Saint Arnulf of Metz, Confessor

July 18

Today is the feast day of Saint Arnulf of Metz.  Ora pro nobis.

Saint Arnulf (Arnold in English) as born about 580 and died August 16, 640. His parents belonged to a distinguished Frankish family.  They lived in Austrasia, the eastern section of the kingdom founded by Clovis. He excelled in school through his talent and his good behaviour. According to the custom of the age, he was sent in due time to the court of Theodebert II, King of Austrasia (595-612), to be initiated in the various branches of the government. Under the guidance of Gundulf, the Mayor of the Palace, he soon became so proficient that he was placed on the regular list of royal officers.  He distinguished himself both as a military commander and in the civil administration. In due course Arnulf was married to a Frankish woman of noble lineage, and had two sons, Anseghisel and Clodulf.

While Arnulf was enjoying worldly emoluments and honors he did not forget higher and spiritual things. His thoughts dwelled often on monasteries, and with his friend Romaricus, likewise an officer of the court, he planned to make a pilgrimage to the Abbey of Lérins, evidently for the purpose of devoting his life to God.  In the meantime the Episcopal See of Metz became vacant. Arnulf was universally designated as a worthy candidate for the office, and he was consecrated bishop of that see about 611. In his new position he set the example of a virtuous life to his subjects, and attended to matters of ecclesiastical government.

In 625 he took part in a council held by the Frankish bishops at Reims. With all this Arnulf retained his station at the court of the king, and took a prominent part in the national life of his people. In 613, after the death of Theodebert, he, with Pepin of Landen and other nobles, called to Austrasia Clothaire II, King of Neustria. When, in 625, the realm of Austrasia was entrusted to the kings son Dagobert, Arnulf became not only the tutor, but also the chief minister, of the young king. At the time of the estrangement between the two kings, and 625, Arnulf with other bishops and nobles tried to effect a reconciliation.

The Saint distributed to the poor so generously of his own possessions that poor folk came to Metz from countries and cities afar, to receive alms and holy counsel. His hospitality towards pious folk, pilgrims, and monastics was legendary. He washed their feet himself, gave them new clothing, and a little silver for the journey, and this he did not of a season, but incessantly. All his time, he spent in vigils, fasting, and devout prayers and talks. 

One day, when he was in a 3-day fast, he was making a procession. Many beasts joined in the procession and prayed to God devoutly with the Saint. And as the procession went along, a woman vexed by the Devil began to cry out loudly. The Saint but made the sign of the Cross of Christ over her, and she was entirely set free from the evil one. Behold how easily the great Saints cast out the evil one, since they had not the least trace of his wickedness remaining in them. 

But Arnulf dreaded the responsibilities of the episcopal office and grew weary of court life. About the year 626 he obtained the appointment of a successor to the Episcopal See of Metz. He and his friend Romaricus withdrew to a solitary place in the mountains of the Vosges. There he lived in communion with God until his death. His remains, interred by Romaricus, were transferred about a year afterwards, by Bishop Goericus, to the basilica of the Holy Apostles in Metz.

When the time had come for the Saint’s repose, after he breathed his soul forth unto his Creator, his successor, Bishop Goericus, assembled a great procession and came to the place where lay the body of Arnulf. There vigils were celebrated very solemnly, and then the body was borne into the city. As they were so processing, those carrying the back part of the bier fell into a ditch. But Angels of God sustained the body in the air, and soon the men who had fallen caught up and resumed their places.

Next, during the same procession to the city, they would have passed through land belonging to a lecher, whom the Saint had reproved for his sin but who would not repent. On the edge of this man’s land, the body of Arnulf became immovable. No strength of men could force the body to cross over the lecher’s land. So a wealthy man named Noddo invited the whole company to spend the night at his estate, and there goodly provisions and good beer were imparted to all. The next morning with great joy the body was borne into the city. All the people greeted their reposed archpastor, whose body was buried in the church of the Apostles. 

A woman long blind, named Julia, came to the tomb of St. Arnulf often to pray. She received her sight. Another woman was punished by God because she had worked on Sunday. Her hands became instantly crippled. Then came she to the tomb and begged the Saint to help her, weeping and praying sincerely. Quickly she recovered the use of her hands. 

The memory of this glorious Saint is kept on the 17th of the kalends of August (July 18) to the honour of God, Who liveth and reigneth without end, unto ages of ages. Amen. [adapted from the Golden Legend]

Of the two sons of Arnulf, Clodulf became his third successor in the See of Metz. Anseghisel remained in the service of the State.  From his union with Begga, a daughter of Pepin of Landen, was born Pepin of Heristal, the founder of the Carlovingian dynasty (Chlodulf of Metz was their oldest son, but more important is his second son Ansegisel, who married Begga daughter of Pepin I, Pippin of Landen. Arnulf is thus the male-line grandfather of Pepin of Herstal, great-grandfather of Charles Martel and 3rd great grandfather of Charlemagne.) In this manner Arnulf was the ancestor of the mighty rulers of that house.


There are three legends associated with Arnulf:

The Legend of the Ring

Arnulf was tormented by the violence that surrounded him and feared that he had played a role in the wars and murders that plagued the ruling families. Obsessed by these sins, Arnulf went to a bridge over the Moselle river. There he took off his bishop’s ring and threw it into the river, praying to God to give him a sign of absolution by returning the ring to him. Many penitent years later, a fisherman brought to the bishop’s kitchen a fish in the stomach of which was found the bishop’s ring. Arnulf repaid the sign of God by immediately retiring as bishop and becoming a hermit for the remainder of his life.

The Legend of the Fire

At the moment Arnulf resigned as bishop, a fire broke out in the cellars of the royal palace and threatened to spread throughout the city of Metz. Arnulf, full of courage and feeling unity with the townspeople, stood before the fire and said, “If God wants me to be consumed, I am in His hands.” He then made the sign of the cross at which point the fire immediately receded.

The Legend of the Beer Mug

It was July 642 and very hot when the parishioners of Metz went to Remiremont to recover the remains of their former bishop. They had little to drink and the terrain was inhospitable. At the point when the exhausted procession was about to leave Champigneulles, one of the parishioners, Duc Notto, prayed “By his powerful intercession the Blessed Arnulf will bring us what we lack.” Immediately the small remnant of beer at the bottom of a pot multiplied in such amounts that the pilgrims’ thirst was quenched and they had enough to enjoy the next evening when they arrived in Metz.

To some, he is patron saint of beer brewers.

Image: Crop of Église Saint-Arnould à Saint-Allouestre, Morbihan, France. Vitrail représentant Saint-Arnould. (3)

Research by REGINA Staff


Sign up for REGINA's weekly newsletter

  1. You will usually hear from us about once a week, usually on Sunday. 
  2. At other times, we may send a special email. 

To subscribe, go here!