Monday, 27 February 2012

Harold of England

King Harold II of England (ca. 1022 - October 14, 1066) was the last crowned Anglo-Saxon king of England. He was the son of Earl Godwin of Wessex, succeeded St. Edward the Confessor to the throne of England, but served as its king for less than a year, dying on the field of battle at Hastings in southern England in 1066, when England was invaded by William the Bastard ("the Conqueror"), Duke of Normandy. He ruled from January 5, 1066 to October 14, the day of his death. He is regarded by many Orthodox Christians as a passion-bearer or even martyr and as the last Orthodox king of England.
Harold II Godwinson of England
(Bayeux Tapestry)



Early years

Harold's father was Godwin, the powerful Earl of Wessex. Godwin was himself a son to Wulfnoth Cild, Thane of Sussex, and had married twice. His first marriage was to Thyra Sveinsdóttir (994 - 1018), a daughter of Sweyn I who was king of Denmark, Norway, and England. His second wife was Gytha Thorkelsdóttir who was a granddaughter to the legendary Swedish viking Styrbjörn Starke and great-granddaughter to Harold Bluetooth, King of Denmark and Norway, father of Sweyn I. This second marriage resulted in the birth of two sons, Harold and Tostig Godwinson, and a sister, Edith of Wessex (1020 - 1075) who was Queen consort of St. Edward the Confessor.
Created Earl of East Anglia in 1045, Harold accompanied Godwin into exile in 1051 but helped him to regain his position a year later. When Godwin died in 1053, Harold succeeded him as Earl of Wessex (a province at that time covering the southernmost third of England). This made him the second most powerful figure in England after the king.
In 1058 Harold also became Earl of Hereford, and he replaced his late father as the focus of opposition to growing Norman influence in England under the restored Saxon monarchy (1042 - 1066) of Edward the Confessor, who had spent more than a quarter of a century in exile in Normandy.
He gained glory in a series of campaigns (1062 - 1063) against the ruler of Gwynedd, Gruffydd ap Llywelyn, who had conquered all of Wales; this conflict ended with Gruffydd's defeat (and death at the hands of his own troops) in 1063. About 1064, Harold married Edith, daughter of the Earl of Mercia, and former wife of Gruffydd ap Llywelyn. By Harold, Edith had two sons - possibly twins - named Harold and Ulf, both of whom survived into adulthood and probably ended their lives in exile. Harold also had several illegitimate children by his famous mistress (or wife, according to Danish law), Ealdgyth Swan-neck (or "Edith Swan-neck" or "Edith Swanneck").


In 1065 Harold supported Northumbrian rebels against his brother Tostig who replaced him with Morcar. This strengthened his acceptability as Edward's successor, but fatally divided his own family, driving Tostig into alliance with King Harald Hardrada ("Hard Reign") of Norway.
Upon Edward the Confessor's death (January 5, 1066), Harold claimed that Edward had promised him the crown on his deathbed, and the Witenagemot (the assembly of the kingdom's leading notables) approved him for coronation as king, which took place the following day, January 6.
However, the country was invaded, by both Harald of Norway and William the Bastard, Duke of Normandy, who claimed that he had been promised the English crown by both Edward (probably in 1052) and Harold, who had been shipwrecked in Ponthieu, Normandy in 1064 or 1065. It was alleged that, on the latter occasion, William forced Harold to swear to support his claim to the throne, only revealing after the event that the box on which he had made his oath contained holy relics. After Harold's death, Normans were quick to point out that in accepting the crown of England, Harold had perjured himself of this oath.
Invading what is now Yorkshire in September, 1066, Harald Hardrada and Tostig defeated the English earls Edwin of Mercia and Morcar of Northumbria at the Battle of Fulford near York (September 20), but were in turn defeated and slain by Harold's army five days later at the Battle of Stamford Bridge (September 25).
Harold now forced his army to march 240 miles to intercept William, who had landed perhaps 7000 men in Sussex, southern England three days later on September 28. Harold established his army in hastily built earthworks near Hastings. The two armies clashed near Hastings on October 14, where after a hard fight Harold was killed and his forces routed. According to tradition, and as depicted in the Bayeux Tapestry, Harold was killed by an arrow in the eye. Whether he did, indeed, die in this manner (a death associated in the middle ages with perjurers), or was killed by the sword, will never be known. Harold's wife, Edith Swanneck, was called to identify the body, which she did by some private mark (the face being destroyed) known only to herself. Although one Norman account claims that Harold's body was buried in a grave overlooking the Saxon shore, it is more likely that he was buried in his church of Waltham Holy Cross in Essex.
After the Conquest, some of Harold's family fled to Kievan Rus', where his illegitimate daughter Gytha of Wessex married Vladimir Monomakh, Grand Duke of Kievan Rus', and is ancestor to dynasties of Galicia, Smolensk and Yaroslavl, whose scions include Modest Mussorgsky and Peter Kropotkin. Consequently, the Russian Orthodox Church allegedly recently recognized Harold as a martyr with October 14 as his feast day.


A cult of hero worship rose around Harold and by the 12th century legend says that Harold had indeed survived the battle, had spent two years in Winchester after the battle recovering from his wounds, and then traveled to Germany where he spent years wandering as a pilgrim. As an old man he returned to England and lived as a hermit in a cave near Dover. As he lay dying, he confessed that although he went by the name of Christian, he had been born Harold Godwineson. Various versions of this story persisted throughout the Middle Ages, and have little claim to fact.
Literary interest in Harold revived in the 19th century with the play Harold by Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1876) and the novel Last of the Saxon Kings by Edward Bulwer-Lytton (1848). Rudyard Kipling wrote a story, The tree of justice (1910), describing how an old man who turns out to be Harold is brought before Henry I of England. E. A. Freeman wrote a serious history in History of the Norman Conquest of England (1870-1879) in which Harold is seen as a great English hero. By the 21st century Harold's reputation remains tied, as it has always been, with subjective views of the rightness or wrongness of the Norman conquest.

Saint Harold?

The Basis for Sainthood

The question of Harold's sanctity is a bit complex. History records that he led a moral life and was an honest and dutiful ruler for the English people. There probably is not, however, enough evidence of his personal sanctity based on the general conduct of his life in order for him to be numbered publicly among the saints.
Another question with regard to many western saints is the period in which they lived. That is, do they count as Orthodox saints of the old western Church based on living before the Great Schism? Regarding the British Isles, what is known about the state of the Church there at that time is that subsequent to the Norman Invasion in 1066, church life was radically altered. Native clergy were replaced, liturgical reform enacted, and a strong emphasis on papal church control was propagated. As such, it is probably safe to say that, prior to 1066, the church of the British Isles was Orthodox, and the Normans brought the effects of the Great Schism to British soil. As such, it is probably proper to regard Harold as having been an Orthodox Christian.
The principle question regarding Harold's sanctity is whether he died as a passion-bearer (one who faces his death in a Christ-like manner) or even a martyr at Hastings. The defense of England was certainly being undertaken for political and nationalistic reasons—Englishmen had no desire to be ruled over by a foreign king (having experienced it before), so they gladly followed their native monarch in defense of their homeland. Yet did they also die for their faith?

Papist Invaders versus Orthodox Christian Natives

Before he set out from Normandy, William had had a difficult time in getting his own Norman barons to follow him in his quest to gain the English crown. Most considered it suicide, if only because of the difficulty in making the crossing over the English Channel in the relatively primitive boats that they used. Thus, William had a problem in terms of gaining military assistance in his campaign. The solution to that problem was presented by one of his advisers, Lanfranc, a Lombard abbot and monastic teacher who had previously helped gain papal approval of William's uncanonical marriage to his wife, Matilda.
Lanfranc's solution (for which he was eventually awarded the position of Archbishop of Canterbury after the Conquest) came in the form of casting the invasion as a crusade to bring the English church into submission to the papacy. David Howarth, in his 1066 The Year of the Conquest, explains:
The invasion should not be seen as a merely secular conquest; its highest aim should be, or appear to be, the reformation of the English church. It should become a crusade, a holy war to bring back an errant church to Rome. Lanfranc himself, or the Norman church as a body, was willing to bring accusations against the church of England (p. 100).
Whether the English church was indeed errant can be debated. As with much of the Church at the time, corruption was certainly present, but that was by no means unique to England or therefore deserving of military invasion. Indeed, even considering how remote England's church was from Rome, it had for nearly 200 years collected and sent to Rome the offering known as Peter's Pence, and it had always encouraged pilgrimage to Rome by English Christians. As such, the church in England had been remarkably loyal to Rome. Howarth continues:
Perhaps its principal sin was merely to be different: much of its scholarship and all of its pastoral work were in English instead of Latin, and it was easy for other churchmen to suspect that schisms and heresies were hidden by such a barbarous language. But finally, whatever was said against it, the fact remained that the English then were a devoutly religious people and were satisfied on the whole that their church provided for their spiritual needs (ibid.).

