Honey in History: Patron Saints of Bees and Beekeepers

Beekeeper Frame Inspection

Happy Valentine’s Day and welcome back to our blog! Did you know that in addition to being the patron saint of lovers and married couples, the namesake of the holiday – St. Valentine – is also widely recognized as the patron saint of beekeepers? In fact, according to Heifer International, St. Valentine is “charged with ensuring the sweetness of honey and the protection of beekeepers.”

So what is the connection between the saint of love and bees? Well, it looks like honey bees have been associated with love for centuries with many references to them in ancient cultures. According to CompleteBeehives.com:

“Cupid would dip his arrows in honey in order to fill a lover’s heart with sweetness. In Egyptian mythology, bees were the tears of the sun god, Ra. Bees were seen as messengers of the gods, coming to earth to pass secret messages to man.”

Then there is also the connection to the “honeymoon,” which Dictionary.com explains:

derives from the Old English hony moone. Hony refers to the new marriage’s sweetness, as well as a reference to the European custom of giving newlyweds enough mead, “an alcoholic liquor made by fermenting honey and water,” to last a month. That would keep many a couple happy. Moon refers to how long that sweetness might probably last, or from the changing aspect of the moon—from full to waning.”

When put this way, we can see how the patron saint of love makes perfect sense as the saint of beekeepers, the protectors of this symbol of love.

But St. Valentine is not the only saint linked to honey bees and beekeepers – there are actually a host of other saints around the world who also carry the title of Patron Saint of Bees/Beekeepers. In honor of the feast day of St. Valentine, we thought it would be fun to take a look at some of the other saints connected to the craft of beekeeping.


A 4th Century Roman Bishop, St. Ambrose is considered to be one of the most popular candidates for patron saint of bees and beekeepers, a title that may have been foretold in his infancy. As legend goes, when St. Ambrose was a child, his face was swarmed by bees, and though they didn’t sting him, they did leave a drop of honey on his face (there is also another version that states the bees swarmed in his mouth). This also signaled that St. Ambrose would be a great speaker and he was, in fact, later known as the "honey-tongued doctor” due to his eloquent preaching.1

Today you usually see St. Ambrose depicted with bees and/or beehives. And here’s a little fun fact from ChristianApostles.com, “[t]he Latin phrase for ‘honey’ is ‘Ambrosia’ or the food of the gods, thus the origin of St. Ambrose’s name.”

ST. GOGNAIT (also known as Abigail or Deborah)

If we venture to the lush green landscape of Ireland, you will hear wonderous stories about St. Gognait (also known as St. Abigail or St. Deborah), the patron saint of bees and beekeeping. While considered to be embellished – like that her bees turned into solders to fend off invaders trying to make off with the communities cattle – what we do know to be truth is that unlike some other saints linked to bees, St. Gognait was actually a beekeeper in her time. This shouldn’t be seen as much of a surprise since, according to the Irish Examiner, “Celtic lore believed the soul left the body as a bee or a butterfly thus bees were held in high esteem.”


Heading over the seas to the coast of France, St. Bernard of Clairvaux is the saint you will hear associated with bees. Similar to St. Ambrose, it was not direct work with honey bees that earned him the patronage of beekeepers, but his eloquence words, both spoken and written, that earned him the moniker Doctor Mellifluus or “The Honey-Sweet Doctor.”2 And here’s another buzz-worthy fact: St. Bernard’s feast day is August 20th, which just so happens to be National Honey Bee Day here in the U.S.


This final saint we are going to talk about today is St. Modomnoc who studied in Wales and trained at the monastery of Mynyw, or Menevia, later to be known as St. Davids. While at the monastery, he tended to the garden bees, as beekeeping had been his obedience. After years of service, St. Modomnoc returned to start his ministry in his native Ireland. Upon his leaving, it is rumored that his bees followed his ship twice until the abbot gifted the bees to make the trip with him. Upon his safe return to Ireland, St. Modomnoc built a church and housed his bees in a nearby garden that resembled the one at St. Davids monastery.3 According to OrthoChristian.com, “This spot is known as ‘the beekeeper’s church’ (‘Llan-Beach-Aire’) to this day. Thus, Irish people from ancient times believe that the bees as well as beekeeping appeared in their country due to St. Modomnoc.”

While these are just a few of the recognized patron saints of bees and beekeepers, there are many more that are spread out across the globe, and you can learn more about some of them here.

We want to hear from you! Have you heard of any of these patron saints? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below.

Wishing you and your honey a very sweet Valentine’s Day!


1 "St. Ambrose Medal – Patron of Beekeepers." Christian Apostles, © 2023, christianapostles.com/st-ambrose/.

2 "ST BERNARD OF CLAIRVAUX." St Bernard Church, www.stbernardnk.org/history/st-bernard-of-clairvaux.

3 Lapa, Dmitry. "HOLY FATHER MODOMNOC OF OSSORY, PATRON SAINT OF BEES." Orthodox Christianity, 25 Feb. 2015, orthochristian.com/77526.html.