Who invented the pretzel?
There are numerous accounts on the origin of the looped pretzels, as well as the origin of the name; most agree that they have Christian backgrounds and were invented by monks. According to The History of Science and Technology, in 610 AD “…an Italian monk invents pretzels as a reward to children who learn their prayers. He calls the strips of baked dough, folded to resemble arms crossing the chest, ‘pretiola’ (“little rewards”)”. However, no source is cited to back up these details. (But I’m pretty sure this is correct, I mean all good food starts in Italy, right?)
But maybe France is in the mix. Another source locates the invention in a monastery in southern France. The looped pretzel may also be related to a Greek ring bread, derived from communion bread used in monasteries a thousand years ago. The German name “Brezel” may derive also from Latin bracellus (a medieval term for “bracelet”),or bracchiola (“little arms”).
The pretzel has been in use as an emblem of bakers and formerly their guilds in southern German areas since at least the 12th century. A 12th-century illustration from the southwest German Alsace region (today France) may contain the earliest depiction of a pretzel.
Within the Catholic Church, pretzels were regarded as having religious significance for both ingredients and shape. Pretzels made with a simple recipe using only flour and water could be eaten during Lent, when Christians were forbidden to eat eggs, lard, or dairy products such as milk and butter. As time passed, pretzels became associated with both Lent and Easter. Pretzels were hidden on Easter morning just as eggs are hidden today, and are particularly associated with Lent, fasting, and prayers before Easter.
Regardless of who created the first pretzel, we know people love to eat them. That’s why we offer delicious soft pretzels as part of our fundraising services to those wish to promote the causes dearest to their heart, just like the Italian monks from 610 AD. Give them a pretzel!