Chapters 26 – 50

A Century of English Sanctity


Chapters 26 to 50



Our holy Father Ceolfrith (Geoffrey) was born of noble and religious parents in the seventh century. At the age of eighteen he entered a monastery at Gilling where his brother Cynefrith was abbot. When Cynefrith retired to Ireland, their relative Tunberht, later bishop of Hexham, became abbot.

Soon a pestilence visited the area, and the abbot and several of the brethren, including Ceolfrith, were invited by St. Wilfrid to his monastery in Ripon, where, at the age of twenty-seven, Ceolfrith was ordained to the priesthood.

Then Ceolfrith, in search of greater knowledge, set off for Canterbury and then the monastery of St. Botulf at Ikanhoe in East Anglia, where, in addition to his priestly duties, he served as baker and instructed the other brethren in the observance of the rule of St. Benedict.

In 674 he was invited north by St. Benedict Biscop, and together they began to build a monastery dedicated to St. Peter at Wearmouth on land donated by King Egfrith of Northumbria. At one point the jealousy of some brethren forced him to leave and return to his former monastery, but St. Benedict persuaded him to return.

And he accompanied Benedict on one of his trips to Rome.

In 682 King Egfrith gave land for the building of a second monastery, dedicated to St. Paul, at Jarrow, and St. Benedict appointed St. Ceolfrith as the first abbot. In 689, on the death of St. Benedict, Ceolfrith was appointed abbot of both monasteries.

Under his rule, the number of the brethren rose to 600, the library was doubled and the prosperity of the monastery increased.

According to the Venerable Bede, who was one of his monks in Jarrow, “having shown the most incomparable skill in praying and chanting, in which he daily exercised himself, together with the most wonderful energy in punishing the wicked, and modesty in consoling the weak; having also observed such abstinence in food and drink, and such humility in dress, as are uncommon among rulers; saw himself now old and full of days, and unfit any longer, from his extreme age, to prescribe to his brethren the proper forms of spiritual exercise by his life and doctrine. Having, therefore, deliberated long within himself, he judged it expedient, having first impressed on the brethren the observance of the rules which St. Benedict had given them, and thereby to choose for themselves a more efficient abbot out of their own number, to depart, himself, to Rome…” Having commissioned the writing of three single-volume Bibles from his scriptoria, he gave one to Wearmouth, one to Jarrow, and took the third with him on his journey in order to give to the pope. This last book, known as the Codex Amiatinus, exists to this day, and is the oldest surviving complete Bible in one volume.

Ceolfrid set off from Rome accompanied by eighty men on June 4, 716, but on September 25 he died in the French city of Langres at the age of seventy-four. The anonymous writer of his life records that “the companions of our father, beloved of God, who returned to us, used to tell us that in the night after his venerable body had been committed to the tomb, while three guards of the same church were keeping the night watch, according to the custom, the fragrance of a wonderful odour filled the whole church; and it was followed by a light, which remained no little time; and finally rose to the roof of the church. They went out quickly, and gazing they saw the same light rapidly rise to the skies, so that all places round about seemed to be illumined by the glow, as if it were daytime; so that it was clearly given them to understand tha ministers of eternal light and perpetual sweetness had been present and had consecrated by their visitation the resting-place of the holy body. Hence a custom spread among the natives of the place that throughout the various horus of daily and nightly prayer, when the canonical rule of psalmody was ended, all the men should bend their knees in supplication at his tomb. And also report spread abroad that other signs and cures were done there, by the Grace of Him Who is wont to aid His saints as they strive in this present life and to crown them victors in the future life. Amen.”

(Sources: The Venerable Bede, Lives of the Holy Abbots; Anonymous, Life of St. Ceolfrith; David Hugh Farmer, The Oxford Dictionary of Saints, Oxford University Press, 1987, pp. 81-82)



Our holy Father Ceolwulf became king of Northumbria in the year 729. The beginning of his reign, writes Simeon of Durham, “was marked by a continued series of misfortunes”, and in 731 he was captured and forcibly tonsured. However, he was released in the same year, “and afterwards, when peace and tranquillity smiled upon him, many of the Northumbrians, both nobles and private individuals, laid aside their arms and having accepted the tonsure, gave the preference to a monastic life over that spent in warlike occupations.”

In 737 he abdicated and became a monk at Lindisfarne, endowing that church so generously that the community was henceforth able to drink beer or wine, whereas formerly they used to drink only water or milk. St. Ceolwulf was a very learned man, “imbued with an extraordinary love of the Scriptures”. So the Venerable Bede dedicated his famous History of the English Church and Nation to him and asked him to correct it.

St. Ceolwulf died in 764 and was buried next to St. Cuthbert – a great mark of honour. In 830 his relics were translated to King Egred’s new church at Norham-on- Tweed with those of St. Cuthbert; and later his head was translated to Durham.

Miracles testified to his holiness.

St. Ceolwulf is commemorated on January 15.

Holy Father Ceolwulf, pray to God for us!

(Sources: The Venerable Bede, Ecclesiastical History of the English People; Simeon of Durham, History of the Church of Durham; William of Malmesbury, Gesta Regum Anglorum; David Farmer, The Oxford Dictionary of Saints, Oxford: The Clarendon Press, 1978, p. 74)



Our holy Father Chad (Ceodde) was born at the end of the sixth century in Northumberland. He was a disciple of St. Aidan of Lindisfarne. After a period in Ireland spent in asceticism, he was appointed Abbot of Lastingham in Yorkshire in succession to his brother, St. Cedd.

In 664, Bishop Tuda of York died of the plague, and it fell to King Oswy of Northumbria and his son, the Sub-King Alchfrid, to appoint a successor. His choice fell on St. Wilfrid, Abbot of Ripon, who was sent to France to be consecrated to the episcopate. However, since St. Wilfrid was away for a long time, King Oswy sent to Canterbury for consecration Chad, “a holy man,” as the Venerable Bede writes, “modest in all his ways, learned in the Scriptures, and careful to practise all that he found in them. With Chad the king sent a priest named Eadhaed, who later, during the reign of Egfrid, became Bishop of Ripon. On arriving in Kent, they found that Archbishop Deusdedit had died, and that no successor had been appointed. They therefore went on to the province of the West Saxons, consecrated Chad as bishop [in 666] with the assistance of two bishops of the British, who [kept] Pascha contrary to canonical practice between the fourteenth and twentieth days of the moon. For at that time, Wini [Bishop of the West Saxons] was the only bishop in all Britain who had been canonically consecrated.

“When he became bishop, Chad immediately devoted himself to maintaining the truth and purity of the Church, and set himself to practise humility and continence and to study. After the example of the Apostles, he travelled on foot and not on horseback when he went to preach the Gospel…; for he was one of Aidan’s disciples and always sought to instruct his people by the same methods as Aidan and his own brother Cedd.”

In May, 669 St. Theodore “the Greek” arrived at his see in Canterbury. He told St.Chad that he considered his Episcopal consecration to be uncanonical, to which the saint humbly replied: “If you know that my consecration as bishop was irregular, then I willingly resign the office; for I have never thought myself worthy of it. Although unworthy, I accepted it solely under obedience.” Impressed by this reply, St. Theodore assured him that he would not have to give up his office, and himself corrected his consecration. St. Chad then returned to his monastery in Lastingham.

“The Mercians at this time were ruled by King Wulfhere, who, on the death of [Bishop] Jaruman, asked Theodore to provide him and his people with a bishop. Theodore, however, did not wish to consecrate a new bishop for them, but asked King Oswy to give them Chad as their bishop. Chad was then living quietly in his monastery at Lastingham, while Wilfrid ruled the bishopric of York, and indeed all the lands of the Northumbrians and Picts to the borders of Oswy’s realm. The most reverend Bishop Chad always preferred to undertake his preaching missions on foot rather than on horseback; but Theodore ordered him to ride whenever he undertook a long journey. He was most reluctant to forgo this pious exercise which he loved, but the Archbishop, who recognized his outstanding holiness and considered it more proper for him to ride, himself insisted on helping him to mount his horse. So Chad received the Bishopric of the Mercians and the people of Lindsey, and administered the diocese in great holiness of life after the example of the Early Fathers.”

“At this time Wulfhere, son of the renowned king, Penda the Strenuous, ruled over the Mercians, and had been hailed as Bretwalda of all the Angles and Saxons. He had espoused the beautiful Ermenhilda, a daughter of the royal house of Kent, and descended from the noblest stock of the Franks. Though fair in form and lineage, she was accounted fairer still in faith and sanctity. In due time, she bore to the king four fair children: three sons, Wulfhad, Rufinus and Coenred, and one daughter, the beauteous Werburga. The boys are said to have been adorned with all the princely graces and to have excelled in all the manly exercises suited to their rank. The courtesy of their demeanour, the prudence of their conduct, and the wit of their conversation endeared them to their father’s subjects, both rich and poor…

“Their father, King Wulfhere, had been baptized many years before by the holy Bishop Finan of the nation of the Scots; and at the font, and afterwards when he led his bride to the altar, he made a vow to the Lord that he would utterly destroy the temples of the demons, and root out the idols from his realm, and extend, as far as he should be able, the faith of Jesus Christ. But when he inherited the throne of his fathers, he forgot to perform the vow which he had made, and idolatry still lingered in the kingdom of the Mercians. In this wickedness the king was countenanced by one Werbode, whom he had made his chief counsellor and friend, such as Haman the Agagite was to King Artaxerxes. They say that he was an idolater, a man of Belial, a very minister and satellite of Satan; that he was crafty in heart, wily in tongue, wanton in appetite, and arrogant in mind. Not content with the favours which the king had already bestowed upon him, he even dared in his heart to think of wooing the lovely Werburga, well knowing that she was dedicated to Christ, hoping, in his madness, thereby to succeed to the kingdom.