Norman Conspiracy with the Pope

Despite the rather shaky grounds on which accusations of English ecclesiastical disloyalty were founded, this was the reason for the invasion which was submitted to the Pope. It was probably something of an afterthought for William's plan, and certainly neither William nor Lanfranc were in a position to judge the English church. Yet the excuse was precisely what the invaders—and the Pope—needed to further their cause, as Howarth says:
To William, it gave a chance of solving the problem of raising an army: he could promise land and booty to men who took part, but in a holy war the church could promise something more—salvation. To Lanfranc, it gave a chance to offer the Holy See an expansion of power it had been seeking in vain... Lanfranc could therefore ask for papal blessing of William's invasion and offer something in return: William's claim could be submitted to the judgement of the Pope. This would be the first time a pope had been asked to adjudicate a disputed royal succession, and would create a precedent of enormous importance to [Cardinal] Hildebrand... And the present Pope, as it happened, had once been [Lanfranc's] student at [the monastic college of] Bec (p. 101).
Hildebrand had previously been at the head of efforts to disentangle the election of popes from secular politics, thus bolstering the power and solidity of the papacy. (He was eventually elected pope himself, styled Pope Gregory VII, and is a saint in the Roman Catholic Church.) Such an opportunity as Lanfranc's proposal presented to increase the papacy's influence over secular politics could not be missed. Being the most skilful politician at the Vatican, he saw to it that a papal court was held in Rome ("without the slightest reference to the facts," says Howarth on p. 102) at which Harold was entirely unrepresented. As Howarth says:
It is not recorded whether he was invited to send an advocate, but it is very unlikely. To ride from Rome to Bosham [where Harold was in England] and back again to Rome suggests a month on the road, and nobody was prepared to waste as much time as that. If he had been invited, he and the witan would certainly have answered, quite correctly, that the choice of a King of England had nothing to do with the Pope (p. 102).
The court ruled against Harold, and the Pope
accepted that William's purpose was to reform the church, he sent his blessing on this holy endeavour, a papal banner to carry into battle, and a ring for William to wear on the expedition which contained a relic of St Peter himself. There was one condition: it was understood that William would hold England as a vassal of the Pope. William had not the least intention in the world of doing anything of the sort; but he accepted the ring and the banner and said nothing. And those, as things turned out, were the most powerful weapons he took to England (ibid.).

Harold Rex Interfectus Est: Harold's Defeat at Hastings

Harold Rex Interfectus Est
"King Harold is killed"
(Bayeux Tapestry)
After Harold had returned from his brilliant defeat of Harald of Norway in the north of England, he learned quickly of the Norman invasion. He'd been suspecting it for some time, but it fell hard on the heels of victory at Stamford Bridge that he would have to defend his country in the south, as well.
Upon his return to southern England, he soon received word from William's forces that he had been excommunicated by the Pope and that the Normans carried papal blessing to invade England. All evidence suggests that this news utterly demoralized King Harold. While he had been a powerful commander against the Norsemen, upon hearing news of the alleged excommunication, he declared, "May the Lord now decide between William and me" (Howarth, p. 164), and before going to battle, "the terrible rumour was starting to spread that the King was excommunicated and the same fate hung over any man who fought for him" (ibid., 165).
Records of how the battle actually went suggest that instead of the dynamic fighting force Harold had inspired just days before, the English mainly stood in one place and were slaughtered. Harold had been transformed by his betrayal by the Pope, and his defeat by William (which from a purely military standpoint was by no means assured) marked the end of the ecclesial distinctiveness of the English church and its subsequent capitulation to Rome under Norman rule. Lanfranc himself, as Archbishop of Canterbury, led the Latinization and Normanization of the English church, while William brutalized the English people.

Harold's Cultus

Although history's record of Harold's defeat can be interpreted to suggest that King Harold and his men died in defense of the Orthodox Christian faith, aside from the undocumented allegation that the Church of Russia has glorified him, there is no record of a cultus developing around Harold. This fact is not necessarily evidence against his place among the saints, especially since the Norman domination of the English church would have utterly squelched the liturgical veneration of the fallen Saxon king.
In our own day, however, some Orthodox Christians—especially those who venerate the saints of the British Isles—have begun to regard Harold as being truly a saint, that he and his men died defending their land from invasion by a foreign faith. Perhaps we may someday see a service written to him and popular veneration grow in the Orthodox Church, especially among English-speaking Orthodox Christians.


Friday, 24 February 2012

Orthodox Autocephalous Church of British Isles(England-Ireland-Scotland-Wales)

Would be interesting, Archbishops,Priests and simple Orthodox Christians from Global Orthodox Christendom to think that is necessary to became an Ethnic-Native Autocephalous Orthodox Church of British Isles,for people from England,Scotland,Ireland and Wales, a Holy Archetype based on Celtic and Anglosaxon Orthodox Church before the great schism in 1054 and the Norman invasion in 1066,we want your opinion.

Eastern Orthodox Churches in Great Britain

The Russian Orthodox Church - the Diocese of Sourozh covers Great Britain and Ireland.Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia - also has a diocese that covers Great Britain and Ireland. The Greek Orthodox Church - Archdiocese of Thyateira and Great Britain, led by His Eminence Gregorios,that covers England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland as well as Malta. The Greek Orthodox Church of Antioch - has 14 parishes and 8 missions within the Deanery of the United Kingdom and Ireland.

The Christian Orthodox Tradition in England.


The Sandbach Crosses
Mercia is the Anglo-Saxon Kingdom south of the Kingdoms of Northumbria and Cumbria.
It is possible that some sub-Roman British Christian communities survived the invasion of the Anglo-Saxons; but apart from that Mercia remained pagan till 7C.
Paeda, the son of Penda the pagan king of Mercia, was a sub-king of the Middle Angles in East Mercia. In 653 He sought the hand of Alchfled daughter of King Oswiu of Northumbria. A condition of the marriage was that Paeda became Christian.
Oswiu sent 4 priests from Lindisfarne to Mercia with his daughter: St Cedd, St Betti, Diuma and Adda. There is a tradition that they baptised him at Sandbach in Cheshire where crosses were erected to commemorate the event.
Diuma became Bishop of the Mercians in 660.
Chad's Holy Well Lichfield
Oswiu later, in 669, sent St Chad. As the new Bishop of the Mercians St Chad moved his seat from Repton to Lichfield, building a monastery with monks from Lastingham, on land given by King Wulfhere,
The monastery lay just north of Stowe Pool where the present Church of St Chad now stands. The holy well was used for baptism. He also obtained land to found a monastery at Barrow in Humber.
St Chad carried on very much in the style of St Aidan and St Cuthbert. He died of the plague in 672.
His relics were rescued from the Reformation and are now in the Catholic Cathedral in Birmingham.
Mercia in the time of St Chad
Peterborough, (Medeshamstede) a strategic centre in the East of Mercia, also had became one of the first centres of Christianity in Mercia. Paeda provided for the foundation of the monastery in 655.

The Hedda Stone is the grave slab of St Hedda, a later abbot of Peterborough martyred by the Danes

The coffin lid of St Betti at Wirksworth with various scenes from the life of Christ with apostles, one of the finest pieces of Anglo-Saxon carving
St Betti evangelised the area around Wirksworth in Derbyshire. He died about 670 and is buried beneath the chancel. His coffin lid has been found decorated with scenes from the life of Christ.

St Wilfred, at a time when he was unwelcome in Northumbria, from 660 onwards, founded monasteries in Mercia: at Oundle and probably Brixworth (above), both in Northamptonshire. He went even further afield making foundations al Evesham in Worcestershire, Wing in Buckinghamshire, Withington in Gloucestershire, and Selsey in Sussex.
A Saxon crypt is still preserved at Wing.
King Ethelred, the next king of Mercia, controled Lindsey -present-day Lincolnshire. He endowed the monastery of Bardney on an island in the marsh east of Lincoln in 697. He abdicated and became the first abbot.
Ethelred was married to Osthryth, the daughter of King Oswiu of Northumbria and uncle of St Oswald. They gave relics of St Oswald to the monastery and were themselves enshrined there Another monastic foundation was made at Partney. St Aldwyn was abbot there and his brother St Ethelwine (Elwin) (700) was the second Bishop of Lindsey.

Burial place of St Hybald
St Hybald is described by St Bede as 'a most holy and austere' man. He was a close friend of St Chad and may have been a monk in the Irish tradition at Iona and Lastingham. He may have founded his own monastery at Hibaldstowe in north Lincolnshire on an island in the marshes close to the Humber. No trace of it remains, as it was probably made of wood. St Hybald was buried in Hibaldstow church.
A large stone coffin was found under the floor of the chancel in 1866 complete with skeleton. It is likely this is the coffin of St Hybald and reburied when the new floor was relaid.

Expansion of Mercia into Greater Mercia in 7/8C.
With the decline of Northumbria, Mercia became the centre of the other Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms - the hub of 'greater Mercia'
The pattern in Mercia was the same as in Northumbria: Kingdom and Church developed together and royals provided for monasteries.

At the other end of the spectrum were always the hermits. St Hardulf (7C) is said to have used the cave known as the 'Anchorite's church' near Ingleby in Derbyshire. He was buried at nearby Breedon.
The cave was also used by a monk called Bernard in mediaeval times.
King Ethelred founded the monastery at Breedon-on- the-Hill in present day Leicestershire
in 676.
Some splendid 8-9C Saxon scultures can be seen inside the church at Breedon.
Tatwine (734), the future Archbishop of Canterbury, was a monk here.
There were three other saints besides St Hardulf buried, perhaps hidden away in a crypt.

St Mary Breedon-on-the-Hill, Leicestershire

Saxon Saints. Breedon

St Bertram's Shrine at Ilam
St Bertram was an 8C Mercian prince who went to Ireland to marry. A wolf killed his wife and child, and in grief Bertam spent his life as a solitary in prayer at Ilam in Derbyshire. His shrine is in the church at Ilam and nearby is his cave and 2 holy wells

The crypt at Repton
Repton in Derbyshire was the site of another double monastery of royal foundation and ruled by an abbess.
St Werburga (699), daughter of King Wulfhere of Mercia, is the first recorded abbess of Repton. She was taught by St Etheldreda at Ely. She was buried at Hanbury in Staffordshire, her body later found to be intact. But in 9C her body was moved to Chester to escape the Danes.
St Alnoth was a hermit who lived at Weedon in Northamptoinshire. He was murdered by 2 robbers about 700, regarded as a martyr and buried at Stowe near Bugbrooke, also in Northamptonshire

The well at Binsey , Oxon
St Frideswide (727) was an Anglo-Saxon princess and abbess at Oxford where Christ Church now stands. Her shrine is also there. The nuns at Binsey had to fetch water from the Thames at some distance. St Fridewide prayed for a holy well which can still be seen at Binsey
St Osburga founded a convent at Coventry in the West Midlands about 700.
The Irish St Modwenna founded a convent at Burton-on-Trent, Staffordshire in 7C.
St Cyneburg (710) and St Cyneswith founded a monastery at Caistor in Lincolnshire.
St Edburga (7C) was a daughter of King Penda of Mercia, who became a nun at Bicester, Oxfordshire. The base of her shrine can still be seen in Stanton Harcourt St Egwin, the third bishop of Worcester founded the monastery at Evesham about 709. He is buried there.

