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
Since 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.
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
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