“The king, not heeding, consented to Werbode’s suit, but Queen Ermenhilda sharply rebuked him for his presumption and reproached him with his base lineage. And Werburga herself, as befitted a maiden who was soon to take the veil, bade him think no more of her as his bride, but rather to seek for God’s forgiveness for having conceived such a thought in his heart. Her brothers, Wulfhad and Rufinus, in more impetuous mood, threatened him with their sorest vengeance, if ever he should prefer his low-born suit to their sister. The disdainful words of these royal youths rankled in the evil mind of Werbode, and one day cost them dear, albeit, through the teaching of the holy Chad, they were to earn the crown of martyrdom, as this story showeth. For it fell upon a day, as the holy man was engaged in devout prayer and meditation in his cell, that a hart of great size and wide-spreading antlers burst forth from the forest glades into the open space which surrounded the fountain. His panting breath and quivering limbs told that the huntsman was on his track, and to slake his raging thirst, he began to drink eagerly of the cooling waters. Pitying the distress of the noble animal and moved with the bowels of compassion towards all the creatures of God, Chad covered him with the boughs and leaves of trees, to refresh him with their coolness and to conceal him from his foes, for in his inward mind he believed something wonderful would happen by means of the hart. And when the animal was somewhat recovered, it meekly suffered the holy man to put a cord round its neck, and then it wandered into the forest to crop the grass.

“Hardly had the saint recovered from the surprise occasioned by the appearance of the hart, than the blast of a horn fell upon his ear, and soon a handsome youth, in gay apparel, reined in his steed in front of the cell, whither the footprints of the hart had guided him. This was no other than Wulfhad, the king’s eldest son, who had been following the chase – to which, as became one of royal lineage, he was much addicted – and, in the eagerness of his pursuit, had lost sight of his retainers.

“On seeing the holy man, who at the sound of the horse’s footsteps had come out of his cell, the prince courteously and reverently saluted him, and enquired whether he had seen the hart of which he had been in quest since the early dawn. To whom the saint replied, ‘Am I the keeper of the hart? I do not tend or guard the beasts of the forest, or the cattle of the field, or the birds of the air, but, through the ministry of the hart, have become the guide of thy salvation. For God, Who prepared the hart, hath made know to thee the hidden things of His own mysteries, that thou mayest believe in His name, and be baptized for the remission of sins. By a beautiful foreshadowing, nay, by the witness of a sure prophecy, the hart bathed in the fountain sets forth and shows to thee beforehand the laver of wholesome Baptism, even as thouh mayest learn the mind of David from the text, ‘As the hart panteth after the fountains of water, so panteth my soul after Thee, O God. My soul thirsted for God, the mighty, the living; when shall I come and appear before the face of God?’ (Psalm 41.1-2)



St. Clydog (or Clodock or Clitaucus) was the son of Clewyn, Prince of Ewyas (Monmouth-Hereford), and was related to the family of Brychan, Prince of Brecon in South Wales, and ruled in Ewyas. His brother was Dedyw; and both brothers, under the influence of a saintly cousin, Cadoc, did much missionary work in their particular areas. According to The Book of Llandaff, a nobleman’s daughter fell in love with St. Clydog and said that she would marry no-one but him. This aroused the jealousy of a companion of the Saint, and he was killed by the sword while hunting.

His body was placed in a cart and driven to a ford in the river Monnow, but the yoke broke, the oxen refused to go further, and the prince was buried on the spot at a place called Clodock or Merthir Clitauc (Hereford and Worcester), where a church was built (its Protestant successor still stands). Whytford says that St. Clydog was a man of “straight justice, a lover of peace and pure chastity”, and that miracles were performed at his death and after his burial. He died in the sixth century.

St. Clydog is commemorated on November 3.

Holy Father Clydog, pray to God for us

(Sources: A local pamphlet; David Farmer, The Oxford Dictionary of Saints, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1978, p. 85)



Our holy Father Congar is believed to have been the grandson of Geraint, King of Dumnonia (South-West England), who was killed at the battle of Llongborth in about 522, fighting alongside the famous King Arthur. He probably came from Llanwngar, near St. David’s in Wales.

Coming through the revelation of an angel to what is now Congresbury in Somerset, the saint, as we read in his 12th-century Life, “continued for a long time in this place, which pleased him well, wearing a cilicium (under-garment of goat’s hair), living a blameless life, fasting and praying continually. Every morning he plunged himself in cold water, staying in it till he had said the Lord’s Prayer three times, after which he returned to the church and remained there in vigil and prayer addressed to the Creator of all things. But at the ninth hour he took some barley bread, though he never had a full meal. His body became emaciated, and to see him you would think him fever-stricken. Most dear to him was the eremitical life, after the example of Paul, the first hermit, and St. Anthony.”

St. Congar drained the marshy land in the district and in about 530 founded a monastery. One day, while he was standing in the churchyard surrounded by his monks, “he wished that a yew-tree might grow there, to provide shade from the summer heat, and, with its spreading branches, to ornament the churchyard. As he formed the wish, he fixed in the ground the staff he was holding in his hands, which was made of yew. He let go of it, and, when he put his hand on it again, he could not pluck it out. Next day it began, in the sight of a crowd of bystanders, to bear leaves, and afterwards grew into a huge spreading tree…”

Great numbers came to visit the saint, and the monastery became a flourishing centre. However, the saint sought solitude, and, leaving his weeping flock, he returned to his native Wales, where on the instructions of an angel and with the help of the local king he established himself on a mountain in Glamorgan. Some modern authors have speculated that this retreat across the Severn may have been necessitated by the defeat of the Christian Britons by the pagan Saxons at the battle of Dyrham, which took place not far from Congresbury in 577.

Late in life, St. Congar joined himself to his nephew, St. Cybi. Together they left South Wales and went to the monastery of St. Enda on the isle of Aran, off the west coast of Ireland. Congar was then so old that he was unable to eat solid food, so his nephew bought a cow for him so that he could have milk for his food. Later they moved again to the peninsula of Lleyn in North Wales, and then to the island of Anglesey, where St. Cybi’s cell at Caer Gybi can still be seen.

According to the 12th-century Life, St. Congar then made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, where he died. According to Breton tradition, however, he died on his way back to Britain, at Morbihan in Britain. What is undisputed is that his body rested, at least until the 14th century, at Congresbury.

St. Congar is commemorated in Wales on November 7, in Somerset – on November 27, and in Brittany on May 12.

Holy Father Congar, pray to God for us!

(Sources: Gilbert H. Doble, The Saints of Cornwall, Oxford: Holywell Press, 1970, part V, pp. 3-29; Baring-Gould, Lives of the British Saints, vol. II, pp. 248-253; H.M Porter, The Celtic Church in Somerset, Bath: Morgan Books, 1971, pp. 35-39; David Farmer, The Oxford Dictionary of Saints, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1978, p. 90)



Our holy Father Constantine was, according to one tradition, the nephew of the famous King Arthur, to whom the latter bequeathed his crown when he was mortally wounded. According to another, he was a king of Cornwall who abandoned his kingdom after being converted by St. Petroc, and became a monk in St. David’s cell. Then, leaving for another land, he built a monastery there.

The fullest traditions concerning him come from Scotland. They state that he was the son of Paternus, king of Cornwall, and married the daughter of the king of Brittany. But she died, and he, grieving over her death and refusing to be comforted, delivered his kingdom to his son, and bidding farewell to all, left his kingdom and crossed over to Ireland. Coming to a certain monastery, for seven years he worked humbly carrying grain to and from the monastery mill. One day he was sitting in the mill and said to himself; “Am I Constantine, king of Cornwall, whose head has so often worn the helmet and his body the breastplate? No, I am not.” A man who was hiding in the mill overheard this and reported it to the abbot. He then took him away from the mill, educated him, and raised him to the priesthood. Soon after this, he left the monastery and went to St. Columba; and afterwards he was sent by St.Kentigern, the bishop of Glasgow, to preach the word of God in Galloway, in South- West Scotland. There he was elected abbot of a monastery, where he lived a holy life until old age.

According to another tradition, he founded a monastery at Govan on the Clyde.

In his extreme old age, St. Constantine prayed God to give him a martyr’s death, and he heard a voice from heaven saying that it should be as he had asked. Then he went preaching the word of God throughout the land, and came eventually to the island of Kintyre. There some evil men followed him, and, coming up to his attendant, they cut off his hand. The saint immediately healed him with a touch.

Then the evil men showered blows upon the saint, cut off his arm, and left him for dead. Calling the brethren to him, the saint comforted them with spiritual words.

Then he fell asleep in their presence.

St. Constantine was martyred, according to the Scottish tradition, in 576, and according to the Irish tradition in 588.

St. Constantine is commemorated on March 9 in Wales and Cornwall, on March 11 in Scotland and on March 18 in Ireland.

Holy Monk-Martyr Constantine, pray to God for us!

(Sources: G.H. Doble, The Saints of Cornwall, vol. 2, 1962, pp. 15-24; David Farmer, The Oxford Dictionary of Saints, Oxford: The Clarendon Press, 1978, p. 91)



Our holy Father Credan was abbot of Evesham in the second half of the eighth century. Almost nothing is known about his life. His relics were subjected to ordeal by fire by unbelieving Normans in 1077, but emerged unscathed. In the translation that followed they were observed to shine like gold.

St. Credan is commemorated on August 19.

Holy Father Credan, pray to God for us!

(Sources: David Farmer, The Oxford Dictionary of Saints; Macray, Chronicon Abbatiae de Evesham, Rolls series, 1863, pp. 323-324)



Our holy Mother Cuthburga was the sister of King Ina of Wessex, a great king who in about 726 went to Rome with his wife Ethelburga, ending his days as a monk. Cuthburga was given in marriage to King Aldfrith of Northumbria in about 688. There are different accounts of this marriage. Some say that it was short and was never consummated; others – that it was long and produced a son, who was about eight years old when his father died. In any case, with the approval of her husband, Cuthburga retired from the world and went first to the monastery of Barking, near London, which was ruled at that time by St. Hildelitha. In 705 King Aldfrith died, whereupon Cuthburga journeyed back to her native Wessex and asked her brother, King Ina, for some land on which to found a monastery. In the year 713 she founded the monastery of Wimborne. She was reported to have been a beautiful woman, kind to others but severe to herself and assiduous in fasting and prayer. She reposed in about 725 and was buried in the church at Wimborne, where her coffin can still be seen.

St. Cuthburga is commemorated on August 31.

Holy Mother Cuthburga, pray to God for us!