The Place of St Etheldreda's Shrine, Ely
St Etheldreda (Audrey) was the daughter of King Sigebert and was baptised by St Felix. After 2 non-consummated mariages she became a nun at St Ebbe's monastery at Coldingham. She returned south and founded the monastery of Ely. She died in 679. St Sexburga, her sister and next abbess organised a new shrine for her. In the Cathedral, an inscription on the floor marks the site of the shrine.
There is a wall painting of St Etheldreda in the church at Willingham near Ely and on 6 screens n East Anglia
In the painting a red wound is show on her neck where a tumour was removed from her neck. When her body was exhumed 17 years later the wound made by surgery had healed.

Crowland Abbey
There was a hermitage on the island of Thorney in the Cambridgeshire fens in 7C, but who lived there we do not know
St Guthlac was a Mercian royal who became a monk at Repton, and then a hermit on the isle of Croyland in the fens in Lincolnshire. An abbey arose there after his death in 714. St Cissa joined him and succeeded him. They were buried side by side.
St Pega (719) was St Guthlac's sister. She also became a recluse at nearby Peakirk. There is an 11C church there with mediaeval wall paintings.
St Aelfthryth was a daughter of King Offa of Mercia who became a virgin recluse in the marshes of Crowland Abbey. She died about 795.

St Milburga's Holy Well Much Wenlock, Shropshire.
St Milburga (716) was the daughter of the king of the Mercian sub-kingdom of

Magonsaete, who became abbess of Much Wenlock in Shropshire. There is another well at Stoke St Milborough
She was sister to Mildrith, a nun at Minster in Thanet, and to St Myldgitha, a nun in Northumbria.
St Alcmund was a Northumbrian royal. A good man, he died in battle about 800 and was regarded as a martyr. He was buried at Lilleshall in Shropshire but, due to the Danes, his body was moved to Derby. His sarcophagus was found when building roads; it can be seen in Derby museum. There is also his holy well in Derby.
St Wistan, a Mercian royal, was murdered in 849 for upholding Christian marriage and was buried in the crypt at Repton. Miracles increased his fame and he was moved to Evesham


The Kingdom of East Anglia was formed in 520 by uniting the North and South Angles. The height of its power began after 616 when the Northumbrians were defeated. But the Mercians defeated the East Angles in the 640's and King Offa of Mercia took control in 794.
The Roman walls at Burgh Castle, site of St Fursey's monastery
St Sigeburt became the first Christian king of the East Angles about 630. He had met St Felix when in exile in France and invited him to evangelise in his Kingdom.
St Felix, a monk in the continental Irish tradition, was consecrated as bishop by St Honorius, Archbishop of Canterbury. He may have settled at Dunwich in Suffolk. Monasteries were founded at Bury St Edmunds and Soham. He died in 647
The Irish St Fursey made a monastery probably at Burgh Castle near Great Yarmouth. The Irish St Gobain helped him.
St Sigebert (635) became a monk and refused to fight to defend the kingdom and is regarded as a martyr St Botolph (680) built a monastery at Ikenhoe on the river Iken in the estuary of the river Alde. A fine cross shaft remains.
The Kingdom of Essex was formed in 527 to the south of East Anglia. It lasted until 825 when it was ceded to Wessex. King Saebert became a Christian with encouragement from his uncle King Ethelbert of Kent, though the kingdom relapsed into paganism.
St Cedd founded monasteries at Tilbury and Bradwell-on-sea. The Mercian King Wulfhere became overlord and sent one of his bishops to reconvert them.
St Erconwald became bishop of London in 675. He founded a monastery at Barking for his sister St Ethelburga, and another at Chertsey in Surrey for men.

The church built by St Cedd in 654 at Bradwell on sea Essex

St Withburga's burial site and holy well
She was an East Anglian royal, sister of St Ethelburga of Ely, who founded a monastery at Dereham in Norfolk. She died in743. It is said her body was found to be intact. There is a holy well on the site of her burial


Wessex was the kingdom of the west Saxons in south west England from 6C on.
Settlements of Jutes on the Hampshire coast were acquired in 7C.
St Birinus, a Frank, was commissioned by the Pope to convert the West Saxons in 634. He baptised King Cynegils about 640. He became bishop of the West Saxons at Dorchester-on-Thames. St Oswald of Northumbria acted as god-father. The Kingdom expanded westwards into Somerset. Later Devon and Cornwall were taken, though areas north of the Thames were lost to Mercia.
Winchester became the seat of the bishop.
St Cuthburga (718) was sister of Ine, King of Wessex and the first abbess of the double monastery at Wimbourne in Dorset
Wimbourne became the great centre for evangelism in Germany. St Boniface's mission was supported by St Walburga and St Leoba and by St Walbuga's two brothers St Willibroord and St Winibald.
This was he second great wave of missionaries to the continent from Ireland and Britain, and as such an outstanding contribution to the Living Tradition.

The 10/11C church at Bradford on Avon begun by St Aldhelm
The Irish St Maeldub (675) lived at Malmesbury (named after him). St Aldhelm lived as a monk under him, became abbot and founded monasteries at Frome in Somerset and Bradford-on-Avon in Wiltshire. He was also a great scholar, writing works in both prose and poetry.
He also became the first Bishop of Sherbourne in 705. He was revered as a saint after his death.
He was deputed to bring about a change in customs in the British churches of Devon and Cornwall.
St Bertwald was made the first Anglo-Saxon bishop of Glastonbury in 667.
St Richard was a minor king in Wessex in 8C but he abdicated his throne to go on pilgrimage on the continent. He was the father of the great continental evangelists, St Willibrord, St Willibald, St Winibald and St Walburga. He died in Italy.

St Wite's (9C) shrine in Whitchurch Canonicorum. Her relics have survived intact in the shrine. Her holy well can be visited in nearby Morcombelake
The first Council of Clovesho, in 742, "diligently enquired into the needs of religion, the Creed as delivered by the ancient teaching of the Fathers, and carefully examined how things were ordered at the first beginning of the Church here in England, and where the honour of the monasteries according to the rules of justice was maintained".
The second Council in 747 shows the close union of the Anglo-Saxon church with the Church of Rome in all things, and in particular with regard to the celebration of the Liturgy, the Offices and Commemoration of the Saints
St Ethelhard, abbot of a monastery at Louth, Lincolnshire, was made Bishop of Winchester sometime after 759, and Archbishop of Canterbury from 793-805.
Lichfield had been set up as a rival to Canterbury at the request of King Offa of Mercia, so there was much debate as to which was the greatest.
At the fifth Council of Clovesho in 803 it was decreed that there should not be another archiepiscopal see in the south to rival Canterbury. It was also decreed that every bishop elect should submit a profession of orthodoxy.
The seven Councils of Clovesho held between 742 and 825 show an impressive will in the Anglo-Saxon Church and in its Kingdoms to work together to maintain true faith and good order.

The Danish conquests
The Danes, driven by the increase of population at home, began to attack Britain about
800. But by 865 some of them began settling in northern and eastern England, in an area ruled by the 'Danelaw' and included, in the East Midlands, Derby, Leicester, Lincoln, Nottingham and Stamford.
St Edmund became King of East Anglia in 856. The Danes put him to a cruel death in 869. Within a generation the Danes were venerating him as a saint.
A shrine was built at Bury St Edmunds and the town grew as a place of pilgrimage.
Northumbria fell in 867, East Anglia in 869, Mercia in 874 and Wessex was brought to its knees. Alfred became King Wessex in 871 and when he finally defeated them in the late 880's, a condition of surrender was that the Danes became Christians. He died in 899
The Danes, as a deliberate act of aggression, wiped out every monastery in the land. That is why there is now so little left to see of this period.
This is not the first time the Living Tradition has been blotted out by war. This happened for example to the church in North Africa.
Booklet no 17 considers the revival of the church in England

Saturday, 18 February 2012

Boisil or Boswell

Feast day: February 23

Saint BoisilAbbot of Melrose Abbey, Scotland, d. 664.

Almost all that is known of St. Boisil is learnt from Bede (Eccles. Hist., IV, xxvii, and Vita Cuthberti). He derived his information from Sigfrid, a monk of Jarrow, who had previously been trained by Boisil at Melrose.

St. Boisil's fame is mainly due to his connection with his great pupil, St Cuthbert , but it is plain that the master was worthy of the disciple. Contemporaries were deeply impressed with Boisil's supernatural intuitions. When Cuthbert presented himself at Melrose, Boisil exclaimed "Behold a servant of the Lord", and he obtained leave from Abbot Eata to receive him into the community at once...

When in the great pestilence of 664 Cuthbert was stricken down, Boisil declared he would certainly recover. Somewhat later Boisil himself as he had foretold three years before, fell a victim to this terrible epidemic, but before the end came he predicted thatCuthbert would become a bishop and would effect great things for the Church. After his death Boisil appeared twice in a vision to his former disciple, Bishop Ecgberht. He is believed, on somewhat dubious authority, to have written certain theological works, but they have not been preserved. St. Boswell's, Roxburghshire, commemorates his name. His relics, like those of St. Bede, were carried off to Durham in the eleventh century by the priest Ælfred. In the early Calendars his day is assigned to 23 February, but the Bollandists treat of him on 9 September.

