Dr. Blair Apgar Profile picture
Feb 12 11 tweets 4 min read
Matilda of Canossa in Modern(ish) Myths: @GooseIsland makes a beer named "Matilda" which may just seem like a fun name choice until you learn it's the brewery's homage to Orval and their use of Brettanomyces yeast. 1/
The connection isn't immediately clear unless you're familiar with the trappist ale. Founded in 1931, the brewery sits within the old walls of the Abbey Notre Dame d'Orval which was founded in the first quarter of the 11th century (though the site was previously occupied). 2/
You might be thinking at this point: how the heck does this involve Matilda of Canossa? Orval Brewery cites a fascinating foundational myth regarding the water source they have consistently used for their brewing 3/
Count Arnulf I of Chiny became friendly with Matilda following the death of her first husband (Godfrey IV of Lower Lorraine--Arnold had beef w/ Godfrey's family). In 1076, he brought her to the site of the existing monastery, & when she bent to wash her hands in a fountain... 4/
...her wedding ring from Godfrey slipped off & sank to the bottom! Matilda began to vigorously pray to Christ for it to be found, when suddenly a trout emerged from the water with a golden ring in it's mouth.

She reportedly exclaimed "This place truly is a valley of gold!" 5/
She had made a solemn vow to perpetually endow the monastery with a number of monks in His service. Over time Val d'or' became 'Orval' and the abbey becomes Abbey Notre Dame d'Orval (sadly burnt down in the 18th century). 6/
When the brewery was re-founded in the 20th century, their logo was directly inspired by this legend. The fountain still survives today amidst the ruins of the abbey. 6/
An overview of Matilda's surviving charters suggest she spent 1075-1079 (when the myth is alleged to have taken place) in/around her Italian properties. She also would have been embroiled in the papal/imperial deathmatch playing out in the Italian peninsula during that time. 7/
However--there survives is a 1124 charter from Arnolf's son Otto which confirms a donation on behalf of Matilda! She owned and administered lands in the area, so her presence in the area is theoretically possible if not borne out by the surviving documents. 8/
All of this to say--you never know where the #MiddleAges (or the mythologization of) will pop up in everyday life. /🧵
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More from @BlairApgar

May 26, 2021
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