(Sources: William of Malmesbury, Gesta Regum Anglorum; Margaret Gallyon, The Early Church in Wessex and Mercia, Lavenham: Terence Dalton, 1980, ch. 4; David Farmer, The Oxford Dictionary of Saints, Oxford; The Clarendon Press, 1978, p. 96; Christine Oliver, The Saxon Saints of Wimborne, Wimborne)



Our holy Father Cuthmann was born in about 680 either in Dorset or at Chidham near Chichester in Sussex. The South Saxons were the last Anglo-Saxon tribe to be converted from idolatry to the True Faith; and it may be that Cuthmann was one of the first babies to be baptized by the Apostle of the South Saxons, St. Wilfrid.

Cuthmann early showed signs of holiness: when pasturing his father’s sheep, he made a circle round them and forbade them in the name of Christ to step out of it while he said his prayers on a stone; and the beasts obeyed his word. After his departure it was said that many miracles and healings took place among those who touched this stone.

When his father died Cuthmann decided to take his invalid mother to find a new home in the east. He constructed a kind of wooden bed for her and with the aid of a rope slung over his shoulders wheeled her round with him wherever he went. At one point the rope broke. This caused amusement to some mowers in a nearby field but their laughter was soon dispelled by a heavy shower of rain which ruined their harvesting! Having replaced the rope with strands from the hedgerow Cuthmann continued on his journey until his rope snapped again. Cuthmann was so relieved that his mother sustained no injury that he decided to build a church at the place, which he learned was called Steyning – a Saxon word meaning “The People of the Stone”.

Cuthmann found some helpers in his church building, but one day they were in difficulty when a main beam swung out of place threatening to destroy the structure.

A traveller appeared and devised a remedy which proved effective. Cuthmann thanked the stranger and asked him who he was. He replied: “I am he in whose name you are building this church.”

Not all the local people received the saint with kindness. When his oxen strayed, a local woman called Fippa impounded them and refused to return them to Cuthmann. So he took her two sons and yoked them to his cart in place of the oxen.

Fippa came to curse Cuthmann, but he returned her curse and she was raised to the sky by a great gust of wind. As she fell the earth opened up and swallowed her.

In the middle of the eleventh century Cuthmann’s wooden church was demolished and a cell of monks built in its place. After the Norman Conquest of 1066 the relics of the saint were removed to the Norman abbey of Fecamp.

St. Cuthmann is commemorated on February 8.

Holy Father Cuthmann, pray to God for us!

(Sources: “Vita S. Cuthmanni”, Codicis Gothani Appendix, Analecta Bollandiana, vol.LVIII, 1940, pp. 197-98; George Cockman, Cuthman, Steyning and the Stone, 1983; David Farmer, The Oxford Dictionary of Saints, Oxford University Press, 1987, p. 106)



Saints Cyneswitha and Cyneburga were daughters of the pagan King Penda of Mercia. According to one source, St. Cyneburga married Alcfrith, son of King Oswy of Northumbria, and then became the foundress and abbess of the monastery of Castor, Northamptonshire. After having gathered a large community of nuns and lived a holy life, Cyneburga died in abut 680 and was succeeded as abbess by her younger sister Cyneswitha. King Offa of East Anglia fell in love with St. Cyneswitha, and together with her brothers put pressure on her to marry him. However, Cyneswitha, strengthened by a vision of the Mother of God, rejected his advances.

Then Offa was persuaded by him to go to change his plans and go to Rome with King Kenred of Mercia and St. Egwin of Worcester, where he received the monastic tonsure.

St. Tibba was a hermitess at Ryhall in Leicestershire, and may have been related to SS. Cyneburga and Cyneswitha. She appeared in a vision to a certain holy man, saying: “I have come down from a festivity on high to announce to you the day of my translation. For this is the night and day of the blessed Lucy, in which I have surrendered my soul to the Lord Jesus Christ.”

In 963 the relics of Saints Cyneburga and Cyneswitha were translated to Peterborough by Abbot of Aelfsige of Peterborough. At about the same time the relics of St. Tibba were also transferred from Ryhall to Peterborough; for, as Hugh Candidus wrote in the twelfth century, “she bade him [Abbot Aelfsige] to do so and showed great miracles that she was minded there to repose with her friends.” In the reign of King Aethelred they were translated to Thorney, but in the reign of King Henry I they were restored to Peterborough.

Saints Cyneburga, Cyneswitha and Tibba are commemorated on October 6.

Holy Mothers Cyneburga, Cyneswitha and Tibba, pray to God for us!

(Sources: David Farmer, The Oxford Dictionary of Saints, Oxford: The Clarendon Press, 1978 pp. 97-98; William of Malmesbury, Gesta Pontificum Anglorum, IV, 180; John of Tynemouth, in Nova Legenda Anglie, pp. 130-132; Trevor Bevis, Fenland Saints and Shrines, March: Westrydale Press, 1981, p. 4)



Our holy Father Decuman was probably of Romano-British origin since his name means “farmer” of the provincial tax of one-tenth. Since there are Christian Roman inscriptions in the wall of the parish church of Llafihangel Cwm-Du in Breconshire, and since there is a chapel dedicated to St. Decuman in the same parish, it has been suggested that St. Decuman came from Breconshire, although his (rather unreliable) Life says that he came from West Wales. If so, then he probably set out on his missionary journeys from Breconshire to Pembrokeshire sometime in the sixth century; for it is known that he founded the monastery of Rhoscrowther in Pembrokeshire, and was probably also the original patron of the adjoining parish of Pwllcrochan.

From Pembrokeshire St. Decuman set out in a coracle across the Bristol Channel and landed “near [what later became the site of] Dunster castle” on the north coast of Somerset. This largely desert area pleased the saint, and for several years he lived the life of a hermit on the site of what is now the church of St. Decuman at Watchet, one thousand yards from the sea on a slight hill. He nourished himself partly on the milk of a cow.

While the saint was praying one day, he was murdered by “a son of Belial” who cut off the top of his head with a spade. It is said that he carried his head to the site of the present holy well of St. Decuman. Many miracles were recorded there down the centuries.

St. Decuman is commemorated on August 27.

Holy Monk-Martyr Decuman, pray to God for us!

(Sources: Baring-Gould, Lives of the British Saints, vol. II, pp. 323-324; H.M. Porter, The Celtic Church in Somerset, Bath: Morgan Books, 1971, pp. 81-84; David Farmer, The Oxford Dictionary of Saints, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1978, p. 105)



Our holy Father Diuma was of Irish origin. He was one of four priests who were sent by St. Finan, bishop of Lindisfarne, to evangelize Mercia after the baptism of King Peada. The other priests were St. Cedd, the future bishop of London, Betti and Adda. The apostolate of these four men was most successful. When Peada died in 654, King Oswy of Northumbria ruled Mercia for a few years; and in this period Diuma was consecrated bishop of the Mercians and Middle Anglians by St. Finan.

He worked mainly among the East Anglians and died in a district called Infeppingum in the year 658. He was buried at Charlbury in Oxfordshire.

St. Diuma is commemorated on December 7.

Holy Father Diuma, pray to God for us!

(Sources: Bede, Ecclesiastical History of the English People, II, 2; David Farmer, The Oxford Dictionary of Saints, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1978, p. 107)



Our holy Father Dunstan was born in the village of Baltonsborough, near Glastonbury, in about the year 909. His parents were of noble stock, and were called Herstan and Cynedritha. When the saint was still in his mother’s womb, she went to church on the Feast of the Meeting of the Lord – Candlemas, as it was known in the West. According to the custom, everyone was holding lighted candles in their hands.

Suddenly all the candles went out. Equally suddenly, Cynedritha’s candle was rekindled; the amazed congregation then rekindled their candles from hers. This was taken as a sign that the child she was carrying would be a great light in the Church, from whom many others would draw enlightenment and inspiration.The saint knew Glastonbury from his earliest years. According to an ancient tradition then current, the first Christians who came to England found at Glastonbury ‘an ancient church not built by human hands and prepared by God for the salvation of men, which the Lord by many miracles showed to have been dedicated to Himself and the Most Holy Mother of God Mary”.

Once the young Dunstan was taken there on a pilgrimage by his father. During the night an old man dressed in a shining white garment appeared to him in a vision, and led him through all the rooms of the holy church. He also showed him the monastery buildings which were to be built by him during his abbacy in the very order in which they were later constructed.

On seeing their son’s promise, Herstan and Cynedritha sent him to Glastonbury to be educated. Like a bee, he darted through many fields of religious literature. He also learned from the Irish pilgrims who came to venerate the tomb of St. Patrick.

Once he fell ill and was on the point of death. In the middle of the night, however, he received a sudden access of strength, and, springing up immediately, went with God’s guidance towards the monastery. Some dogs rushed at him, barking furiously; but he repulsed them with a thin twig and carried on. Having arrived at the church, he climbed onto the roof by a route that the workmen used, and, descending down the other side, came to a little chamber, where he innocently fell asleep. There he was found the next morning, to the amazement of everyone. For he had been at the point of death, as his nurse witnessed, and the chamber where he fell asleep was very difficult to get. The nurse was especially amazed, and went up onto the roof to take a look round.

Besides his religious activities, Dunstan cultivated the arts of metalworking, painting and harp-playing. One day, he was invited to the house of a certain noblewoman called Ethelwynn. She had asked him to design a stole to be used in the Divine services which she would then adorn with gold and silver and precious stones. Dunstan came, bringing his harp with him. Then, as they were returning to work after supper, the harp, which was hanging on the wall far from the reach of any visible hand, spontaneously began to play the melody of the hymn: ‘Let the souls of the saints who have followed in the footsteps of Christ rejoice in the heavens. Since they have shed their blood for His love, they will reign with Christ forever!’ Everyone was amazed at the miracle, wondering what it could mean.

In 923, Archbishop Plegmund of Canterbury reposed in the Lord, and was succeeded by Dunstan’s uncle, Athelm, Bishop of Wells. Athelm invited the saint to stay with him at Canterbury in the archbishop’s house, and Dunstan accepted.

Archbishop Athelm foresaw the future greatness of his nephew and introduced him to King Athelstan, who showed him great favour.

But then a temptation was allowed to try him. Certain companions and relatives of his at the court became jealous of Dunstan’s success and accused him to the king of practising black magic. The soldier of Christ did not falter, but remembered the words of David: ‘Unjust witnesses are risen up against me, and injustice hath lied to itself’. He placed before his spiritual eyes the promise of Christ: ‘Blessed are ye when men shall revile you and persecute you and say all manner of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad; for great is your reward in heaven.’

