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LES SAINTS DE GLACE (The Ice Saints)

"Les Saints-Servais, Pancrace, Mamert,
Font à eux trois un petit hiver."

Saint Mamert, St Pancras and Saint Servais - Les Saints de Glace

 

 

Ice SaintSince the Middle Ages in France and a great part of Europe, farmers have invoked the help of  Les Saints de Glace - the Ice Saints to help guard their crops from the sudden frosts that can occur on the 11th, 12th and 13th of May. There are a variety of explanations for this phenomenon but no one is quite clear why the weather can change for this short period.  One moment the weather is warming then during this brief period there can be a mini winter when gardeners are advised to protect their plants from the cold until this time ends.


These dates coincide with a change in the appearance of the moon which is known in France as a lune rousse.  In 2012 the lune rousse starts on 21 April and is to finish on 20th May. The term "rousse" refers to "roussir" - damage to unprotected plants by ice which turns the new shoots brown. The period follows Easter when the nights are often cloudless.


Gardeners and growers respect these days in France as well as other European countries.


Traditionally the first Ice Saint was Saint Mamert (Saint Mamertus) who was celebrated on May 11th. 

 

May 12th was the feast day of Saint.Pancrace (Saint Pancras)
 

This was followed by Saint Servais (Saint Servatius) on May 13th.


Saint Mamertus was the Archbishop of Vienne in Gaul who introduced litanies prior to Ascension Day to intercede against climatic disasters.  It is believed that he came from a wealthy family in Lyon. He died in Arles in AD 475.

 

Saint Pancras was a Roman who converted to Christianity and was beheaded at the age of fourteen in AD 304.

 

Saint Servatius died in AD 384 and was considered a great diplomat.


Les Saints de Glace follow the Cavaliers de Froid, otherwise known as Grands Chevaliers whose feast days are from 23rd April to 6th May. These are the days of cold between the end of winter and late spring.


In 1960 the Catholic Church decided to rename the Saints and Saint Mamertius was replaced by Saint Estelle, St Pancras by Saint Achilles and Saint Servatius by Sainte Rolande. This may have been due to a belief that the new saints days would remove what was probably a pagan tradition.