> Commemoration: St. Edmund the Martyr

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Sunday November 20, 2022 All Day
Annually on November 20

St. Edmund of East Anglia,

King and Martyr,

d. 870


O God of ineffable mercy, who didst give grace and fortitude to Blessed Edmund the king to triumph over the enemy of his poeple by nobly dying for thy Name: Bestow on us thy servants, we beseech thee, the shield of faith, wherewith we may withstand the assaults of our ancient enemy; through Jesus Christ our Redeemer, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.

The kingdom of the East Angles


"When the heathen Anglo-Saxons invaded Christian Britain in the 400's, they eventually established seven kingdoms: Essex, Wessex, Sussex (East Saxons, West Saxons, and South Saxons), Mercia, Northumbria, and East Anglia (three kingdoms of the Angles), and the Jute kingdom of Kent. (The borders between these ancient kingdoms are still borders between regions speaking English with different accents today.) Under the influence of missionaries from the Celts and from continental Europe, these peoples bcame Christian, only to be faced themselves by a wave of heathen invaders." [1]


"Edmund was born about 840, became King of East Anglia in about 855, and in 870 faced a horde of marauding Danes, who moved through the countryside, burning churches and slaughtering villages wholesale. On reaching East Anglia, their leaders confronted Edmund and offered him peace on condition that he would rule as their vassal and forbid the practice of the Christian faith. Edmund refused this last condition, fought, and was captured. He was ill-treated and killed. His burial place is the town of Bury St. Edmunds." [2]

A map of the routes taken by the Great Heathen Army from 865 to 878

"The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, which generally described few matters relating to the East Angles and their rulers, relates that "Her rad se here ofer Mierce innan East Engle and wiñt setl namon. æt Đeodforda. And þy wint' Eadmund cying him wiþ feaht. and þa Deniscan sige naman þone cyning ofslogon. and þæt lond all ge eodon." 'here the army rode across Mercia into East Anglia, and took winter-quarters at Thetford; and that winter King Edmund fought against them, and the Danish took the victory, and killed the king and conquered all that land'.[11][12] By tradition the leaders who slew the king were Ivar the Boneless and his brother Ubba." [3]


"The Great Heathen Army went on to invade Wessex in late 870, where they were confronted by King Ethelred and his brother, the future King Alfred the Great." [4]

A medieval illumination depicting the death of Edmund the Martyr

on 20 November 869 by the Vikings


Edmund's death, according to Ælfric of Eynsham

"King Edmund, against whom Ivar advanced, stood inside his hall, and mindful of the Saviour, threw out his weapons. He wanted to match the example of Christ, who forbade Peter to win the cruel Jews with weapons. Lo! the impious one then bound Edmund and insulted him ignominiously, and beat him with rods, and afterwards led the devout king to a firm living tree, and tied him there with strong bonds, and beat him with whips. In between the whip lashes, Edmund called out with true belief in the Saviour Christ. Because of his belief, because he called to Christ to aid him, the heathens became furiously angry. They then shot spears at him, as if it was a game, until he was entirely covered with their missiles, like the bristles of a hedgehog (just like St Sebastian was). When Ivar the impious pirate saw that the noble king would not forsake Christ, but with resolute faith called after Him, he ordered Edmund beheaded, and the heathens did so. While Edmund still called out to Christ, the heathen dragged the holy man to his death, and with one stroke struck off his head, and his soul journeyed happily to Christ." [5]

(Ælfric of Eynsham, Old English paraphrase of Abbo of Fleury, 'Passio Sancti Eadmundi') 


[1]  http://justus.anglican.org/resources/bio/287.html

[2] Ibid. 1

[3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edmund_the_Martyr

[4] Ibid. 3

[5] Ibid. 3

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