier.

Ho! workers of the old time styled
The Gentle Craft of Leather
Young brothers of the ancient guild,
Stand forth once more together!
Call out again your long array,
In the olden merry manner
Once more, on gay St. Crispin’s day,
Fling out your blazoned banner!

Rap, rap! upon the well-worn stone
How falls the polished hammer
Rap, rap! the measured sound has grown
A quick and merry clamor.
Now shape the sole! now deftly curl
The glossy vamp around it,
And bless the while the bright-eyed girl
Whose gentle fingers bound it!

For you, along the Spanish main
A hundred keels are ploughing;
For you, the Indian on the plain
His lasso-coil is throwing;
For you, deep glens with hemlock dark
The woodman’s fire is lighting;
For you, upon the oak’s gray bark,
The woodman’s axe is smiting.

For you, from Carolina’s pine
The rosin-gum is stealing;
For you, the dark-eyed Florentine
Her silken skein is reeling;
For you, the dizzy goatherd roams
His rugged Alpine ledges;
For you, round all her shepherd homes,
Bloom England’s thorny hedges.

The foremost still, by day or night,
On moated mound or heather,
Where’er the need of trampled right
Brought toiling men together;
Where the free burghers from the wall
Defied the mail-clad master,
Than yours, at Freedom’s trumpet-call,
No craftsmen rallied faster.

Let foplings sneer, let fools deride,
Ye heed no idle scorner;
Free hands and hearts are still your pride,
And duty done, your honor.
Ye dare to trust, for honest fame,
The jury Time empanels,
And leave to truth each noble name
Which glorifies your annals.

Thy songs, Hans Sachs, are living yet,
In strong and hearty German;
And Bloomfield’s lay, and Gifford’s wit,
And patriot fame of Sherman;
Still from his book, a mystic seer,
The soul of Behmen teaches,
And England’s priestcraft shakes to hear
Of Fox’s leathern breeches.

The foot is yours; where’er it falls,
It treads your well-wrought leather,
On earthen floor, in marble halls,
On carpet, or on heather.
Still there the sweetest charm is found
Of matron grace or vestal’s,
As Hebe’s foot bore nectar round
Among the old celestials.

Rap, rap!–your stout and bluff brogan,
With footsteps slow and weary,
May wander where the sky’s blue span
Shuts down upon the prairie.
On Beauty’s foot your slippers glance,
By Saratoga’s fountains,
Or twinkle down the summer dance
Beneath the Crystal Mountains!

The red brick to the mason’s hand,
The brown earth to the tiller’s,
The shoe in yours shall wealth command,
Like fairy Cinderella’s!
As they who shunned the household maid
Beheld the crown upon her,
So all shall see your toil repaid
With hearth and home and honor.

Then let the toast be freely quaffed,
In water cool and brimming,–
“All honor to the good old Craft,
Its merry men and women!”
Call out again your long array,
In the old time’s pleasant manner
Once more, on gay St. Crispin’s day,
Fling out his blazoned banner!

Happy Saint Crispin’s Day!

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3 Responses to “Patron Saints and the Gentle Craft”




  1. Greg Says:

    The secular celebration of this day which comes immediately to mind for me, I must say, has little to do with shoemakers. Instead it comes from the pen of the incomparable William Shakespeare, the Saint Crispin’s Day speech from Henry V:

    “We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
    For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
    Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile,
    This day shall gentle his condition;
    And gentlemen in England now-a-bed
    Shall think themselves accurs’d they were not here,
    And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
    That fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day.”




  2. Rachel of Cyberia Says:

    …gotta dig out my VHS copy of Branaugh’s Henry V now, thanks Greg.













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