In the wake of a rather fun post made by Catholic Memes on Facebook, wherein the guy surprised that the Jagermeister logo is inspired by St. Eustace, I discovered that there were many subsequent posts on that same topic (what can I say, the Bellarmine Forum has always been a trend setter). About six months after our post, Frank Weathers posted an opposing conclusion occurs on Patheos.
Frank concludes that St. Hubert of Aquitaine was the inspiration. He’s not alone. His conclusion is shared by Mitch Ballard who has an undated post on this topic as well. So, I got to scratching my head a little, wondering if I had perhaps made a mistake, but I was certain of the reports that St. Eustace was who he is reported to be. Indeed, my earlier post on this was correct.
The question is who is St. Hubert?
I know he is another hunter, and he and St. Eustace are considered patrons of hunters. According to New Advent, he was the first Bishop of Liege and lived from 656 to 727 or so. The story over there is wild. Hubert’s wife passes away, and Hubert was a debonair kind of guy who liked the chase. Rather than go to Church on Good Friday, Hubert decides to hunt down a stag (you can see this coming). After a long chase, the stag stops, turns around and says to him, “Hubert, unless you turn back to the Lord, and led a holy life, you shall quickly go down to hell.” (!)
Hubert did what anyone would, fell to the ground, and talked back to the stag, but said, “Lord, what would you have me to do?” “Go and see Lambert,” replied the talking stag. Hubert goes to see St. Lambert. Shortly after, Hubert’s wife dies (this appears to be the only part of this story that is not controverted). The widower Hubert then gives up his military rank and honor, cedes his birthright to Dukedom, and gives all his money to the poor. He then studies to be a priest and is ultimately ordained. Lambert is assassinated by followers of Pepin.
NOTE ON PEPIN: Pepin and Lambert were in-laws of some kind as Lambert’s wife was related to Pepin. The intrigue behind this assassination is one of the things that brought Lambert to be St. Lambert (whose cathedral was destroyed by the French in 1794). Pepin wasn’t into being married, though, and had a mistress Alpaida. Alpaida’s dad’s name was Dodo (no kidding). Somewhere in the intrigue of all this, there was a fight over the concept of marital fidelity that Lambert insisted was important. According to one story, Lambert kills Dodo in the fighting, and Dodo’s folks come after and ultimately kill Lambert. At least, that’s what some people say. Other people say he was killed by Frankish nobles who resented that Lambert foiled a plundering mission (you can’t make this stuff up). Again, according to new advent, the soundly accepted story is that Dodo killed Lambert in the chapel of Sts. Cosmos and Damian (here is a Greek connection) by being lanced in front of the altar.
By Lambert’s advice, St. Hubert was in Rome during the assignation, but the Pope had received a vision of the assassination and was told in his vision to make Hubert a bishop and send him to succeed Lambert. The Pope follows through, ordains Hubert a bishop and ships him back to Belgium. During this time, Hubert moves the see from Masstricht to Liege.
As bishop, Hubert sought to convert the pagans. He was wildly successful, but in a small village between Louvain and Brussels there was a terrible cult at Fura. Hubert was going to go there, but gets a vision that he would die there. As he is preaching, he fell sick, and died later with “Our Father who art in Heaven…” on his lips.
We see the following in Hubert’s life then:
- wild man has a strong encounter with Jesus;
- here’s where the vision of the stag is inserted;
- wild man repents and miracles start happening;
- follows advice of the Lord and seeks the care of Lambert;
- gives away everything;
- ordained a priest;
- Pope has a miraculous vision, ordains him bishop;
- successful preacher, converts many pagans; and,
- foretells his own death and dies with a pious example.
There’s a lot of x-files around St. Hubert. It’s also easy to see how he is a saint. There’s really only one thing direct to him that’s somewhat questionable, though. While it is clear that he encountered Our Lord in those woods on that Good Friday, was it really a stag?
I’m inclined to say that stag story was tacked on from people interpreting what happened to him. St. Eustace already had worldwide fame by then – so people would have known that tale. St. Hubert was a military guy of privilege and a hunter. I doubt Hubert would have told people directly what happened to him, it was likely incredible. I could be wrong, but it’s just a feel for what he was like after that encounter.
On its own website, Jagermeister says it was St. Hubert that inspired the Jagermeister logo. I believe it. But was St. Hubert’s story given to him by people who wanted to fill in the blanks? Or, did Our Lord, Who does love a great show, decide that Hubert was worthy of an encore of St. Eustace’s drama?
Putting my tongue firmly in my cheek, I would say that the stag story was made up by the Belgians in order to give themselves a rich history like Rome’s. That’s just a flip comment, though. Ultimately, he was made one of the four holy Marshals of the Rhineland — so perhaps my theory of him being key to building a germanic myth of empire isn’t too far off.
The Question of Fame After Death
Hubert’s fame isn’t quite as inflated as St. George’s. St. Eustace’s is, however. Eustace had already been around nearly four centuries prior to Hubert. That’s four hundred years of story telling. St. Eustace has the white horse, like St. George, and the stag is there in all.
So, I’m leaning towards the side that Hubert’s legend of the stag was begotten of Eustace’s fame. That would make Jagermeister’s explanation correct, as well as my own. That doesn’t mean St. Hubert is without legendary progeny, though.
Consolation Prize for St. Hubert: the Bloodhound
I like a lot of what I’ve read about St. Hubert that I didn’t know before. For one thing, he was a dog breeder, and kept and trained many dogs. The bloodhound is attributed to him, even having been called in the past “Hubert’s hound.” This old engraving below shows that there is a connection to deer hunting. It does make you wonder: the hound of Heaven, the chase, and the stag that talked back — certainly has all the elements of a Catholic life, x-files and all. I think Hubert’s consolation prize is fitting for so great a life. Hubert’s “love of the chase” as a youth that lead him to encounter our Lord and straighten up is kind of reflected in the blood hound. Blood hounds are kind of wild when younger because their noses and the thrill of chasing down every smell they encounter causes them to wander about losing mind of where they are. Yet, with training and age, they become fiercely loyal, smart, and able to discipline their nose on one target. Sounds a lot like Hubert!
We probably won’t get an answer from him today, although we will be able to ask St. Hubert in person someday, but what do you think: Stag or not for Hubert?
Maybe we should *ahem* “research” more Jagermeister and discuss…