Saint Oswin, King and Martyr of Deira, Northumbria

Castle Of Northumbria

Saint Oswin, King and Martyr of Northumbria (Died at Gilling, Yorkshire, England, on August 20, 651).

When his father, King Osric of Deira (roughly the county of Yorkshire), was killed by the pagan Welsh King Cadwallon in 633, he was taken to Wessex for safety, baptized, and educated there by Saint Aidan (f.d. August 31). When his cousin Saint Oswald (f.d. August 9) was killed in battle against King Penda of Mercia in 642, Oswin became king of Deira, which Oswald had united to Bernicia, and his cousin Oswy (Oswiu) became king of Bernicia.

Saint Bede (f.d. May 25) tells us that Oswin was "handsome in appearance and of great stature, pleasant in speech and courteous in manner. He was generous to high and low alike and soon won the affection of all by his kingly qualities of mind and body so that even men of very high birth came from nearly every province to his service. . . . and among his other qualities of virtue and moderation the greatest was humility."

Oswin had reigned successfully for about nine years, when Oswy declared war on him. Rather than precipitate a bloody battle when he realised that his army was vastly outnumbered, Oswin went into hiding with one trusted soldier at the estate of his best friend, Earl Hunwald, at Gilling near Richmond, York. Hunwald betrayed him and he was murdered at Gilling, Yorkshire, by Ethelwin on orders from Oswy.

Oswin, buried at Tynemouth, has been venerated as a martyr since his death, because he died, "if not for the faith of Christ, at least for the justice of Christ," as a 12th-century preacher explained.

In expiation for his crime, Oswy built a monastery at Gilling, but Oswin's relics remained at Tynemouth. Later the church was subject to the Viking raids and Oswin's tomb was forgotten until it was found in 1065. At that time the relics were translated. (Attwater, Benedictines, Delaney, Encyclopaedia, Farmer).

The feast of his translation on March 11 is kept at Durham, Saint Albans, and Tynemouth.

Troparion of St Oswin tone 1

Courtesy and humility shone from thee,/ O radiant Martyr Oswin./ Trained
by Saint Aidan as a Christian ruler,/ thou didst illumine northern
Britain./ Glory to Him Who has strengthened thee; glory to Him Who has
crowned thee;/ glory to Him Who through thee works healings for all.

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Saint Abbán from Ireland

So was the Grave of St Abban at Ballyvourney and his holy well

Eibbán, Moabba

Chapel of St Cormac, Christian chapel at Eilean Mòr, Jura, in the MacCormaig Isles (Scotland). Like the church of Keills (Kilvickocharmick) on Scottish mainland, it may be associated with Abbán.

Personal details
Died 520?
Buried allegedly, at Ballyvourney
Nationality Irish, of the Uí Chormaic
Feast day March 16 and October 27
May 13 - Orthodox Church
Patronage Mag Arnaide (Adamstown, Co. Wexford), Cell Abbáin (Killabban, Co. Laois), etc.
Abbán moccu Corbmaic (d. 520?), also Eibbán or Moabba, is a saint in Irish tradition. He was associated, first and foremost, with Mag Arnaide (Moyarney or Adamstown, near New Ross, Co. Wexford) and with Cell Abbáin (Killabban, County Laois).His cult was, however, also connected to other churches elsewhere in Ireland, notably that of his alleged sister Gobnait.

Three recensions of the saint's Life survive, two in Latin and one in Irish. The Latin versions are found in the Codex Dublinensis and the Codex Salmanticensis, while the Irish version is preserved incomplete in two manuscripts: the Mícheál Ó Cléirigh's manuscript Brussels, Royal Library MS 2324-40, fos. 145b-150b and also the RIA, Stowe MS A 4, pp. 205–21. These Lives probably go back to a Latin exemplar written in ca. 1218 by the bishop of Ferns, Ailbe Ua Maíl Mhuaidh (Ailbe O'Mulloy), who died in 1223. His interest in the saint partly stemmed from the fact that Mag Arnaide lay within the diocese of Ferns, but as this was only a minor church in his time, more must have been involved. An episode which shows something of Ailbe's personal attachment to the saint's cult is that where the saint arrives in the area between Éile and Fir Chell, i.e. on the marches between Munster and Leinster: Abbán converts a man of royal rank from the area and baptises his son. Ailbe is known to have been a native of this area, but his own commentary as apparently preserved in the Dublin Life identifies the connection more nearly: "I who gathered together and wrote the Life am a descendant of that son" However, the immediate circumstances which prompted the composition of the Life are likely to have been political, relating to Norman presence in the diocese of Ferns. To support his case, Ailbe made much of the saint's wider connections to other churches and saints, making him travel all across the country and in the case of the anecdote about Abingdon (see below), even inventing tradition.

Other sources for Abbán's life and cult include the Irish genealogies of the saints and the entries for his feast-day in the martyrologies. His pedigree is given in the Book of Leinster, Leabhar Breac, Rawlinson B 502 and in glosses to his entries in the Félire Óengusso.

Background and life

His pedigree in the Irish genealogies, which appear to have been composed in the interest of Cell Abbáin, suggests that he belonged to the Uí Chormaic (also Moccu Chormaic or Dál Chormaic). It identifies his father as Laignech (lit. "Leinsterman"), son of Mac Cainnech, son of Cabraid, son of Cormac, son of Cú Corb, while an Irish note to the Félire Óengusso (for 27 October) largely agrees if substituting Cabraid for Imchad. The Lives, on the other hand, state that his father was Cormac son of Ailill, king of Leinster, who died in 435 according to the Annals of the Four Masters, and name his mother Mílla, sister to St Ibar.

The Lives confuse the time of the saint's historical floruit by attributing to him a life-span of over 300 years. He is brought into contact with such illustrious saints as Finnian of Clonard, Brendan of Clonfert (d. 577), Columba (d. 597), Gregory the Great, Munnu and Moling. One of the saint's foundations is said to have been repeatedly pillaged by Cormac mac Diarmata (fl. 2nd half of the 6th century), king of Leinster from the Uí Bairrche, who is portrayed in much Leinster hagiography as a rival to the Uí Chennselaig. Abbán is also made a contemporary of even earlier figures like Saint Íbar, who is claimed to be his maternal uncle, and St Patrick.

Nothing is known of Abbán's early life. The Lives tell that he was expected to succeed his father in Leinster, but that his devotion to God and the saintly miracles which he wrought while still in fosterage soon made clear that he was destined for a career in the church. The boy was sent to his maternal uncle, Bishop Íbar, with whom he travelled to Rome. In Italy, Abbán's saintly powers proved to be of much use in warding off any danger presented by men, monsters and supernatural phenomena. Throughout the text, Abbán can be seen demonstrating his powers, exercising special authority over rivers and seas.


The glosses to the two entries for Abbán in the Félire Óengusso associate him with Mag Arnaide (Co. Wexford), in the territory of the Uí Chennselaig (also Uí Buide), and with Cell Abbáin (Co. Loais), in the territory of the Uí Muiredaig.

However, Abbán's activities were also linked to many other parts of Ireland. Of special note is the tradition that St Gobnait was his sister and that his grave was to be found near her church or nunnery in Bairnech, now Ballyvourney (Muskerry, Co. Cork). As the later recensions suggest, Ailbe's original Life seems to build on this connection by claiming that Abbán founded Ballyvourney and gave it to his sister. According to his Lives, he began to found a string of churches after returning from a second visit to Rome. Other churches said to have been founded by him include Cell Ailbe (Co. Meath) and Camross (Co. Laois).

The Bollandists argued that the Abbán of Mag Arnaide and the Abbán of Cell Abbáin were originally two distinct saints, one commemorated on 16 March, the other on 27 October, but that the two were conflated from an early period.This conclusion, however, has been rejected by scholars like W.W. Heist and Charles Plummer.

There is also a brief biographical reference to Saint Abbán in the official hagiographical compilation of the Orthodox Church, The Great Synaxaristes, for May. This source states that he was baptized in 165 AD, became a missionary in the Abingdon area of England, and reposed in peace.

Abingdon and Irish-Norman relationsThe Life puts forward the spurious claim that Abingdon, the town near Oxford, is to be explained etymologically as Abbain dun, "Abbán's town". The aetiological tale goes that the town took its name from the saint, because he had successfully converted the king and the people of the area. The story was not an isolated one. The etymology is also brought up by the author who revised the 12h-century chronicle of the house, Historia Ecclesie Abbendonensis ("The History of the Church of Abingdon"). As Abingdon Abbey lay in a valley, he prefers the Irish derivation: "For we have learnt from our contemporaries that, according to the language of the Irish, Abingdon is interpreted 'house of Aben'; but according to the language of the English, Abingdon commonly means 'the hill of Aben'."

CommemorationIn the Martyrology of Tallaght, the Félire Óengusso and the Martyrology of Gorman, Abbán has two feast-days: 16 March and 27 October, which is identified in the Lives as his death-date. John Colgan and Ó Cléirigh's Martyrology of Donegal only mention Abbán for 16 March.

His entries in the Félire Óengusso praise him as an "angelic bush of gold" (doss óir ainglech) and "an abbot fair and train-having" (abb cain clíarach).