And so, comforted by these words, he ‘became as a deaf man in whose mouth are no reproofs’; for when the dogs barked at him he hardly ever opened his mouth. But their madness grew more frenzied, and, binding him like a sheep by the arms and legs, they threw him into a muddy pool and trampled on him. He got up and set off for a friend’s house which was about a mile away. But then the friend’s dogs ran keenly up to him, and, thinking him to be more a monster than a man, started barking at him savagely. However, they soon recognized his soothing voice and calmed down. Sighing deeply, the servant of God reflected how the irrational nature of animals showed him more kindness than the animal ferocity of his kinsmen.

Shortly after this, the saint went to stay with another relative of his, St. Aelfheah ‘the Bald’, Bishop of Winchester. Once the holy bishop was going with Dunstan to the dedication of a church at the west gate of the city. After the festivities, when they were returning past the church of St. Gregory, the bishop called a halt for Compline.

As they were putting their heads together for the absolution, a stone suddenly fell out of the empty sky and passed between them, injuring no one but grazing their heads. Where could this have come from, people reflected, if not from the evil one? St. Aelfheah several times asked Dunstan to become a monk. But he refused, pleading that he wanted to marry. Then the bishop prayed to the Lord that the young man would pay heed to his warnings. Immediately Dunstan was seized by an intolerable pain in his bladder which passed to his whole body. Thinking that he had elephantiasis and that he was on the point of death, in great anguish he sent for the holy bishop whom he had just spurned. When the bishop arrived, he announced to him his intention of following his salutary advice. Chastened, and now recovered from his illness, Dunstan received the monastic tonsure.

St. Aelfheah also ordained him to the priesthood, and then sent him back to Glastonbury. There he built for himself a very narrow cell in which to fast and pray.

He also occupied himself in making church bells and other ecclesiastical ornaments.

Now there died a close friend of the saint’s, a deacon by the name of Wulfred. Not long after his repose, Wulfred appeared to Dunstan and revealed to him many heavenly mysteries, as well as the whole course of his future life. When Dunstan asked for a sign whereby he could be assured of the truth of these revelations, Wulfred led him to the cemetery, and, pointing to an unused plot, said: ‘You will know that what I say is true from the fact that in three days’ time a priest will be buried here, although he has not yet fallen ill.’ On awaking, Dunstan related the prophecy to some others; and as they were coming back from the cemetery the chaplain of a certain very religious noblewoman came up and asked for that plot for his burial. Shortly after, he sickened and died; and within three days he had been buried in that very spot.

Now there was a very rich woman of royal birth and strictly religious upbringing called Ethelfleda. On the death of her husband, wishing to live a widow’s life in accordance with her strength, she bought a small house near the church so as to be able to serve the Lord day and night. Dunstan loved her very much; and she diligently supported him for Christ’s, as well as for kinship’s, sake.

Among other good works, she was much given to hospitality; and on one occasion she prepared a meal for King Athelstan, who was coming to Glastonbury to pray. The day before his visit, the king’s stewards came to see that everything was suitably prepared, and remarked that there was not enough mead. She replied: ‘My mistress, the Most Holy Mother of God, will not let me go short, either in mead or in anything else pertaining to the royal dignity.’ After saying this, she entered the Old Church, and, prostrating herself, prayed to the King of all that He would grant her an abundance of provisions for the service of the king.

The king duly arrived with a large company in attendance. After the Divine Liturgy, he joyfully came to his invited seat. The supply of mead was exhausted at the first toast, but God abundantly made up the deficiency so that nothing was lacking for the whole day. However, when the king’s servants told him of the miracle, he abruptly stopped and said to his men: ‘We have sinned by overburdening this handmaid of God with our unnecessarily large numbers.’ And getting to his feet, he bade farewell to her and continued on his way.

Now Ethelfleda fell seriously ill, and the saint prepared her for her end, looking after her as if she were his own mother. Because of this, he was late for Vespers one day, and at dusk came back to the church to celebrate the delayed service. As he was standing outside the church chanting psalms with the brethren, he saw coming from the direction of the setting sun a white dove of extraordinary beauty with wing-tips sparkling like fire that entered the house of Ethelfleda.

After the service, the saint went back to the house. Standing by the curtain at the entrance to her bedroom, he could hear her having a serious conversation with what seemed to be an intimate friend; and, wondering who it might be, he asked her maidservants who were standing by. They replied that they did not know. ‘Before you came,’ they said, ‘the chamber was filled with a reddish light of extraordinary splendour. That has stopped, but she, as you can hear, has not ceased from carrying on a conversation with her interlocutor.’ Dunstan sat down until she had finished her conversation. Then, drawing back the curtain, he entered her room and asked her with whom she had been speaking. ‘You yourself saw him coming before you came here,’ she said, ‘and do you ask me now with whom I have been speaking? For he who spoke with me is the same person who appeared to you as you were chanting psalms outside the church. And he told me in private everything concerning my departure from this life. But there is no need for you and your friends to weep for me – God will graciously visit me at my death and allow me to enter into the joys of Paradise. However, I want you to do this for me as if I were your only friend: hasten early in the morning, prepare a funeral vestment for me to wear, make ready a bath, and after my bath celebrate the Divine Liturgy, communicating me in the Holy Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. At that moment, with God leading me, I shall go the way of all the earth.’ Dunstan promptly obeyed the blessed lady’s commands to the last detail. And after partaking of the Holy Mysteries, just as the Liturgy was coming to an end, Ethelfleda gave up her soul into the hands of her Creator.

In 939, King Athelstan died, and was succeeded on the throne of England by King Edmund. Dunstan became one of his counsellors, for his court at Cheddar was not far from Glastonbury. As in Athelstan’s reign, this provoked the envy of some of the courtiers, who slandered the saint to the king and procured his banishment. Dunstan then asked the help of some foreign envoys who were then at court, and they, taking pity on him, promised him their hospitality and everything he might need if he accompanied them back to their kingdom.

The next day the king rode out hunting with his men. As they came to the forest, they dispersed in friendly competition along different paths. However, the baying of the dogs and the calling of the horns enabled many of the stags to make a quick escape; and only the king, with one pack of dogs, found himself on the track of a stag. In his flight the exhausted animal came to a very deep gorge into which he suddenly hurled himself, followed by the dogs. The king, following close behind, was accelerating when he saw the gorge. Desperately he tried hold back his horse, but without success. With all hope for his life gone, he commended his soul into the hands of God, saying within himself: ‘I thank Thee, O God Most High, that as far as I can remember, I have not harmed anyone at this time, except only Dunstan, and I shall be reconciled with him promptly if my life is saved.’ When he had said this, his horse came to a standstill on the very edge of the abyss.

Praising and giving thanks to God, the king realized that he had come so near to being killed in order that Dunstan might be vindicated; and on his return he ordered him to be brought before him without delay. When Dunstan came in, he said: ‘Hurry up, get a horse, and come with me and my soldiers.’ And, mounting their horses, they immediately took the road to Glastonbury. On arrival, they went into the church to pray; and after praying and wiping the tears from his eyes, the king again called the servant of God to him. Taking him by the hand, he kissed it and led him to the priest’s chair. Having seated him in it, he said: ‘Be the powerful incumbent of this seat and the most faithful abbot of this church. And whatever you need, whether for the Divine services or for the sacred Rule, I shall devoutly supply from my royal bounty.’

Dunstan was placed in charge of the monastery at Glastonbury in the year 943, and immediately instituted the strict application of St. Benedict’s Rule for the monks, thus giving a major impetus to the revival of monasticism in England after the devastation of the Viking wars. He also began to build many new building for the monastery in accordance with his childhood vision. One day, a great beam was being passed to the roof of the church, and was about to touch it when it began to tilt downwards and fall, threatening the lives of many people below. A cry went up, and the saint’s eyes were drawn to the scene. With his right hand he made the sign of the Cross, and lo! By the invisible power of God the beam was restored to its place.

Enraged by these miracles, which were drawing the souls of their beholders closer to the Lord, Satan tempted the saint by appearing to him in many fearful guises. One night, as he was keeping vigil at the altar of St. George and resting a little, the devil came up behind him in the form of a bear, threatening to devour him. At first the man of God tried to beat him with a staff which he always carried with him; but to no avail. Then he resorted to the stronger spiritual weapon of psalmody: ‘Let God arise, and let His enemies be scattered, and let them that hate Him flee from before His face’. The deceiver fled in confusion… Through another vision of evil spirits, the saint prophesied the death of King Edmund. For as he was travelling in the king’s escort, he suddenly saw a black form running among the king’s trumpeters. After gazing at it for a long time in amazement, he turned to his neighbour, ‘Half-King’ Athelstan, the alderman of East Anglia, and said: ‘Beloved, do you see what I see?’ ‘Nothing out of the ordinary,’ he replied. ‘Sign yourself with the sign of the Holy Cross, and then see if you can see what I see,’ said the holy man. When he did this, Athelstan also saw the evil spirit.

When they made the sign of the Cross again, the enemy disappeared.

As they continued on their way, Athelstan asked the saint to what extent this vision of theirs was related to a dream he had had, in which he had seen the king fall asleep while feasting among his nobles, whereupon almost all the chief men and counsellors had turned into sheep and goats. Dunstan immediately replied: ‘The king’s sleep means his death; but the changing of the chief men and counsellors into mute and irrational beasts refers to the future, when almost all the chief men and rulers will of their own accord deviate from the way of truth.’

As they came to the king’s quarters, they were still discussing these matters. And at dusk on the same day Dunstan again saw the evil spirit wandering among the servants at the king’s banquet. Then, on the very day on which the king was killed, May 26, 946, he saw it for the third time as the king was returning from the Divine Liturgy to the banquet-hall. During the feast, the king saw a man named Liofa, whom he had banished from the kingdom six years before, sitting at a table next to an alderman. He got up and tried to drive the outlaw from the hall, but was stabbed by him and died. The king’s body was taken to Glastonbury, where St. Dunstan performed the funeral service.

Edmund was succeeded by his brother Edred, who loved Dunstan no less than his predecessors, loading him with honours and submitting to his wise counsel.

