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Born in Brabant in around 1040, Arnold of Soissons was a career soldier in his youth, before entering the Benedictine monastery of St Medard in Soissons. After spending three years as a hermit he was named abbot in around 1080 – an honour he tried to avoid. It is said that when he tried to flee, divine intervention by way of a wolf forced him to return. He then became a priest and in 1080, bishop of Soissons, another honour that he sought to avoid. When his see was occupied by another bishop, rather than fight, he took the opportunity to retire from public life and founded the abbey of St Peter in Oudenburg, Flanders. It was there he took to brewing beer. Generally not as strong as more modern brews, beer at the time was as essential to daily life as water. During the process of brewing, the water used was boiled and so freed of pathogens. One miracle tale says, at the time of an epidemic, rather than stand by while the local people fell ill from drinking water, Arnold had them consume his monastery brews. Because of this, many people in his church survived the plague (probably cholera). Similar stories are also credited to Saint Arnold of Metz.


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