St Edmund the Martyr, King
Born 841; died at Hoxne, Suffolk, England, in 869 or 870. Feast day
also November 2.
On Christmas Day 855, 14-year-old Edmund was acclaimed king of Norfolk
by the ruling men and clergy of that county. The following year the
leaders of Suffolk also made him their king.
For 15 years Edmund ruled over the East Angles with what all
acknowledged as Christian dignity and justice. He himself seems to have
modelled his piety on that of King David in the Old Testament, becoming
especially proficient in reciting the Psalms in public worship.
From the year 866 his kingdom was increasingly threatened by Danish
invasions. For four years the East Angles managed to keep a shaky,
often broken peace with them. Then the invaders burned Thetford. King
Edmund's army attacked the Danes but could not defeat the marauders.
Edmund was taken prisoner and became the target for Danish bowmen.
In a later account in the "The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle," reputedly derived
second-hand from an eyewitness, Abbo compared Saint Edmund to Saint
Sebastien, and so he also became a saint invoked against the plague.
Edmund was captured at Hoxne. He refused to share his Christian kingdom
with the heathen invaders, whereupon he was tied to a tree and shot with
arrows, till his body was 'like a thistle covered with prickles'; then
his head was struck off. He died with the name of Jesus on his lips.
The record continues that the Danes "killed the king and overcame all
the land . . . they destroyed all the churches that they came to, and at
the same time reaching Peterborough, killed the abbot and monks and
burned and broke everything they found there."
Saint Edmund thus remains the only English sovereign until the time of
King Charles I to die for religious beliefs as well as the defence of
his throne. Edmund was quickly revered as a martyr and his veneration
spread widely during the middle ages
King Saint Edmund is generally depicted as a bearded king holding his
emblem--an arrow. Sometimes he is shown suspended from a tree and shot,
or his head between the paws of a wolf
He is venerated at Bury Saint Edmunds (Saint Edmund's borough), where
his body was enshrined and a great abbey arose in 1020. There are only
three teeth there now. His body is in Arundel Castle and his head in
Through the prayers of the holy martyr Edmund
and of all the Saints of Britain,
Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us!
Icon of Saint Edmund:
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content © 2008, Ambrose Mooney
layout © 2008, Kathleen Hanrahan and Mo! Langdon
Page last updated: 8 November 2008
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