In 953, Bishop Ethelgar of Crediton died; whereupon King Edred tried to persuade the saint to accept the vacant see. But he refused, not wishing to desert the king, whom he loved, for the sake of the episcopate. The king then asked his mother, St. Aelgifu, to intercede. So she invited him to a royal banquet and again put forward the same proposal. But he replied: ‘I ask you, lady, not to ask me this again; for I tell you truly: I must not be made a bishop during the lifetime of your son the king.’

The Lord, however, was not pleased by Dunstan’s refusal, as was revealed to him in a vision that night. For he saw himself returning from a pilgrimage to the apostles’ tombs in Rome and was coming near the Mons Gaudium. Then St. Peter and his fellow apostles Paul and Andrew approached him. Each held in his hand a sword, which they offered him. On Peter’s sword were inscribed the words: ‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.’

Then Andrew sang sweetly from the Gospel: ‘Take My yoke upon you, for I am meek and lowly of heart, and ye shall find rest unto your souls.’ Peter then raised a staff which he held in his hand and struck Dunstan lightly on the palm, saying: ‘Take this as a warning not to refuse the yoke of the Lord in future.’ Waking up, the saint asked a monk who was sleeping in the same room who it was that had struck him. He said that he did not know. Dunstan thought for a while, and then said: ‘Now I know, my son, now I know by whom I have been struck.’

In the morning he recounted his vision to the king, who said: ‘Since the swords you took up with the apostles’ blessing are the weapons of the Holy Spirit, you can be quite certain that through the sword given you by the blessed Peter and inscribed with the word of God, you are to receive the archbishopric from heaven.’ As for the other swords, that given by St. Paul may have signified the see of London, whose cathedral church was dedicated to the apostle and which Dunstan held for a short period before he became archbishop. And that of St. Andrew may have signified the see of Rochester, whose church was dedicated to the First-Called and which Dunstan was called upon to defend in his later years.

King Edred had been chronically sick throughout his reign, and now he came to die. Feeling his end draw near, he sent a messenger to Dunstan to bring his treasures from Glastonbury, where the saint had been looking after them, to Frome, where the king lay. As Dunstan was riding from Frome, on St. Clement’s day, 955, he suddenly heard a voice from heaven: ‘King Edred now rests in peace.’ At the sound of the voice, his horse, unable to bear the angelic power, fell dead to the ground, astonishing the saint’s companions. When he had explained to them the voice and its meaning, and as they were blessing God and commending the soul of the dead man into the hands of God, messengers came up and confirmed the truth of the voice.

And so the walls of the palace were resounding to cries of lamentation as the saint entered. He found the royal corpse abandoned; and so, faithful in death as in life, he performed the funeral service and buried the king in the Old Minster, Winchester.

The death of King Edred marked the end of the peaceful part of St. Dunstan’s tenure of the Glastonbury abbacy. For he was succeeded by Edwig, the son of King Edmund – a rash youth under the influence of a mother and daughter, both named Aelgifu, who wanted him to choose one of them to be his wife. This wanton behaviour of the king was to bring him into conflict with the saint… Now the time came for the anointing and consecration of the new king after his election by the people. The ceremony was duly performed, but then the king had no time to attend the banquet with his nobles and bishops, but immediately ran after the loose women. When Archbishop Oda saw that the king’s wilfulness on the day of his coronation displeased all the counsellors sitting around, he said to his fellowbishops and the other leading men: ‘Let some of you, pray, go and fetch the king, so that he may, as is fitting, be a pleasant companion to his followers at the royal banquet.’ But one by one, fearing to incur the king’s wrath or the women’s complaint, they began to demur. Finally, they chose from among them two whom they knew to be strong in spirit – Abbot Dunstan and Bishop Cynesige, a kinsman of Dunstan’s, to go in obedience to the command of all and bring back the king, whether he wished it or not.

Entering the king’s chamber in accordance with their superiors’ command, Dunstan and Cynesige found the king’s crown, which was bound with gold, silver and precious stones, and shone with a many-coloured light, carelessly thrown on the floor far away from his head, while the king himself wallowed between the two women as if he were in a pig-sty. They said to him: ‘Our nobles have sent us to you to ask you to come as quickly as possible to your proper seat, and not to scorn to be present at the joyful banquet of your chief men.’ But when the king did not want to rise, Dunstan, after first rebuking the folly of the women, drew him by his hand from his licentious reclining with them, replaced the crown on his head, and brought him with him to the royal assembly by force.

Like Jezabel of old, the elder Aelgifu now conceived a violent hatred for Dunstan and obtained the consent of the king to deprive him of all his honours and possessions, and to expel him from the kingdom. Dunstan’s friends and supporters were also persecuted. Aelgifu even sent secret agents to kill Dunstan before he could leave the country. But he eluded her grasp, and made a speedy passage to the continent. There he was kindly received by Count Arnulf of Flanders, staying in the Abbey of St. Peter in Ghent.

The saint did not cease to weep and groan day and night, thinking of his country and the spiritual condition of his monastery. One night, he dreamed that he was with a group of brethren as they were coming to the end of the Vespers psalms.

After the canticle, ‘My soul doth magnify the Lord’, they began to sing the antiphon from Job: ‘Why have ye disparaged his truthful words, and composed speeches to reprove him, and…’ At this point the chant stopped and they all fell silent; nor was he able to persuade them to complete either the words or the melody. Several times they went back to the same point in the chant, never did they say the last words.

And he, rebuking them in the same vision, said: ‘Why do you not want to end the antiphon with the words: “what ye have had in mind ye discharge”?’ Then came the Divine reply: ‘Because, I say, they will never discharge what they are striving for in their minds – to tear you away from the government of this monastery.’ Waking up, the saint gave thanks to God the Most High, his Comforter. And indeed, some of the people in the vision turned out later to have been plotting against him in secret.

King Edwig married the younger Aelgifu, although the union was within the forbidden degrees of kinship. As a result, the northern parts of the English kingdom, Mercia and Northumbria, rebelled against him, and chose his brother Edgar as their king. And in the next year Archbishop Oda dissolved his marriage. When Aelgifu tried to rejoin the king, she was caught by men from the north; they severed the muscles and sinews of her lower limbs, and she died in agony a few days later.

Finally, Edwig died, and when Edgar reunited the kingdom under his sole rule, he recalled Dunstan from exile… In the year 958 King Edgar ‘the Peaceable’ ascended the throne. In the same year St. Dunstan was made Bishop of Worcester. Then, in 959, he was transferred to the see of London. And in 960 he was elected Archbishop of Canterbury. The truly ‘symphonic’ cooperation of King Edgar and Archbishop Dunstan laid the foundation of a golden age in the history of the Anglo-Saxon Church. This age had been prophesied by a heavenly voice which St. Dunstan had heard in 943, at the birth of Edgar: ‘Peace to England as long as this child reigns, and our Dunstan survives.’

‘The succession of events,’ wrote William of Malmesbury, ‘was in unison with the heavenly oracle; to such an extent did ecclesiastical glory flourish and martial clamour decay while he was alive.’

However, the early part of Edgar’s reign was marred by his attempts to seduce two nuns of Wilton, St. Wulfhilda and Wulfrida, by the second of whom he had a daughter, St. Edith. For this he was placed on a penance by St. Dunstan, and was not allowed to wear his crown from his sixteenth to his thirtieth year. He accepted this penance humbly, and it is probably for this reason that his coronation did not take place until the year 973, in a ceremony in Bath Abbey which became the model for all future English coronations.

After Dunstan had been elected archbishop, he set off, like all English archbishops-elect, for Rome, to receive the pallium (omophorion) from the Pope. On the road he gave away all his provisions to the poor, which greatly irritated his servant. So when he asked him one day: ‘What do you have to sustain us tonight?’, the servant replied: ‘Absolutely nothing; for you have taken no care about it – you have given everything away, either to our own men or to strangers.’ Then the bishop said: ‘I ask you not to be too worried by this; for Christ our Lord is bountiful to all those who believe in Him.’ But the steward replied again: ‘Now you will see what your Christ will give you tonight – you who have squandered everything.’ And he continued scoffing as the saint went in search of a place to serve Vespers. His scoffing soon ceased, however, when they were met by messengers of an abbot who had been waiting for them for three days, and who now most charitably supplied the needs of the saint and his men for many days ahead.

On returning from Rome, Dunstan immediately set about spreading the monastic reforms which he had initiated at Glastonbury; and he found the king a willing helper in this holy task. Already, as Bishop of London, he had founded a small monastery of twelve monks at Westminster with St. Wulsin as abbot. Now he appointed his disciples Saints Oswald and Aethelwold, both zealous monks, to the sees of Worcester and Winchester respectively; and under their vigorous leadership the south of England was soon covered with Benedictine monasteries.

The saint cared for the people as a father for his children. One practical measure he introduced was to order gold or silver pegs to be fastened to the drinking jugs in taverns. This reminded people not to drink more than their just measure and greatly reduced drunkenness and quarrels.

He could be strict, too, when the occasion demanded it. Once three false coiners were caught and sentenced to have their hands cut off. On that day, which was the Feast of Pentecost, the saint was going to celebrate the Divine Liturgy; but he waited, asking whether the sentence on the coiners had been carried out. The reply came that the sentence had been deferred to another day out of respect for the feast. Then the saint said: ‘I shall on no account to the altar today until they have suffered the appointed penalty; for I am concerned in this matter.’ For the criminals were in his jurisdiction. As he spoke, tears gushed down his cheeks, witnessing to his love for the condemned men. But when they had been punished, he washed his face and went up to the altar, saying: ‘Now I am confident that the Almighty will accept the Sacrifice from my hands.’

Once the saint was rapt up to Heaven in a vision, and saw his mother being married to a great king amidst the joyful chanting of the heavenly hosts. After this had continued for some time, one of the chanters, a young man clothed in a shining white garment, came up to Dunstan and said: ‘How is it that you see and hear this multitude glorifying the great King, while you, who ought to be especially joyful at the marriage of your mother, remain silent?’ Dunstan replied that he did not know the chants that were being sung, nor did he know how he could glorify the King.

