Confrerie des Vignerons de Saint Vincent Macon
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History of the Confrerie

St. Vincent Macon
    The Confrerie des Vignerons de Saint Vincent Macon represents one of the oldest traditions of that area. It was revived more than 50 years ago by Profesor Maurice Chervet, who, with his wife, also sponsors a folk group called Matisconia.
    At the end of the Middle Ages, the problem of alcoholism became increasingly prevalent. Many of the Confreries were organized to combat the excesses of nobility. Apparently these Confreries were religious in nature, as opposed to the other professional organizations.
    The Confreries in the Saone-et-Loire area were very different from each other. Some of them were essentially religious by nature and membership, such as the Confrerie du Corps de Dieu in Rosey, the Penitents de Macon and the Confrerie de la Passion. Relics of these and others can actually be found in museums. Their only goal was to insure the salvation of the soul.
    Some others, however, were of a more licentious nature, such as the Abbey of Montgouvert in Macon, which often had trouble with the constabulary.
    Last, but not least, were the Confreries of the winemakers which, quite understandably, existed in the areas where vineyards were found. According to Arthur Dinaux in his 1867 publication, this type of Confrerie was found in great numbers at that time.
    In each parish of Saone-et-Loire, the winemakers met every Sunday at church under the banner of their patron saint, Saint Vincent. After mass, they met at a nearby inn or cellar and discussed their problems. In a sense, these Confreries were the forefathers of our modern mutual aid societies. Since there was no such thing as social security in those days, is a winemaker became ill, business still had to go on. So other members of the Confrerie went in organized teams to prune his vineyards, work the soil or pick up the grapes at harvest time.
    These ancient mutual aid associations still survive in a practical manner. For instance, as recently as a couple of years ago in a little town of the Macon Blanc area, a very popular winemaker, who was also a bachelor, fell seriously ill for several months. Members of the local fire department came to his aid and worked his vineyards until vintage time to save him from financial diaster.
    All these Confreries of winemakers had adopted Saint Vincent as their patron saint. St. Vincent's Feast Day was always celebrated on January 22, and still gives rise to good times and banquets, which may have been quite modest in the old days. One of the traditions to be observed on St. Vincent's Day was cooking and eating snails, which had been gathered sleeping under the stems of the vines. Needless to say, the snails were well washed down with the new wine of the season.
    Quite understandable, St. Vincent's Feast Day was the most respected and observed in the area. But why was he selected to be the patron saint of the winemakers?
    Vincent, Bishop of Saragoza, was martyrized in the year 400. When King Childebert came back from Spain after fighting for new conquests, he brought back relics of the saint, which he distributed along the way, particularly in the valleys of the Rhone and the Saone rivers. Saint Vincent became prominently honored in Burgundy. In the Macon Museum, one can find six paintings showing excerpts from the religious life of Saint Vincent, but they give us no hint as to what protection or benefits the saint offered to the vineyards.
    For want of a more subtle solution, many were convinced that Saint Vincent got the job because of a simple play of words. Burgundians, as everyone knows, have the reputation of having a hearty good nature and high spirit. They apparently garbled the name "Vincent" the the French expression "Sent le Vin" (smells wine). And so, we are told, Saint Vincent became the Parton Saint of the Winemakers.....    
    
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