Notes^ See Fisher, I. (1997). "Early Christian archaeology in Argyll". In Graham Ritchie. Archaeology of Argyll. Edinburgh. pp. 181–204: 191.
^ a b (Greek) Ὁ Ἅγιος Ἀββανός. 13 Μαΐου. ΜΕΓΑΣ ΣΥΝΑΞΑΡΙΣΤΗΣ.
^ a b c d e f g h i j Ó Riain, "Abbán"
^ Irish Life of St Abbán, ed. Plummer, p. xiv.
^ Latin Life of St Abbán in the Codex Dublinensis, ed. Plummer, §26.
^ a b c d e Félire Óengusso, 16 March and 27 October.
^ Corpus genealogiarum sanctorum Hiberniae, Ó Riain, p. 46.
^ Culleton, Celtic and early Christian Wexford, p. 98.
^ AFM M535.3.
^ Latin Life of St Abbán in the Codex Dublinensis, ed. Plummer, § 17.
^ a b Culleton, Celtic and early Christian Wexford, p. 97.
^ Latin Life of St Abbán in the Codex Dublinensis, ed. Plummer § 14.
^ a b Historia Ecclesie Abbendonensis, ed. Hudson, p. xliii.
^ O'Neill, "The impact of the Norman invasion", p. 178.
Primary sourcesFélire Óengusso ("The Martyrology of Óengus"), ed. and tr. Whitley Stokes (1905). The Martyrology of Oengus the Culdee. Henry Bradshaw Society. 29. London. pp. 82, 98–9 (16 March), 219, 228–9 (27 October). (PDF here)
Latin Life of St Abbán in the Codex Dublinensis, ed. and tr. Plummer, Charles (1910). Vitae Sanctorum Hiberniae. Oxford. vols. 1 and 2
Latin Life of St Abbán in the Codex Salmanticensis, ed. Heist, W.W. (1965). Vitae Sanctorum Hiberniae ex codice olim Salmanticensi nunc Bruxellensi. Brussels.
Irish Life of St Abbán, ed. and tr. Plummer, Charles; Best, R.I. (1922). Bethada Náem nÉrenn. Lives of the Irish saints. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
Genealogies of the saints, ed. Ó Riain, Pádraig (1985). Corpus Genealogiarum Sanctorum Hiberniae. Dublin.
Historia Ecclesie Abbendonensis, ed. and tr. Hudson, John (ed.) (2007). Historia Ecclesie Abbendonensis: The History of the Church of Abingdon Volume 1. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-929937-4.
Annals of the Four Masters, ed. & tr. John O'Donovan (2nd ed., 1856). Annála Rioghachta Éireann. Annals of the Kingdom of Ireland by the Four Masters... with a Translation and Copious Notes. 7 vols. Dublin: Royal Irish Academy. M535.3. CELT editions. Full scans at Internet Archive: Vol. 1; Vol. 2; Vol. 3; Vol. 4; Vol. 5; Vol. 6; Indices.
Secondary sourcesCulleton, Edward (1999). "St Abbán of Adamstown". Celtic and Early Christian Wexford: AD 400 to 1166. Dublin: Four Courts Press. pp. 97 ff. ISBN 1-85182-515-0.
Ó Riain, Pádraig. "Abbán". Dictionary of Irish Biography. Retrieved 2010-02-24.
O'Neill, P.. "The Impact of the Norman Invasion on Irish Literature". Anglo-Norman Studies 20: 171–85.
Further readingHeist, W.W. (1976). "Over the writer's shoulder: Saint Abban". Celtica 11: 76–84.
Ó Corráin, Donnchad; Maguire, F. (1981). Gaelic Personal Names.
O'Kelly, Michael J. (1952). "St. Gobnet’s House, Ballyvourney, Co. Cork". Journal of the Cork Historical and Archaeological Society 57: 18–40.
Ó Riain, Pádraig (1983 (1986)). "St Abbán: the Genesis of an Irish Saint's Life". In D.E. Evans, et al.. Proceedings of the Seventh International Congress of Celtic Studies. Oxford. pp. 159–70.
Ua hÉaluighthe, Diarmuid (1952). "St. Gobnet of Ballyvourney". Journal of the Cork Historical and Archaeological Society 57: 43–61.

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Wednesday, 15 February 2012

An Open Letter to Orthodox Anglicans

An Open Letter to Orthodox Anglicans
by Father Geoffrey Korz (*)


I was born and raised a proud Anglican. For generations, my family were patrons of churches, ardent monarchists, and defenders of all things English and Christian. So why did I leave Anglicanism nearly two decades ago, to travel a slow but sure path to the historic, Orthodox Church?

Years ago, my search for historic, English Christianity led me to read the Ecclesiastical History of the English Church by the Venerable Bede. What did I find? An early encounter between the evangelist Saint Augustine, and English king Ethelbert struck me as somehow strange: Augustine's companions carried images of Christ, painted on boards - «icons» as they are commonly known.

That's strange, I thought - that's what Greeks and Russians do, not English Christians.

The reasons soon became clear. Until the eleventh century, the English Church shared more than a love of icons with the whole body of the Church: they shared a communion of beliefs, moral practice, and liturgical life with the Church throughout the world. This lasted for centuries, but it was not to last forever.

Even after the Schism of 1054 - the division between Rome and the rest of the Christian world - England remained in communion with the Eastern Orthodox. In 1066, the Norman Invasion, with backing from the pope of Rome, forced the submission to Frankish Rome of all English churchmen. [1]Rome had already broken communion with the Orthodox East, and changed the Creed and the Conciliar tradition of the Church by elevating one bishop - the Bishop of Rome - above all others.

Why did the English remain in communion with the Orthodox East? Not because the English (and the Irish, Scots, and Welsh, as we would call them today) disliked Rome. The English church was part of the Orthodox church, from its beginnings, until τhe purge of Orthodox bishops following the Battle of Hastings.

The English were Orthodox, I realized. So, why am I not?

Centuries later, by the time of the Reformation in the sixteenth century, England was ready for another division over the question of the national sovereignty of its religious life. The English knew almost instinctively that something was not right with the idea of a single, Roman bishop claiming to rule the whole of Christendom, yet this issue became entangled with the desire of one English king -Henry VIII - to have a male heir. When the dust settled, England had a new religion, one which was no longer under Rome, one which was in communion with no one else in Christendom, one which had not returned to the Eternal wells of Christ's historic Church.

Why does all this matter? It matters because the Church is the Bride of Christ. Since the Lord has only one Bride, it is not possible to come and go from the mystical union of the Church, and still be part of Her. Divisions are not simply matters of working out local issues and personal opinions: they are questions of eternal importance, questions of whether one is part of the Bride of Christ - His Church - or part of some other body that pretends to be so, based on certain reinterpretations of history, and personal slants on theology or moral questions.

It sometimes comes as a shock to people, that Orthodox Christianity doesn't recognize rites and sacraments of Rome or of the Anglicans. Why is this? It arises out of the fact that when communion is broken, and beliefs are changed, new religions are formed. One African Anglican bishop recently suggested that North American Anglicans are not simply accepting diverse beliefs as they consider blessing same-sex unions: they are in fact creating a new religion. This is precisely the way historic Orthodoxy views the Schism of 1054, when Rome left the historic Church, and the further splintering of the Reformation.

Ironically, both Roman Catholics and Anglicans recognize the legitimacy of the Orthodox Church, the integrity of its teachings, its preservation of the eternal mysteries of ancient Christianity. Yet in the name of diversity, many western Christians simply ignore this fact, since it raises difficult questions, such as where is the Church? and why am I not in it?

The Orthodox Church recognizes that liturgical life forms beliefs, as well as reflecting them. The old Christian axiom, "lex orandi, lex credendi" holds true: the law (or rule) of worship is the law of belief. The two cannot be divided. When the Orthodox see liturgical revisions in Rome and among Anglicans, it is seen as inevitable that these both reflect and shape new beliefs. The outcome of this is clear to many faithful Anglicans and Roman Catholics: innovations in theology, as well as moral teachings, such as the questions of the priesthood, sexual morality, capital punishment, divorce, cremation, and the definition of marriage.

Queen Elizabeth the first prided herself on not inquiring into men's hearts, opting instead for unity of communion over unity of belief. The Anglican faith has spent five centuries in this mode. Rome is essentially this way today. Orthodox Christianity is not, and never has been. It preserves unity of doctrine, practice, and belief with those in the Church today, as well as all the saints throughout the ages, because the Orthodox Church exists eternally, outside time, and is not just an anachronism.

Conversely, Anglicanism is built on the tradition of change, which cannot protect her from innovation. Traditional-minded Anglicans, fleeing redefined marriage or the ordination of women, cannot expect to find a safe harbour among so-called "continuing Anglicans", or in the modern Church of England itself: they are based on the same revolutionary spirit of the Reformation. The only safe harbour for those who in their hearts seeks the historic Church is to return to the historic Church: the Orthodox Church.

Orthodoxy has been preserved in the face of centuries of persecution at the hands of pagan Rome, Islam, and Communism , and has faced down heresies for twenty centuries. Its biblically- rooted worship preserves the same spirit as the earliest centuries of its existence. The same faith that brought the world the Holy Scriptures and defended its truth against heresies continues to run through its veins. It is unchanging and eternal, because it is the Bride of an Unchanging and Eternal Husband. It cannot recreate the early Church, because it is the same Church, alive and struggling, and giving life to our troubled and changing times.

The English tradition is Orthodox[2]. The true roots of Anglicanism can only be found in Orthodox Christianity. Augustine of Hippo told the faithful that we will never find rest, until we find rest in Christ; likewise, restless Anglicans will never find rest from the ever-changing storms of modernity until they return to the historic, Orthodox Faith. Canadian and American Anglicans in particular know the insecurity of spiritual lives lived in the shadow of modern pop culture, ever changing with the tides of popular opinion, fad, and fashion. Where can we find Christ, eternal and unchanging, the Alpha and the Omega?

