You are currently viewing February 11, we celebrate St Gobnait’s Feast Day, patron saint of bees and beekeepers.

February 11, we celebrate St Gobnait’s Feast Day, patron saint of bees and beekeepers.

Shew lived during the 6th century.

A version of the saint’s life tells us that Gobnait was born in Co Clare and due to a family feud, fled to the island of Inisheer where she founded a church which still stands on the north side of the island near the shore.

Gobnait added beekeeping to her life’s work developing a lifelong affinity with them.

Typical of the ecclesiastical records of the era, lots of miracle-embellished stories survive where Gobnait and her superhero bees save the day.

One story tells of how she cured one of her sick nuns using her own honey.

And many accounts exist of how Gobnait prevented invaders from carrying off cattle.

One version of the tale has the beehive turning into a bronze helmet and the bees themselves turning into soldiers.

It is said that it was the O’Herlihys who sought her help and that they handed down the bronze helmet from one generation to the next as a great source of protection.

Another version has the beehive turning into a bell which then became Gobnait’s bell.

And yet another version tell of how she let loose the bees from her hives and they attacked the invaders.

It is this legend that inspired the Harry Clarke stained glass window in the Honan Chapel at University College Cork.

The beautiful window shows Gobnait dressed in royal blue robes with elaborate designs in turquoise. She wears a silver cloak and a veil.

Her face is surrounded by bees, at her feet she is shown carrying a honeycomb and bees are depicted chasing away the thieves who threaten to rob her church.

Many modern depictions of the saint also associate her with bees such as the statue at her shrine in Ballyvourney, by Séamus Murphy.

As with many great stories, most likely there is a grain of truth lurking in these stories somewhere. St Gobnait was obviously well revered.

Her fondness for bees suggests a calm and gentle character.

She has a considerable fanbase with many people taking part in pilgrimages to her shrine in Ballyvourney, particularly on February 11, at Whitsun, and in July.

Her spirit lives on in apiary circles where she has become quite an icon.

In this age, where bees need all the nurturing they can get, anyone who inspires beekeepers to continue their amazing work has earned sainthood several times over.

George Hatchell

Beekeeper, Chocolatier, Photographer, Hiker, Camper, Dad