Tuesday, August 24, 2010

St. Bartholomew and His Star

Today, August 24, is the feast day of St. Bartholomew, one of the twelve apostles and a martyr.

According to the flower calendar in the Collectanea of V.S. Lean, the sunflower becomes a star for the feast of St. Bartholomew:

"And yet anon the full Sun-flower blew,*
And became a star for Bartholomew"

It is not entirely clear whether this is a Roman Catholic or an Anglican legend. Some sources claim it was already an existing tradition in 15th or 16th century, which would likely place its origin at a time prior to Anglicanism.

On the other hand, many sources say the sunflower was not brought to Europe until the 16th century, after Pizarro discovered it in Peru, so there could hardly have been an existing tradition before that time.

In any event, Ward and Lovejoy relate:
"The Old English church recommended decorating with the sunflower on St. Bartholomew's day, 24 August, because it represented constancy and devotion [.]"
And Forster says:
"The sunflower is called in the Floral Directory, St. Bartholomew's Star".
Forster, Circle of the Seasons (T. Hookham, London, 1828), p. 237.
Ward and Lovejoy, A Contemplation Upon Flowers (Timber Press, 1999), p. 347.

A sunflower in Germany, from Wikimedia Commons. Some rights reserved.
*Some sources substitute "below" and others substitute "flew"

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