On 3rd November 2013, the Masters of the Easton Harriers arranged a Service at the Kennels celebrating St Hubert’s day. During the Service Hounds from the Easton Harriers, Stour Valley Beagles, and the Eastern Counties Mink hounds received the traditional St Hubert’s blessing from Rev Julian Barker. St Hubert who is Patron Saint of hunting is probably less known here in the UK, however he is much recognised in France and it is on this date every year that Hunts gather up and down the Country to remember and pay their respects to him. We are indeed fortunate to have a piece by Charles Freeman explaining more about him and the important role he plays still today in the hunting world. We are delighted that St Hubert is becoming better known in England and I hope the pictures of the day will help you soak up the atmosphere of this very special occasion.
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Sts. Eustace and Hubert – the patron saints of hunting!
The histories of medieval saints are full of fascinating details of life as saints came from all sorts of backgrounds and were involved in all kinds of activities, hunting not least among them.
The earliest saint that has a hunting legend to his name is St. Eustace who is still venerated in part of Italy. Eustace was a senior officer in the army of the Roman emperor Trajan at a time, in the second century AD, when Christians were still being persecuted. He was a pagan and whilst out hunting one day, he came across a herd of deer and followed a large stag into the woods. Suddenly it turned to face him and a cross appeared between its antlers. It began speaking and explained that it was Christ urging him to turn to Christianity. Eustace was so overcome that he and his family did indeed convert. They were eventually all martyred.
Hubert, born near the forests of the Ardennes in the 650s, was living at a very different time when most of the towns were Christian but when Christianity had still not reached into the wilder areas of Europe. He was the elder son of the Count of Aquitaine and wealthy enough to spend all his time hunting. One Good Friday, when the legends tell us, all good people were in church, he was out in the forests. He too chased a stag that turned and revealed a cross between its antlers. Christ told him that his obsession with hunting on holy days would send him to hell.
As with Eustace, this had a big impact. Hubert renounced all his wealth and even passed his father’s title on to his younger brother. Eventually he became the first bishop of Liege. Yet he went on loving the Ardennes and would spend much time there with his hounds. When he came across those living in the forests who had not heard of Christianity, he would convert them. Then there were miracles associated with his name, especially as a curer of rabies. There is a good story that his own black hounds mated with the white hounds of the earls of Talbot and the result was bloodhounds.
Hubert died in the 720s and, as often happened, it was some time before he was fully recognised as a saint. In the ninth century his body was exhumed, shown still be in good order as was expected of saints, and reburied in a grand ceremony at a local abbey, in a village now known as Saint-Hubert. The day of the ceremony was 3rd November and this remains St. Hubert’s saint’s day until now. Hubert is also the patron saint for archers, forest workers, furriers, trappers, hunters and huntsmen as well as hunting as a profession.