The young man said: ‘Do you wish me to instruct you how to chant?’ When Dunstan humbly replied that he did, the young man taught him the antiphon: ‘O King and Lord of all nations, for the sake of the throne of Thy majesty grant unto us the forgiveness of our sins, O Christ our King. Alleluia.’ This antiphon was repeated several times in the vision until it was firmly established in the saint’s memory. And immediately he awoke he ordered a monk to write down what he had so recently learned. Then he commanded all those in obedience to him, both monks and clergy, to learn it. Thus did the saint learn to glorify with chants and spiritual songs the marriage between Christ and His Mother, the Holy Church.

On another occasion the king asked the saint to postpone the beginning of the Divine Liturgy until he had returned from hunting. The third hour was approaching, and the man of God was standing clad in his hierarchical garments, immersed in tearful prayer. Suddenly he fell into a light slumber and was rapt up to Heaven, where he heard the angels singing; ‘Kyrie eleison, Christe eleison, Kyrie eleison.’

Coming to himself, he asked whether the king had arrived. The answer was that he had not. Again he prayed, and again he was rapt up to Heaven, where he heard the last words of the Liturgy being pronounced in a high voice. At that moment some clergy ran up to him and told him that the king had arrived. But he replied that he had already been present at the Liturgy, and would not be present at or celebrate it again that day. On being asked why, he revealed to them his vision, after which he forbade the king to hunt again on the Lord’s Day. Then he taught the clergy the ‘Kyrie eleison’ which he had heard in the heavens.

Once a nobleman entered into an uncanonical marriage. When he refused to renounce it, Dunstan excommunicated him. The earl then went to Rome, where he obtained from the Pope a written order to the archbishop compelling him to allow the marriage. But Dunstan, as his name {‘firm rock’} implied, was firm as a rock: ‘I am not to be moved,’ he said, ‘even by the threat of death, from the authority of my Lord.’ In this way the saint demonstrated his truly Orthodox consciousness and freedom from the papist heresy that sought to place the Pope’s authority above that of the Universal Church. Nor did the king try to persuade him to disobey the King of kings and Lord of lords, Jesus Christ. And so the nobleman came to repentance, and appeared before Dunstan barefoot and with a candle in his hand; whereupon he was released from his ban.

Now in the capital city of Winchester opposition arose against the monastic reforms which St. Aethelwold, backed by St. Dunstan, was introducing. The secular clergy decided to refer the matter to the king, who in turn referred it to the saint.

Dunstan then asked the king to convene a council in Winchester, which met in the refectory of the Old Minster in the presence of the king and queen, the nobles, monks and clergy. The final decision was announced by St. Dunstan: ‘This Old Minster was founded as a habitation for monks. Let those who benefit from its revenues henceforth live as true monks.’ It is said that during the council, when the possibility of restoring the secular clergy to the Old Minster was being discussed, a cross spoke fro the wall: ‘Far be it from you! You have done well: to change again would be wrong.’

However, the secular party did not leave it at that. When King Edgar died in 975, and the throne passed to his young son Edward, a great storm arose against the monks in many parts of the country, and the secular clergy who had been expelled from the Old Minster used the council convened at Calne in 977 to renew their complaint. But Dunstan was not to be moved. ‘Since, in my old age,’ he said, ‘you exert yourselves in the stirring up of old quarrels, I confess that I refuse to give in, but commit the cause of His Church to Christ the Judge.’ His words were confirmed by God’s verdict. For as he spoke the house was suddenly shaken; the floor of the upper room in which they were assembly fell under their feet; and the enemies of the Church were thrown to the ground and crushed by the falling timber. Only the beam on which the saint was sitting did not move.

The climax of the troubles came with the murder of King Edward in 979. St.Dunstan was greatly saddened by the death of his beloved spiritual son, and, at the coronation of his half-brother, Aethelred, at Kingson, he prophesied great sorrow for the English people in the coming reign. The prophecy was exactly fulfilled after Dunstan’s death.

Further sorrows awaited him. In 984, St. Aethelwold and the Bishop of Rochester came to visit him in Canterbury. He received them with great joy; but when they were about to return to their sees, he burst into tears, and his weeping was so intense that he could hardly speak. The bishops were terrified by this unusual behaviour and asked him the reason. After a pause he replied: ‘I weep because I know that you will soon die.’ ‘Don’t prophesy such terrible things, most holy Father,’ they said, ‘for we shall not die, but shall see each other safe and sound another time.’ But Dunstan confirmed his previous words, saying: ‘What I have said will come to pass; for you will die to this world but live to God. Nor must you remain any longer in this life, but you will to God to reign with Him forever.’ The bishops returned to their sees, sobered by a pious fear of God. Within a few days they both reposed in peace.

As archbishop, Dunstan continued to care for the western monasteries which he had founded or restored. Once he came to the monastery at Bath, where he was charitably received by the brethren. After lunch, he was rapt up in a vision and saw one of the pupils of the nearby Glastonbury school being borne away into the heavens amidst a great host of the heavenly citizens. The next day, a certain Ceolwy came from Glastonbury to ask his blessing and seek his advice on certain problems to do with the monastery and the brethren. When the saint had given him his blessing, he asked him kindly whether everything was well with the brethren.

Ceolwy replied that everything was well, completely forgetting about the boy’s death. But Dunstan gently said: ‘I do not suppose that everything could be well for all of you if someone has died.’ Then Ceolwy replied: ‘Everything is well indeed,  except that one of our boys died yesterday at noon.’ ‘That is what I was saying,’ said the archbishop. ‘May his spirit rest in peace in accordance with the vision we have been granted.’

On another occasion he was staying at Glastonbury and walking with a certain monk called Elfsige near the western gates of the Old Church. Suddenly he heard a voice from heaven saying: ‘Come, Elfsige, come.’ Then, turning to the monk, he said: ‘Hurry, prepare yourself, brother; for today you have been called by the Lord to leave this world and go to Him.’ The prophecy was fulfilled a few days later.

The saint was constant in prayer and vigil, and when dawn broke he would often be seen applying himself to the correction of errors in manuscripts. During the day, he would give judgement between man and man, or resolve quarrels, or support widows, orphans and strangers in their necessities. He loved to tell stories from the lives of the saints (the martyrdom of St. Edmund was a particular favourite of his), speaking in both Latin and English. Everyone, including visitors from abroad, was enriched by his holy counsel. And during the Divine Liturgy he would pray with eyes and hands directed to Heaven and tears streaming down his cheeks.

But now it came for the man of God to go the way of all flesh.

On the eve of the Feast of the Ascension, 988, a priest of the saint’s monastic family at Canterbury, the future Bishop of Elmham, Elfgar ‘the Almsgiver’, had the following vision. Dunstan was sitting on his Episcopal throne, dictating canon law to a scribe. While he was intent on these things, a great host of heavenly beings was seen entering the church through all the entrances. They surrounded the bishop with their festal array and cried: ‘Rejoice, our Dunstan! If you are ready, come, join our fellowship as a most honoured member!’ But he said: ‘You know, holy spirits, that I must preach to the assembled people in the mother church and communicate them in the Holy Mysteries of the Lord. So I cannot possibly come.’ To which they replied: ‘Be ready to come to us on the Sabbath.’

On the Feast of the Ascension, the saint preached three sermons whose power and glow was wonderful. Then, having said farewell for the last time to his cathedral family, he suddenly felt weak and retired to his bed. And on the morning of the Sabbath, May 19, 988, when the Mattins hymns were finished, he told the brethren to come to him. In their presence he commended his spirit to God and received the Holy Mysteries, which had been celebrated on the holy table in his presence. Then, giving thanks to God, he began to chant the words of David: ‘He made a remembrance of His wondrous deeds; merciful and compassionate is the Lord; He hath given food to them that fear Him.’ With these words he rested in peace.

St. Dunstan was buried with great honour in Christchurch, Canterbury. Very soon, miracles were being wrought at his tomb.

A woman who had been blind for many years was healed after watching and praying at his tomb.

A priest was cured of paralysis at his tomb. But a little later, while he was celebrating and giving thanks to God and St. Dunstan, he said: ‘And if there had been no Dunstan, I should still have been cured.’ Immediately he was struck with his former paralysis, and died soon after.

A boy who had been dumb and lame from his birth was cured at the tomb of the saint. ‘Glory to God in the highest. Alleluia’ were his first words, and he continued to extol the miracle for the rest of his life.

A girl who had been blind from her birth was brought to the tomb of the saint by her mother. When her eyes were opened she leapt for joy and said: ‘Mother, what are these beautiful things which I see?’ ‘Do you see something, my darling?’ asked the mother. ‘A beautiful man commanded me to see these beautiful things,’ she said.

A certain German named Clement had been excommunicated for certain sins, and had been dragged from place to place for seven years, possessed by a demon.

Coming to the tomb of the saint, he attended the all-night vigil. At the response, ‘You see a miracle,’ he leapt up and vomited the demon out together with some blood.

In the year 1012, a controversy arose between the communities of Canterbury and Glastonbury as to which of them possessed the bones of the saint. The argument was finally settled in 1508, when Archbishop Wareham found the saint’s coffin at Canterbury with the inscription: ‘Here rests St. Dunstan’. The holy relics were found wrapped in linen and with a very fragrant odour, as of balsam, which testified to the heavenly glory of which the saint had been counted worthy.

St. Dunstan is commemorated on May 19.

Holy Father Dunstan, pray to God for us!

(Sources: W. Stubbs, Memorials of St. Dunstan, Rolls series, 1874, containing the earliest “Vita Dunstani” by Saxon priest B. (c. 1000) and the eleventh-century Lives by Abelard, Osbert and Edmer; William of Malmesbury, Gesta Regum Anglorum and Gesta Pontificum Anglorum and De Antiquitate Glastoniae Ecclesiae, 2; Eleanor Duckett, Saint Dunstan of Canterbury, London: Collins, 1955; David Farmer, The Oxford Dictionary of Saints, Oxford: The Clarendon Press, 1978, p. 112; Christopher Brooks, The Saxon and Norman Kings, London: Fontana, 1963, pp. 127-128; Andrew Prescott, The Benedictional of St. Aethelwold, London: The British Library, 2002, p. 3)



Our holy Mother Eanswythe was the only daughter of the pagan King Eadbald of Kent and the Christian Queen Emma, daughter of the king of the Franks. She was probably born around 614. From early childhood she renounced worldly pomp and sought to serve God alone. However, her father had other designs for her and urged her to marry. But Eanswythe firmly stuck to her purpose of becoming a nun. She told her father that if he was recommending to her an everlasting love and an immortal spouse, the fruit of marriage with whom would, while preserving her virginity, bring her endless joy, then she would willingly comply with his counsel. If, on the other hand, he was offering her a partnership in which love would be mingled with dislike, a human husband, children who would die, and all this at the cost of her virginity, then even the advice of her father would tell her to choose the better thing, unless he wished to strip himself of the title of father.

