Saint Crispin’s Day

By Aert van den Bossche, Martyrdom of Saints Crispin and Crispinian

25 October

Commemorated on 25 October each year, Saint Crispin’s Day is named after Crispin and Crispinian. The twins, who were martyred around the year 286, are the patron saints of cobblers, curriers, glove makers, lace makers, lace workers, leather workers, saddle makers, saddlers, shoemakers, tanners, and weavers. The notable battle of Agincourt, where the English army defeated the outnumbering French during the Hundred Years’ War, took place on Saint Crispin’s Day, and was included in a famous speech given by Henry V in the play named after him by William Shakespeare.

According to legend, the twins Crispin and Crispinian apprenticed to a shoemaker in Faversham, Kent, after fleeing their home due to being persecuted for adopting Christianity. It is likely they were Romans, however later medieval legends appropriated their story and made them princes who lived in Canterbury. They would preach during the day and make shoes at night, and later when they travelled to France they continued this tradition. It is said that on 25 October each year they would have the night off from making shoes, and so shoemakers traditionally would be closed on Saint Crispin’s Day.

And gentlemen in England now a-bed
Shall think themselves accursed they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day.

William Shakespeare, Henry V

Shoemakers, along with leatherworkers and saddlers, would celebrate with their families and each other, drinking and dancing in the open air. Bad weather on Saint Crispin’s Day was supposedly a sign of favour from the saints, as rain made mud, which dirtied shoes and encouraged people to invest in a new pair.

Saint Crispin’s Day is noted within the church, but other than that there are few celebrations left, with the exception of Northampton. Historically a shoemaking town, Northampton holds a large street fair on the week surrounding Saint Crispin’s Day each year.

Aert van den Bossche, Martyrdom of Saints Crispin and Crispinian
Aert van den Bossche, Martyrdom of Saints Crispin and Crispinian, Public Domain
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