The fact is, the historical reality of Christ's Church remains undivided and unchanging, waiting with quiet patience for those who would return to Her for rest, stability, the fullness of Truth and joy. How long will those who are thirsty for this continue to visit empty wells, and remain restless and unsatisfied? The search for the Eternal cannot find satisfaction in hundreds of manmade sects, all reflections of the temporary world of our century, or centuries past. Christ has given His historic Church to the world, to preserve her in this sinful generation, and it is only in Her that the fullness of Christianity can be found.


For Further Reading

Moss, Vladimir (Anthony). Saints of Anglo-Saxon England, Vols. 1 to 3. Seattle Washington: St. Nectarios Press, 1992.
Moss, Vladimir. Saints of England's Golden Age. Etna, CA: Centre for Traditionalist Orthodox Studies, 1997.
Moss, Vladimir. The Fall of Orthodox England. Guildford UK: Orthodox Foundation of St. Michael, 1998.
Phillips, Father Andrew. The Hallowing of England: A guide to the saints of Old England and their places of pilgrimage. Norfolk, UK: Anglo Saxon Books, 1994.
Phillips, Father Andrew. Orthodox Christianity and the English Tradition. Norfolk, UK: Anglo Saxon Books, 1997.
Ware, Bishop Kallistos (Timothy). The Orthodox Church. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1993.

All Saints of North America Orthodox Church
Archdiocese of Canada - Orthodox Church in America

(*) Father Geoffrey Korz is priest of All Saints of North America Orthodox Church, an English-language mission parish of the Orthodox Church in America. He can be reached at, or through the parish website,


[1] See The Fall of Orthodox England by Vladimir Moss. Guildford UK: Orthodox Foundation of St. Michael, 1998.

[2] See for extensive articles and information on Orthodox Christianity and England.

