“Portinari Triptych” by Hugo van der Goes (Credit: Wikicommons)
Each year the holidays bring with them an increase in both the consumption of alcohol and concern about drinking’s harmful effects.
Alcohol abuse is no laughing matter, but is it sinful to drink and make merry, moderately and responsibly, during a holy season or at any other time?
As a historical theologian, I researched the role that pious Christians played in developing and producing alcohol. What I discovered was an astonishing history.
Religious orders and wine-making
Wine was invented 6,000 years before the birth of Christ, but it was monks who largely preserved viniculture in Europe. Religious orders such as the Benedictines and Jesuits became expert winemakers. They stopped only because their lands were confiscated in the 18th and 19th centuries by anti-Catholic governments such as the French Revolution’s Constituent Assembly and Germany’s Second Reich.
In order to celebrate the Eucharist, which requires the use of bread and wine, Catholic missionaries brought their knowledge of vine-growing with them to the New World. Wine grapes were first introduced to Alta California in 1779 by Saint Junipero Serra and his Franciscan brethren, laying the foundation for the California wine industry. A …read more