Luke & Homobonus

Patron Saints of embroidery?

This article fits into our “Saint of the Month” series but from a slightly different slant. As a passionate embroiderer (or do I mean an enthusiast? anyway, I am terrifically keen on sewing) I decided to look at the saints from that angle - do we as a group have a patron saint? Well, we do, sort of, in fact you could say we have two! Its rather tenuous, but as a combination could work, with the aid of a bit of appliqué, a lot of patchwork, not forgetting some satin, stem and blanket stitches, as well as a couple of French knots for good measure!

And who are these two worthy gentlemen? Luke, patron saint of artists and Homobonus, patron saint of clothworkers and tailors! So there you have it, one you know and one I guarantee most of you have never needed to call upon - up until now!

Luke, as everyone knows, wrote the third book of the New Testament, and also happens to be patron saint of doctors (many of whom are not averse to the odd bit of stitchery themselves!). He was an evangelist and physician, a disciple of St Paul, and his companion on some of his missionary journeys. Some claim that he was also a painter. On reading him you might also consider him to be, as many do, an artist of words too. It is here that you can read of the parables of the Prodigal Son and the Good Samaritan, and the words of Christ in the Passion to the women of Jerusalem and to the Good Thief. His appeal to the Gentiles, for whom he wrote his Gospel, was his emphasis on poverty, prayer, and purity of heart. Women figure more prominently in his Gospel than in any other, and he was a remarkably accurate observer - many of his details have been strikingly confirmed by archaeology. He lived to the age of eighty four and died unmarried. His feast day is 18th October.

Homobonus was a merchant of Cremona, and lived in the latter half of the twelfth century. His name, given at baptism, means ‘good man’ - quite a name for a little boy to live up to and to grow in to. He was brought up to be a tailor and clothworker, and to follow that profession with diligence, honesty and exactitude. His generosity led his family to fear poverty, but the more he gave away the more prosperous he became! Once, on a journey, he distributed all his provisions including his bread and wine, among some poor pilgrims. His bags were replenished with bread by angels and when he took his wine flasks to a spring to refill them, the water turned into wine. He died in the church of St Egidius as he knelt before a crucifix while the choir were singing the Gloria, and was canonised by Pope Innocent III two years later. He deserves to be better known as one who attained sanctity by doing ‘ordinary things extraordinarily well’. His feast day is 13th November.

So, fellow embroiderers, the next time you sit unpicking misplaced stitches, or are in need of inspiration, call upon one of the above, and see what happens, but don’t blame me!

Angela Newton
© St Peter's Church, Nottingham
Last revised 2nd May 2000