Monday, 6 February 2012

Edmund, Martyr-king Of East Anglia

St. Edmund, one of the greatest and most famous of the British saints, lived and suffered during the ninth century, one of the most tragic and difficult moments of British history, when the pagan Danes were killing and destroying over a large part of the British Isles. The problems of the English were made worse by the fact that there was no unity among them, and instead of being united into one powerful force to repel the invaders they were divided into seven kingdoms, which were not always united even within themselves. No part of the country was more exposed to the pagan attacks than the small kingdom of East Anglia, and the old King Offa of East Anglia resolved to go on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land to pray for the forgiveness of his sins and the safety of his kingdom.
On the way, he visited his cousin Alcmund, who, on being exiled from East Anglia after the death of the Martyr-King Ethelbert (+May 20, 793), had been entrusted with the kingdom of Old Saxony by the Emperor Charlemagne. Alcmund had married a German princess named Siwara, and with her often besought the Lord to give him a numerous and saintly family. In answer to his prayer, an angel appeared to him and told him to undertake a pilgrimage to the tombs of the apostles in Rome, where God would grant his petition. During this pilgrimage, while the king was one day conversing with his hostess, a noble and pious Roman woman, she noticed on his breast a brilliant sun, whose rays, darting to all four points of the compass, threw a miraculous light on all around. Filled with the spirit of prophecy, she declared that from him would come a son whose fame, like the sun, would illumine the four quarters of the world and bring many to Christ. A few months later, after returning to North Hamburg, the capital of Old Saxony, Alcmund's wife Siwara bore him his second son, Edmund.
Now when King Offa came to Saxony, Edmund was appointed to accompany him; and the old king was immediately struck by the beauty, both physical and spiritual, of the young prince, and by the zeal of his service. He applied to him the words of Solomon: "Hast thou seen a man swift in his work? He shall stand before kings and shall not be in obscurity" (Proverbs 22.29). Then in the presence of the whole court he embraced him and, putting a ring on his finger, said: "My most beloved son Edmund, accept this memento of our kinship and mutual love. Remember me as one grateful for your service, for which with God's permission I hope to leave you a paternal inheritance." Edmund's father hastened to explain to him the significance of this ceremony: was he prepared to accept King Offa as his adoptive father in place of his natural father? On Edmund's acceptance, Offa tearfully drew from his finger his ring - in fact, it was a coronation ring - and said: "Son Edmund, observe closely this ring, notice its design and seal. If, when I am far away, I intimate to you by this token my wish and desire, do you without delay execute my order. As the noble assembly here bears witness, I intend to regard you as my most beloved son and heir."
Then Offa continued on his pilgrimage. Having arrived in the Holy Land and venerated the Holy Places, he set out on his return journey via Constantinople. But as he was sailing through the Hellespont, he fell ill; so, disembarking at the monastery of St. George, he received the Holy Mysteries and prepared for death. His last act was to entrust his kingdom of East Anglia to Edmund, ordering his nobles to take his ring to Saxony as a token of his will. Then he reposed in peace and was buried in St.George's Bay on the Hellespont in the year 854.
And so, in his fourteenth year, St.Edmund set sail with a retinue of nobles for the promised kingdom which he had never seen before. They landed at what is now called St. Edmund's Head near Hunstanton in Norfolk. Disembarking in a dry river-bed, the king prostrated on the ground and prayed to God to bless his coming and make it profitable for the land and its people. As the saint rose and mounted his horse, twelve springs of sweet, clear water gushed out of the earth, which worked many miracles of healing for the sick. From that hour the soil of that region, which before had been sandy and barren, bore the richest crops in all Eastern England.
The saint then proceeded to Attleborough,Offa's former capital, and staked his claim to the throne. On November 5, 855, he was in Winchester, attending a council convened by King Ethelwulf of Wessex (Southern England) to provide a charter of immunities for the English Church.Then he returned to Attleborough, where on Christmas Day he was proclaimed sovereign of the people of Norfolk (the northern half of East Anglia) by Humbert, Bishop of Elmham. For the next year the king stayed quietly in Norfolk, learning the psalms of David under the guidance of Bishop Humbert.Eventually the people of Suffolk (the southern half of East Anglia) decided to accept him as their king, and on Christmas Day, 856 he was anointed and crowned king of the whole of East Anglia. The church in Bures, Suffolk, where the coronation took place, survives to the present day.
St. Edmund was fair-haired, tall, well-built, with a natural majesty of bearing. By the piety and chastity of his life he won the respect of all the Christians. He was a defender of the Church, a protector of orphans and widows, and a supporter of the poor. No man sought for justice from him and failed to get redress, and no innocent pleaded in vain for mercy. It is said that under his strong and just rule a boy could drive a mule from Lynn to Sudbury, or from Thetford to Yarmouth, and no one would dare to molest him.
But in 865 the pagan Danes, led by the three brothers Hinguar, Healfdene and Hubba, again invaded England, bent on revenge for the death of their father Ragnar Lodbrog at the hands of the English King Alle of Northumbria. Hinguar carried with him the famous standard of the Raven, which had been woven by the three daughters of Lodbrog for their three brothers. Magical spells had been cast during the weaving, so that when the bird flapped its wings in the wind, it was believed to betoken victory, while when it hung motionless, it betokened defeat. St. Edmund went out to meet the Danes under another banner, which showed Adam and Eve eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and above them the Lamb of God slain to wash away their sins.
Edmund defeated the enemy in several skirmishes, showing subtlety no less than valor. Thus he was once surprised by the enemy within one of his camps with no avenue of escape. The siege was so long that both besiegers and besieged began to suffer from famine. But Edmund determined that the enemy should not learn about his men's suffering, which might persuade them to disband their own troops. So he ordered a fatted bull which had been fed with good wheat to be set loose outside the enclosure. The Danes seized it and killed it. And when they opened its stomach and found fresh wheat inside, they concluded that the English had no lack of provisions. So they abandoned the siege and split up into foraging parties. Edmund then followed them stealthily, and killed large numbers of them.
On another occasion Edmund and his men were besieged inside the almost impregnable fortress of Framingham. However, Hinguar captured an old and decrepit man by the name of Sathonius whom the saint had been feeding and accommodating at his own expense in the castle. By means of a bribe, the old man was induced to betray to Hinguar a weak spot in the castle walls, which he himself had helped to build in his youth. Advancing on the castle at this point, Hinguar caught the English by surprise. Edmund jumped onto his swiftest charger and galloped out through the open gates. Some of the Danes saw him, but did not suspect who he was and galloped after him, hoping to get some information about the king. But Edmund, like St. Athanasius the Great on a similar occasion, turned to them and said: "Go back as fast as you can, for, when I was in the castle, the king whom you seek was there also." Turning back, they discovered that the king had fooled them. Then St. Edmund gathered his forces and fell upon the baffled Danes as they were retreating.
The Danes now made peace with Edmund and headed north to Northumbria (North-Eastern England), arriving in York on November 1, 866. The English Kings Osbert and Alle, who had been fighting each other up to that moment, now joined forces and marched on York, and after destroying the city walls they entered the city on March 21, 867. However, the resultant battle within the city was disastrous for the English: both kings and eight of the leading noblemen were killed. The Danes then ravaged the whole of Northumbria as far as the River Tyne before installing an Englishman named Egbert as puppet-king of the region under their power.
This was only "the beginning of sorrows" for the English. At the end of the year the Danish "Great Army" moved south into Mercia (Central England) and took the city of Nottingham. In answer to King Burhred of Mercia's appeal for help, King Ethelred of Wessex,his younger brother Alfred (the future King of England) and St. Edmund came to meet him outside the walls of Nottingham. However, the Danes avoided a battle with the English kings outside Nottingham, so peace terms were concluded. In exchange for giving up Nottingham, the Great Army was allowed to retreat back into Northumbria.
Now began a horrific despoliation of the Christian inheritance of the whole of Eastern England. In the north, St. Ebba's monastery at Coldingham was burned down with the nuns inside after they had all, with their abbess Ebba giving them the lead, cut off their noses and upper lips to deter the attackers from raping them. Tynemouth, Wearmouth, Jarrow, Whitby and other famous monasteries were destroyed; and in Eastern Mercia Bardney and Crowland were gutted.
When the news of the Great Army's approach reached Abbot Theodore of Crowland, he sent away all the able-bodied men and buried the church valuables. Then, as the flames of nearby Kesteven litup the sky, he calmly vested himself for the Divine Liturgy, which he celebrated with the assistance of Deacon Alfget, Subdeacon Savin and Monks Ethelred and Wulric. Hardly had they finished when the Danish leader Oscytel burst in, beheaded the abbot, tortured the elder monks and killed the boys before setting fire to the monastery. This took place on August 26, 869.
Then it was the turn of the fenland monasteries Thorney, Peterborough, Ramsey and Ely. At Peterborough Hinguar was struck by a stone; so his brother Hubba with his own hand slaughtered Abbot Hedda and 84 monks on one stone to avenge his injury. At Ely a Dane took hold of the pall which covered the incorrupt body of St. Etheldreda (+June 23, 679) and struck the marble of the tomb with his battle-axe. But a splinter flew back from off the ground and entered the striker's eye, and he fell dead. At this the others left the tombs of the other saints, which they were thinking of violating, and fled.
Another saint met the invaders in a different way. The body of St. Werburga (+3 February, c. 700) had been preserved incorrupt at Chester right up to the coming of the Danes. But when they approached the city, the body suddenly disintegrated...
While Hubba with 10,000 men was sacking Ely and Soham, Hinguar pressed eastwards into East Anglia. On Newmarket Heath he encountered Alderman Ulfcetyl defending two or three earthworks later known as “Holy Edmund’s Fortifications”. But the English were overwhelmed and slaughtered to a man. Then the host proceeded to the capital, Thetford, which they captured amidst terrible scenes of rape and butchery. The whole population was killed, and only King Edmund with a small army survived to face the Danes…
Hinguar then sent a messenger to Edmund, saying: “Hinguar our king, brave and victorious by sea and by land, has subdued many nations and has now landed suddenly here with his host. Now he orders you to divide your hidden treasure and the wealth of your ancestors with him quickly. And if you want to live, you can be his under-king, because you do not have the power to resist him.”
Then Edmund summoned Bishop Humbert and discussed with him how he should answer Hinguar. The bishop, fearful because of the disaster at Thetford and the threat to the king’s life, counseled him to submit to whatever Hinguar demanded. Edmund replied: “O bishop! This wretched nation is humiliated, and I would rather die in battle against him who is trying to possess the people’s land.” Then the bishop said: “Alas, dear king, your people lie slaughtered, and you do not have the forces to fight. And these pirates will come and bind you alive, unless you save your life by fleeing, or by submitting to him in this way.” The king replied: “What I want and desire with all my heart is that I should not be left alone when my beloved thanes with their wives and children have been suddenly killed by these pirates. It was never my custom to flee, and I would rather die for my country if I have to. And Almighty God knows that I will never renounce His worship, nor His true love, in life or in death.”
Then he turned to Hinguar’s messenger and said: “You would certainly deserve to die right now, but I will not dirty my clean hands in your filthy blood, for I follow Christ, Who set us this example.And I will gladly be killed by you if God so ordains it. Go quickly now and tell your savage lord: ‘Edmund will never while living submit in this land tot he pagan war-lord Hinguar, unless he first submit in this land to Christ the Saviour in faith.”
Then Edmund marched with his men to Thetford. The battle raged for seven hours on the plain between Melford and Catford bridges; and finally Hinguar and his men retreated to their entrenched camp. Edmund was the victor, but at a terrible cost; and as he marched back to Hoxne he resolved to give himself up rather than continue the bloody carnage.
Shortly after his arrival in Hoxne, the news came of a fresh Danish inroad into the country. Hubba had completed his destruction of Ely and Soham, and had now set out with 10,000 more men to help his brother complete the conquest of East Anglia. Resistance was now hopeless,and Edmund’s only thought was how to preserve his country from further bloodshed and preserve in it the Christian faith. Bishop Humbert again counseled flight, if only in the hope that he might return to reconquer the land for Christ. But Edmund knew that the enemy would the more ruthlessly put to sword any able-bodied man who might assist in his restoration. Nor would his own death be enough: Hinguar entertained a personal hatred of him which would be satisfied only by his being capture alive… So the saint turned to Humbert and said: “O Bishop Humbert, my father, it is necessary that I alone should die for the people, and that the whole nation should not perish (cf. John12.50).”
Then, having dismissed his men and laid aside his arms, he entered the church and prostrated himself in front of the altar, praying for strength for his feat of martyrdom for Christ and his suffering people.
Having marched up to the town and surrounded it, Hinguar sent his men into the church with orders to touch no one except the king. They seized the king, bound him, and beat him with cudgels while insulting him continually. Then they tied him to a tree and flogged him with whips for a long time. Meanwhile the king called unceasingly on the name of Christ. This infuriated the pagans, and they now shot at him with arrows until he was entirely covered with them, like the holy Martyr Sebastian. When Hinguar saw that the holy king would not renounce Christ, he ordered him to be beheaded. And so they dragged him, still calling on Christ, to the place of slaughter and there beheaded him. Then Bishop Humbert, too, was led into the arena and beheaded. This took place on November 20, 869, when Edmund had reigned for fifteen years and was twenty-nine years old.
The pagans returned to their ships, having thrown the head of St. Edmund into dense brambles so that it would be left unburied. Then the local inhabitants came and found the headless body, but could not find the head. A man who had been a witness of the martyrdom said that he thought that they had hidden the head somewhere in the wood. So a search-party was organized which scoured the bushes and brambles. And as they were calling to each other, they head answered “Here! Here! Here!”, until they all came to the place where the head lay. And there they saw it lying between the two paws of a grey wolf, who, while not daring to harm it himself, had been protecting it from the other wild beasts. Thanking God Almighty for His miracles, the people took the head and carried it back to the town. The wolf followed them as if he were tame, and then, having seen it into the town, returned to the wood. The people joined the head back to the body, and then buried it as best they could, hastily erecting a wooden chapel over it…
