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UPA-BUA Union Professionnelle d'Architectes
Beroepsunie Van Architecten

Do you know the patron saint of architects?

Although this notion is somewhat outdated now, architects who are curious about the history and traditions of their profession may be interested in knowing the identity of their patron saint.
Of course, some will be able to quote St. Luke, but he is the patron saint of artists (along with Blessed Fra Angelico) and especially of painters and sculptors (gossipers will say that St. Luke is also the patron saint of doctors because these are professions that allowed women to be seen naked).

In fact, the patron saint of architects is the apostle St. Thomas (but it is true that St. Benedict of Nursia, St. Raymond and, in Lebanon, St. Barbara are also sometimes cited).
We know that Thomas was a Jew from Galilee and one of the twelve apostles of Jesus. The Gospel according to John gives him a special place: Thomas doubts the resurrection of Jesus Christ, which makes him the symbol of religious unbelief. According to various traditions, he would have carried the "good news" as far as South India (in 52), where he is considered the founder of the Church. He died there, in martyr, around the year 70.

Traditional iconography depicts St. Thomas carrying a sword or spear to evoke his martyrdom. However, as the Apostle Thomas is the patron saint of architects, masons, surveyors and stonemasons (because, according to the Golden Legend, he ended his career building a palace in India for the Indo-Parthean king of Taxila, Gondophares), his other attribute (from the 13th century onwards) is a try square, a tool that some say is perfectly suited to his square character, making him the patron saint of those who like straight corners.

It is therefore understandable why it is found in the name of the first professional and cultural association linked to the Saint-Luc schools, namely the ‘Gilde de Saint-Thomas et de Saint-Luc’, founded in Maastricht on 21 September 1863 (its bulletin was published until 1914). It should be noted that in the calendar of saints, the architects' St. Thomas is celebrated on 3 July.

And since we mention the patron saints, let us mention those of some other related specialities:

  • expert surveyors (in Belgium): St. Barbara (this would originally come from the "Géomètres des Mines")
  • engineers : St. Patrick (Patrick of Ireland), St. Barbara (in Belgium or more specifically for the engineers of the Mines), St. Wilhelmus and for the engineers of the Ponts et Chaussées, St. Benezet (builder of the Pont d'Avignon)
  • latecomers : (which is an old speciality lent to architects in particular, always overworked and in a hurry): saint-glinglin (hell freezing over).