“For Mary,” she went on, “hath chosen the better part, which shall not be taken from her. Since, therefore, in human affairs the universal law of death prevails, I thirst for the embrace of a heavenly and immortal spouse. For Him do I preserve the flower of my virginity; if I love Him, I am chaste; if I touch Him, I am pure; if I embrace Him, I am a virgin! For the service of a spouse such as this, I beseech you, father, to build me a house of prayer!” And so, finally persuaded, King Eanbald built a church dedicated to Saints Peter and Paul within Folkestone fortress, and close to it a monastery with its own church for Eanswythe.

While the monastery was in the process of being built, a pagan Northumbrian prince came in person to ask for the hand of the holy virgin in marriage. Her father now wavered, and tried once more to persuade her to accept such a favourable offer.

However, Eanswythe’s mind was made up, and she thought of an excellent expedient whereby she might get rid of the unwelcome suitor. She took him to the unfinished building, and stopped before a beam that was too short for the place it was required to fill.

“This noble prince,” she said, “earnestly desires to have me, the handmaid of Christ, for his companion. He seeks me for his bride. Oh, what a foolish exchange, what hateful stupidity, what an unbearable loss, if I were to exchange heavenly things for earthly, everlasting joys for those which pass. Nevertheless, though this man is mortal and earthly, I will take him for husband if, through the power of his god, he can by prayer make this piece of wood as long as is required. If he cannot, then let him leave me alone.”

The prince was quite satisfied with this proposal, but though he prayed long to each of his gods in turn, it was of no avail, and, covered with confusion, he went away. Eanswythe then approached the beam, and at her prayer it immediately extended itself to the required length.

St. Eanswythe’s monastery was founded, according to tradition, in 630, being probably the earliest convent in Anglo-Saxon England. Eanswythe was not immediately made abbess, but a little later. Now it happened that water had to be carried from a spring a long way from the monastery. Abbess Eanswythe prayed, went to the spring, and, striking the rock with her crosier, bade the water follow her.

This it did, uphill and over rocks and streams, until it arrived at her monastery.

From that time on, the spring plentifully supplied the nuns with water. The holy virgin performed other miracles both before and after her death, including the restoring of sight to a blind woman and the release of a man possessed by a demon.

She died very young, probably on August 31, 640, after only ten years of monastic life.

The monastery was probably destroyed in the ninth century. In 927, King Athelstan gave the land on which it had been situated to the monks of Christchurch, Canterbury, calling it the place “where there was once a monastery and abbey of holy virgins, and where St. Eanswythe was buried.” On September 12, 1138, the relics of the saint were again translated to the church of Saints Mary and Eanswythe.

On June 17, 1885, her relics were discovered in a twelfth-century reliquary in the chancel wall of the church.

St. Eanswythe is commemorated on August 31.

Holy Mother Eanswythe, pray to God for us!

(Sources: Dame Eanswythe Edwards, Dame Eanswythe of Folkestone, 1980; the Bollandists, Acta Sanctorum, vol. 40, p. 685; David Farmer, The Oxford Dictionary of Saints, Oxford: The Clarendon Press, 1978, pp. 115-116)



Our holy Father Eata was one of twelve English boys educated by St. Aidan at Lindisfarne. He became a monk, and then abbot, of Melrose, and was, in the words of Simeon of Durham, “a man of exceeding gentleness”.

In 659, St. Eata left with St. Cuthbert, who was one of his monks, to found the monastery of Ripon on land given him by King Alcfrith of Deira. In 661 Eata and Cuthbert returned to Melrose rather than accept the Roman-Byzantine paschalion.

However, they changed their minds about the paschalion, and in 678 Eata was consecrated bishop of Bernicia. In 681 this diocese was divided into two, Lindisfarne and Hexham, and Eata ruled Lindisfarne from 681 to 685, appointing Cuthbert as superior of the monastery. In 685, when Bishop Tunbert of Hexham was deposed, Eata became bishop of Hexham while St. Cuthbert became bishop of Lindisfarne.

In 686 St. Eata died of dysentery, and was buried to the south of St. Wilfrid’s church at Hexham. A chapel was later built over his tomb. In the eleventh century his relics were translated into the church. In 1113, Archbishop Thomas II of York tried to obtain Eata’s relics for York, but the saint appeared to him in a dream and beat him with his pastoral staff.

St. Eata is commemorated on October 26.

Holy Father Eata, pray to God for us!

(Sources: Bede, Ecclesiastical History of the English People; Simeon of Durham, History of the Church of Durham; David Farmer, Oxford Dictionary of Saints, Clarendon Press, 1978, pp. 44-45, 116)



Our holy Mother Ebba was the daughter of King Ethelfrith of Northumbria, sister of the Martyr-King Oswald and half-sister of King Oswy. On her father’s death in 616, when the Martyr-King Edwin conquered Northumbria, she fled to Scotland with her brother. King Ednan of the Scots offered to marry her, but she decided instead to be tonsured as a nun by St. Finan, bishop of Lindisfarne. Then her brother King Oswy helped her to found a convent in Durham, on the river Derwent, at a place that is still called Ebchester in her honour. Later she became abbess of a double monastery at Coldingham, Berwickshire, where two distinct communities, one for men and one for women, lived. Her reputation for sanctity spread far and wide, and in 672, when St. Aethelthryth, Ebba’s niece, separated from her husband, King Edfrith, she became a nun under Ebba.

St. Ebba was famous for her wisdom. Once King Egfrith visited the monastery with his second wife Ermenburga, who was then seized with a sudden illness. St.Ebba interpreted this as punishment for the imprisonment of St. Wilfrid by the king, his refusal to accept the decision of the Synod of Whitby in 664 concerning the Roman-Byzantine Paschalion, and the theft of St. Wilfrid’s relics and reliquaries by Ermenburga. When Egrith released St. Wilfrid, and Ermenburga restored the relics, she soon recovered.

Once the priest Adomnan had a vision concerning the future of St. Ebba’s monastery. He prophesied that the time was soon coming when the whole monastery would be consumed by fire. When Ebba heard this, she asked the priest to describe his vision to her. He replied: “Being busy one night lately in watching and singing psalms, I on a sudden saw a person unknown standing by me, and since I was startled at his presence, he bade me not to fear, and speaking to me a familiar manner, “‘You do well,’ he said, ‘in that you spend this night-time of rest, not in giving yourself up to sleep, but in watching and prayer.’

“I answered: ‘I know I have great need of wholesome watching, and earnest praying to our Lord to pardon my transgressions.’

“‘You are right,’ he replied, ‘for you and many more do need to redeem their sins by good works, and when they cease from labouring about temporal affairs, then to labour the more eagerly for the desire of heavenly goods. But this very few do. For I have now visited the whole of this monastery regularly, and have looked into every one’s chambers and beds, and found none of them except yourself busy about the car of his soul, but all of them, both men and women, either indulge themselves in slothful sleep, or are awake in order to commit sin; for even the cells that were built for praying or reading are now converted into places of feasting, drinking, talking and other delights. The very virgins dedicated to God, laying aside the respect due to their profession, whenever they are at leisure, apply themselves to weaving fine garments, either to use in adorning themselves like brides, to the danger of their condition, or to gain the friendship of strange men. For this reason a heavy judgement from heaven is deservedly about to fall on this place and its inhabitants by devouring fire.'” The abbess said: “Why did you not sooner acquaint me with what you knew?” He answered: “I was afraid to do it, out of respect for you, lest you should be too afflicted. Yet you may have this comfort, that the calamity will not happen in your lifetime.”

When this vision was made known, the nuns corrected themselves out of fear for a few days. Moreover, at the abbess’s request, the famous St. Cuthbert, bishop of Lindisfarne, visited the monastery for a few days and “confirmed, by his life and conversation, the way of truth which he taught”. However, after the abbess’s death on August 25, 683, the nuns returned to their former evil ways; and three years later, the monastery was burned to the ground.

Miracles were wrought through St. Ebba’s intercession, and it is recorded that she appeared to Christians after her death.

St. Ebba is commemorated on August 25.

Holy Mother Ebba, pray to God for us!

(Sources: The Venerable Bede, Ecclesiastical History of the English People, IV, 19, 25; Life of St. Cuthbert, 10; David Farmer, The Oxford Dictionary of Saints, Clarendon Press, 1978, pp. 116-117; J.H. Newman, The Lives of the English Saints, London, 1901, volume 4, pp. 271-285)



The tenth-century Resting Place of the Saints records St. Edburga as “resting at Southwell-on-Trent. She is probably to be identified with the Edburga, abbess of Repton, who is mentioned in Felix’s Life of St. Guthlac. She lived around the year 700.

Holy Mother Edburga, pray to God for us!

(Sources: Felix, Life of St. Guthlac; David Hugh Farmer, The Oxford Dictionary of Saints, Oxford University Press, 1987, p. 128)



Our holy Mother Edburga was born early in the tenth century, being the daughter of King Edward the Elder of England and his third wife Eadgifu, and the granddaughter of King Alfred the Great and his wife Ealswythe.

When she was still a girl, her father showed her a couch on which were laid a chalice and Gospels on one side, and bracelets and necklaces on the other. When asked which she preferred, she turned her back on the worldly baubles and chose the holy things. Her father rejoiced, and blessed her to become a nun at the convent of the Mother of God in Winchester known as Nunnaminster, which her grandmother had founded and which her father had completed. So the saint was handed over to Abbess Aethelthryth to be educated in the monastic life and the Holy Scriptures.

Once the prioress found one of her nuns reading alone, which was against the monastic rule. She began beating the offender, but was then shocked to see that it was the king’s daughter, Edburga. She prostrated herself at the saint’s feet, asking her forgiveness. But then the saint, not wishing to be made an exception to the monastic rule because of her birth, herself prostrated herself at the other’s feet.