During the reign of King Edward the Elder in the early tenth century, the Danelaw – that is, the area of England controlled by the Danes – was steadily and systematically reconquered, beginning with East Anglia. Thus already in his reign the Danish ruler Eric was ruling the province under the suzerainty of King Edward. And it was in about 15 that a miracle drew the attention of the liberated people to their last Christian king, St. Edmund.
One night, a blind man and a boy who was leading him were walking through the woods near Hoxne. Not seeing any house nearby, they resolved to stay the night in what was in fact the wooden chapel constructed over St. Edmund’s grave. Upon entering, they stumbled across the martyr’s grave; but, though terrified at first, they decided not to leave but to stay in the chapel, using the grave as a pillow for the night.
Hardly had they closed their eyes, when a column of light suddenly illumined the whole place. The boy woke up his master in fear. “Alas! Alas!” he cried, “our lodging is on fire!” But the blind man calmed him down, assuring him that their host would not let them come to harm. And indeed, at dawn they discovered that through St. Edmund’s prayers the blind man could now see.
The news of this miracle spread throughout East Anglia, and the people resolved to translate the body of their saint to a safer and more honourable shrine. They chose the town of Bedricsworth (now Bury St. Edmunds), whose church and monastery, founded by St.Sigebert in the seventh century, had been destroyed by the Danes, but some of whose priests still survived. When they had rebuilt the church, Bishop Theodred of Elmham and the whole clergy of East Anglis translated the holy body with great ceremony into its new shrine.
“Then there was a great miracle,” wrote Abbot Aelfric in about the year 1000, “in that he was just as whole as if he were alive, with unblemished body; and his neck, which was previously cut through, was healed, and there was, as it were, a red silken threat about his neck as an indication to men of how he was slain. Likewise the wounds which the savage heathens had made in his body with repeated missiles were healed by the heavenly God. And he lies incorrupt thus to this present day, awaiting resurrection and the eternal glory. His body, which lies here undecayed, proclaims to us that he lived here in the world without fornication, and journeyed to Chris with a pure life. A certain widow called Oswyn lived in prayer and fasting at the saint’s tomb for many years afterwards; each year [on Holy Thursday] she would cut the hair of the saint and cut his nails, circumspectly, with love, and keep them on the altar in a shrine as relics.”
Many miracles continued to be performed at the saint’s tomb. At night a column of light was often seen rising above it and illuminating the whole church. Then, in 925, King Athelstan founded a community of four priests and two deacons to look after the shrine, their duties being similar to those of the seven clergy who guarded the shrine of St.Cuthbert.
“Then,” continues Abbot Aelfric, “the inhabitants venerated the saint with faith, and Bishop Theodred [the second of the name, called “the Good”] endowed the monastery with gifts of gold and silver in honor of the saint. Then at one time there came wretched thieves, eight in a single night, to the venerable saint; they wanted to steal the treasures which men had brought there, and tried how they could get in by force. One struck at the bolt violently with a hammer; one of the, filed around it with a file; one also dug under the door with a spade; one of them with a ladder wanted to unlock the window. But they labored in vain and fared miserably, inasmuch as the holy man miraculously bound them, each as he stood, striving with his tool, so that none of them could commit that sinful deed nor move away from there, but they stood thus till morning. Then men marvelled at how the villains hung there, one up a ladder, one bent in digging, and each was bound fast in his labor. Then they were all brought to the bishop, and he ordered them all to be hung on a high gallows. But he was not mindful of how the merciful God spoke through His prophet the following: Eos qui ducuntur ad mortem eruere ne cesses, ‘Always redeem those whom they lead to death’;and also the holy canons forbid those in orders, both bishops and priests, to be concerned with thieves, for it is not proper that those who are chosen toserve God should be a party to any man’s death, if they are the Lord’s servants. Then after Bishop Theodred had examined the books, he repented with lamentation that he had appointed so cruel a judgement to those wretched thieves, and regretted it to the end of his life, and earnestly prayed the people to fast with him a whole three days, praying to the Almighty that He would have mercy on him.
“There was in that land a certain man called Leofstan, powerful before the world and foolish before God, who rode to the saint with great arrogance, and insolently ordered them to show whether the holy saint was uncorrupted; but as soon as he saw the saint’s body, he immediately went insane and roared savagely and ended miserably by an evil death.”
In the year 1013, the Danes under King Swein again invaded England, and the whole country north of Watling Street surrendered to him. London, however, under the leadership of King Ethelred and Earl Thurkill, held out against him for some time. But when Swein turned northwards again, the whole nation accepted him as their undisputed king, and even the Londoners were forced to submit, while the king, the royal family and Bishop Alfhun of London went into exile in Normandy.
At this critical juncture, still more critical than that which faced King Alfred in the winter of 877-878, an English saint again came to the rescue of the Christian people - this time, the holy Martyr-King Edmund.
Since the year 999, the incorrupt body of St. Edmund had been in the care of a monk named Ethelwine. In 1010, relates Abbot Sampson, when the Danes were ravaging East Anglia, St. Edmund's earthly kingdom, the saint appeared to Ethelwine and ordered him to place his body in a casket, put it on a cart and convey it to London. But the clerics were to remain in their places.
At dusk one day, as Ethelwine was proceeding on his way to London, he came to the house of a priest named Edbriht, and asked hospitality for himself and his holy charge. The priest at first refused to give shelter to strangers; but eventually, after people protested, he allowed the monk to sleep in the open air on his land, while not allowing him into his house. So Ethelwine slept under the cart on which the martyr's body lay.
That night, however, a column of light was seen stretching up from the cart to heaven, and during the fourth watch of the night, the cart began to make a noise as if its wheels were turning. Startled by the noise, Ethelwine woke up and understood that the saint wished to move from there. Soon he was on his way, and when he was already some distance from the house, he looked back and saw that it was on fire - a just retribution for the priest's inhumanity.
Later that day, Ethelwine came to the crossing of the river Stratford, three miles from London, and wished to cross over. But part of the bridge had subsided into the river, and the whole structure was unsafe. The Danes threatened from the rear, and there was no other crossing; so Ethelwine resorted to prayer. Suddenly the cart began to move of its own will. The right wheel rolled over what remained of the bridge, while the left wheel passed through the air above the water as if it were dry land. Those who saw the miracle from the other side of the river praised God,and as the holy body approached the outskirts of London a great crowd of monks, clerics and nobles came to meet it. Taking it upon their shoulders, they moved towards the church of St. Paul, singing praises and rejoicing greatly.
Between the Aldgate and the church of St.Paul eighteen people were cured of various maladies through the prayers of the saint. A woman who was confined to her bed with paralysis heard the clamor accompanying the passing of the saint and asked her servants what it signified.
"Don't you know,"; they said, "that St. Edmund, the king of the East Angles, who was innocently killed for Christ by the unfaithful and impious pagans, has come into this city and has given health to many?"
"Woe is me!"; she cried, "that God has not counted me worthy to obtain mercy in his presence. For if I could just touch the edge of his bier, I am confident that I would be immediately healed of my infirmity."
So saying, she suddenly stood on her feet completely healed - the nineteenth cure to the glory of the saint that day. Realizing what had happened, she rushed into the crowd and with tears pressed her lips to the saint's bier.
Now the procession came to the church of St. Gregory, near St. Paul's. The holy body was let down and all the people prostrated in prayer to the saint. At this point a Dane who was curious to know what was happening came on the scene. Seeing the others prostrate in prayer, he proudly remained upright, and, drawing aside the veil which covered the body, he peered inside. Suddenly he was struck with blindness. Then, realizing his sin, he confessed it, promised amendment of life and faithfulness to God and St. Edmund, and implored forgiveness. All those present joined their prayer to his, and lo! his sight was restored. Then he took off his golden armlets and offered them to the saint. Moreover, he was as good as his word and led a pious life thereafter.
For almost three years the fame of the martyr spread far and wide through the miracles of healing, both bodily and spiritual, wrought through the intercession of the saint in London.
Then St. Edmund appeared in a vision to Ethelwine and ordered him to bring his body back to Bury St. Edmunds.Immediately the monk went to Bishop Alfhun with a request to leave, explaining that he had come to London rather as a pilgrim than as a permanent resident.The bishop acceded to his request, though reluctantly. But when Ethelwine, had gone, he hastened with three clerics to the church of St. Gregory. There they tried to lift the holy body in its reliquary onto their shoulders. But to no avail: the weight was insupportable. Four more men joined them, then twelve,t hen twenty-four. But after much sweat and labor they had not succeeded in moving the reliquary a single inch. Then the bishop with his men felt ashamed, realizing that their devotion, though pious, was contrary to the will of God and St. Edmund. When Ethelwine came up, however, and prayed in the presence of the saint, he was able with three of his companions to life the reliquary as though it weighed nothing.
So he set out on his journey, but not unnoticed as before. For a great crowd of clergy and people followed him in great sorrow as far as the Stratford bridge, and beyond it all the villages along the route poured out to meet the saint with great joy. Bridges were repaired and roads cleared. And, as in London, many miracles took place. Near Stapleford, the lord of the village gave hospitality to the saint and was cured of a chronic illness; whereupon he donated a manor to the saint in perpetuity.Finally, the holy treasure was received by the clerics of Bury St. Edmunds and placed with all devotion in its former resting-place. There, for centuries to come, miracles did not cease for those who sought with faith.
In 1014 the Danish King Swein came to Bury St. Edmunds, demanding tribute and threatening that if it was not paid he would burn the town with the townsfolk, destroy the church of the saint from its foundations and torture the clerics in various ways. But the townsfolk refused, trusting in the protection of St. Edmund. Nor did the tax-collectors dare to use force against them, for they had heard how the saint protected his own. So they hastened to the king and informed him of the rebellion against his authority. Meanwhile, not only the townsfolk of Bury St. Edmunds but also people from all over East Anglia hastened to the church of the saint to beseech him by prayers, fasting and almsgiving to free the land from the yoke that had been imposed upon it for ten years or more. Moreover, they asked Monk Ethelwine to make a special intercession for them at the shrine of the saint, that he would in his accustomed manner reveal a means of salvation for them through a nocturnal visitation.
That night, therefore, St. Edmund appeared to Ethelwine in his sleep, with joyful countenance and in shining white garments, and said:
"Go to King Swein and tell him this from me: 'Why do you vex my little flock by imposing on them a yoke that no other king has imposed upon them? Tribute has never been demanded of, nor paid by, them at any time since my repose. Therefore correct this unjust sentence, lest, when you wish to, you will be unable to. For if you do not obey my admonition, you will soon know that you displease both God and myself; for you will discover that East Anglia has me as her protector.'&"
So Ethelwine obediently sought out King Swein at Gainsborough, and humbly doing obeisance, delivered the saint's message, mixing soft words with the harsh. But the king refused to listen, ordered the monk out of his sight, and showered the saint with abuse, saying that he had no holiness. Seeing that the king had no fear of God nor reverence for the saint, Ethelwine sadly turned back. Near Lincoln he was given hospitality for the night; and as he was sleeping peacefully, St. Edmund appeared to him and said:
"Why are you fearful and sad? Have you forgotten my words and incurred the risk of falling into despair? Rise immediately and continue your journey; for before you will have reached its end, news about King Swein will delight you and all your compatriots."
Strengthened by this revelation, Ethelwine rose and set off on his way before dawn. As he was travelling he heard the sound of Danish horsemen behind him. One came up, greeted him, and said:
"By your leave, are you the priest whom I saw the day before yesterday delivering the orders of a certain king to King Swein?"
"I am."
"Alas, alas," he said, "how weighty was your threat! How true your prophecy! For the death of King Swein has left England glad and Denmark in mourning. The night after you left, the king went to bed happy and fearing nothing. The whole palace was sleeping soundly. Suddenly the king was woken up by an unknown soldier standing before him, a man of wondrous beauty and brandishing arms. Addressing the king by his own name, he said: 'Do you want tribute from St. Edmund's land, O king? Get up - here it is.' He got up but fell back on his bed, terrified at the sight of the arms, and began to cry out. Then the soldier went up to him, thrust him through with his lance and left. Hearing his cry: 'Help! Help! St.Edmund has come to kill me!', his men came rushing in and found him dead,covered in his own blood."
Marianus relates that at that moment in Essex, a pious man named Wulfmar who had been ill for three days with a disease that deprived him of the use of his tongue and of all his limbs, suddenly sat up on his bed in the presence of his parents and neighbors, and said:
"On this night and at this hour King Swein has been killed, pierced through with the lance of St. Edmund."
Saying this, he fell back on his bed and died.
When Ethelwine heard this news, he judged the time opportune to publish what he had previously covered in silence. The story then spread like wildfire throughout the province, inciting all the English to refuse to pay tribute. King Swein perished at Candlemas, February 2,1014, and his body was placed in salt and shipped back to Denmark.
Thus was the Scripture fulfilled: “The saints shall boast in glory, and they shall rejoice upon their beds. The high praise of God shall be in their throat, and two-edged swords shall be in their hands, to do vengeance among the heathen, punishments among the peoples, to bind their kings with fetters, and their nobles with manacles of iron, to do among them the judgement that is written. This glory shall be to all His saints” (Psalm 149.5-9)
By Vladimir Moss. Posted with permission.
(Sources:Abbot Aelfric, Passio Sancti Eadmundi; Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, E, 1013; Nova Legende Anglie, Appendix II, pp. 596-602; Rev. J.B. Mackinlay, Saint Edmund King and Martyr, London: Art & Book Company, 1893