Edburga had the custom of secretly cleaning the other nuns’ shoes at night. The nuns wondered who it was, and eventually one discovered that it was the saint’s work. She was brought before the monastic community, who said to her: “It is unseemly for a royal child to bow her neck to such humble service and to set about the work of a common slave; it is harmful to the dignity of her illustrious birth.”

A little later, King Edward came to Winchester and discreetly asked about his daughter’s progress. The nuns praised her, but were afraid to mention this incident: “Still they wavered and trembled, fearing to relate that deed which was detestable to all, lest they be struck down by the king’s anger.” But the king ordered them to say what was on their minds. They were relieved to learn that he was not at all upset by his daughter’s humility, but rather encouraged it.

Once the community was in considerable hardship and had very little to eat. The nuns asked Edburga to intercede with her father. Now it happened that two soldiers, Alla and Muluca, had disgraced themselves brawling over an estate called Canaga – probably All Cannings in Wiltshire. A council decreed that the soldiers should be punished by the forfeiture of this property to the king. The nuns told Edburga that this estate perfectly suited their needs, so Edburga agreed to bring the subject up with her father. An opportunity arose when the king made another visit to Nunnaminster and asked his daughter to sing an Alleluia. She at first refused out of shyness, but when the king offered her a reward if she sang, she did not refuse his request. And afterwards she asked her father to give the monastery the estate of All Cannings. Her father willingly agreed to give the estate to the monastery in perpetuity.

St. Edburga was an exemplary nun in all ways. She was also very given to almsgiving to the poor. And the Lord granted her the gift of healing.

Thus there was a blind woman in the province who was told during a nocturnal vision that if she put water that Edburga had used in washing her hands on her eyes, she would be healed. So she went to the monastery and told the nuns about her vision. They gave her water from the hands of the saint, and she immediately recovered her sight.

According to one ancient source, thirty one years elapsed between the death of King Alfred and the death of St. Edburga. If King Alfred died in 901, as this source suggests, then St.Edburga would have died in 932.


St. Edburga is commemorated on June 15 and July 18.

Holy Mother Edburga, pray to God for us!

(Sources: Osbert of Clare, Vita Edburge; William of Malmesbury, Gesta Pontificum Anglorum, II, 78; Susan J. Ridyard, The Royal Saints of Anglo-Saxon England, Cambridge University Press; Bodleian Library MS 451; David Farmer, The Oxford Dictionary of Saints, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1978, p. 118)



Our holy Father Edgar was born in 943, the son of King Edmund and the grandson of St. Aelgifu. He succeeded to the throne after the death of his brother Edwy in 959, having already been elected king of Mercia and Northumbria in 957.

His early life was marred by sin, which is why St. Dunstan, archbishop of Canterbury did not allow him to wear his crown from the beginning of his reign until he was thirty years old. Accepting this penance with humility, St. Edgar was crowned for a second time in Bath Abbey in 973, when he accepted the allegiance of rulers in Wales, Scotland and the Danelaw.

St. Edgar’s reign marked the peak of the English Orthodox monarchy. The king worked very closely with the Church and helped in the foundation of about thirty monasteries. He passed just laws, and maintained the peace, hence his name: “Edgar the Peaceable”.

St. Edgar died in 975, and was buried at Glastonbury. In 1052, when his tomb was opened, his body was found to be incorrupt and emitted blood.

St. Edgar is commemorated on July 8.

Holy Father Edgar, pray to God for us!

(Sources: William of Malmesbury, Gesta Regum, Gesta Pontificum Anglorum; Lives of several tenth-century saints; David Farmer, The Oxford Dictionary of Saints, Oxford: The Clarendon Press, 1978, pp. 119-120)



Our holy mother Edith was the daughter of King Egbert of Wessex, the sister of King Aethelwulf of Wessex, and the aunt of King Alfred the Great. Polesworth was one of two towns or estates granted by Aethelwulf to St. Modwenna for the founding of monasteries. Edith became the first abbess. She died on March 15, 871.

Our holy Mother Edith was the eldest daughter of King Edward the Elder and Queen Egwena, and sister of St. Edburga of Winchester and King Athelstan. In 925, according to Roger of Wendover, King Athelstan joined his sister in marriage to the Danish King Sihtric (or Sigfric) of Northumbria, who then converted to Christianity for the love of the beautiful Edith. However, not long after he abandoned both Edith and Christianity and returned to the worship of the idols, dying one year later in apostasy. Edith, “having preserved her chastity, remained strong in good works to the end of her life, at Polesworth, in fasts and vigils, in prayers and in zeal for almsgiving. She departed after the passage of a praiseworthy life from this world on 15 July, at the same place, where to this day Divine miracles do not cease to be performed.”

Some think that these two Ediths were one and the same person. One of them died at Tamworth, where she built a monastery.

Holy Mothers Edith and Edith, pray to God for us!

(Sources: Roger of Wendover, Flores Historiarum; Donald Attwater, The Penguin Dictionary of Saints, London: Penguin, 1965, p. 109; Agnes Dunbar, A Dictionary of Saintly Women, 1904,,



Our holy Mother Edith was born in the tenth century in Kemsing, Kent, of an illicit union between King Edgar and the daughter of an earl of royal blood, Wulfrida. Edgar wished to make Wulfrida his queen, but she fled to the convent of Wilton, where she received the monastic tonsure from St. Aethelwold, bishop of Winchester.

Soon Wulfrida came to excel in virtue, and she was chosen to be the spiritual mother of the convent. Edith was brought up in the convent under her mother’s supervision, and at length she, too, was tonsured with her father’s consent. In the convent she learned writing, drawing, sewing and embroidery, and was taught by the two foreign chaplains, Radbod of Rheims and Benno of Trèves. She was also influenced by the holy example of her namesake and paternal aunt, Edith of Polesworth, and by her grandmother, St. Aelgifu.

St. Edith was distinguished by her abstinence, even of feastdays, and by her love for the poor, the lepers, the blind and the maimed. She dressed in beautiful clothes, but wore a hairshirt next to her skin. Not realizing this secret asceticism, St.Aethelwold once said to her: “My daughter, it is not with such vestments that one goes to the bridal chamber of Christ. Nor does the Heavenly Bridegroom delight in the external beautifying of the body.” She replied: “Believe me, Father, with God’s help the mind is no worse under this covering than under a goatskin. I have my Lord Who looks not so much at my clothes as at my mind.” The man of God sensed the grace in her words, and did not further reproach her.

Now a serving-woman once left a half-extinguished candle in a chest full of the virgin’s clothes. Having bolted the chest, she went away. Soon the smouldering candle generated a dangerous fire in the bedroom, and the wall caught fire. It was night and everyone was asleep; but the unsleeping Providence of God roused the sisters, who came running and tried to break open the chest. They pulled out the burning clothes and extinguished the flames. But when they examined the clothes carefully, they were astonished to see that they were all completely untouched. All this time Edith had been tranquil, her mind fixed on Christ. The scorched chest was kept in the monastery as a witness to the miracle.

Wherever Edith went, the Cross of Christ was her companion. She made the sign of the Cross on her forehead and chest before every work and while travelling. Once, as she was giving food to the poor, as was her custom, a boy ran up from the side and asked for alms. She gave them to him, making the sign of the Cross at the same time. Immediately the boy vanished into thin air – a demonic phantom destroyed by the power of the Cross.

When King Edgar died in 975, and Edith’s half-brother Edward ascended the throne, she had a vision in which she saw the young king’s right eye fall out.

Relating this to the sisters, she said: “It seems to me that this portends the death of my brother.” And so it turned out.

After the martyrdom of her brother, some nobles wanted to maker her queen. But she refused… Although she was the daughter of a king, St. Edith refused all honours, preferring to serve the sisters in the most humble capacities, like Martha. She was also noted for her familiarity with wild animals.

Edith had a great devotion to St. Dionysius the Areopagite, and had a wooden church built in his name adjoining the main church of the monastery. It had three entrances with the Cross inscribed over each. The interior was covered by multicoloured frescoes painted by the chaplain Benno. When the church was completed, Edith invited St. Dunstan, archbishop of Canterbury, to consecrate it. During his visit, he saw the holy virgin extend the thumb and two fingers of her right hand to make the sign of the Cross. Delighted by this, he took her right hand and said: “May this thumb never perish!” A little later, during the celebration of the Divine Liturgy, the holy man broke into tears. When the deacon asked him why he was weeping, he said: “This soul beloved of God, this heavenly jewel, will be taken from this miserable life and earthly filth to the land of the saints. Nor is this shameful world worthy of such a great light. Fortythree days from now this brilliant star will depart from us. Behold how the lights of the saints are taken from this our prison while we sit in the darkness and shadow of death. Her immature age condemns our slothful senility, and while we sleep, she enters into the marriage with her lamp full of oil, and takes the beauty of the crown before us. Now you are going to a better age, O blessed citizen of the Heavenly Jerusalem Edith, and you are leaving thy father in sadness, O daughter.” Then he urged the deacon to keep silent about what he had said. After the service he told Edith to prepare to meet Christ with her lamp burning with oil and without looking at any worldly things; for Christ was calling her, and soon she would leave this world. At length, having given her his blessing, he left; and the appointed day drew near.

And so, on the third day after the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross, after receiving the Body and Blood of Christ from the hands of St. Dunstan, the holy Edith commended her soul into the hands of the Lord. She reposed in the church of St.Dionysius. Meanwhile, a certain sister ran into the main monastery from the church saying that she had heard what seemed to be great multitude chanting psalms. And as she was listening, someone with a beautiful face and shining clothes came up to her and said: “Don’t come closer, for the holy angels are about to take the girl Goda [a version of Edith’s Saxon name, ‘Ead-gythe’] to the eternal joys, so that, accompanied by this melody of the heavenly hosts, she may enter into the courts of eternal joy.”

Thus in the twenty-third year of her life, on September 16, 984, St. Edith went to Christ. And St. Dunstan buried her in the church of St. Dionysius, which she had herself constructed, and of which she had once said: “This is the place of my rest,” weeping all the while. Thousands of paupers were fed, and everywhere funeral liturgies were celebrated at the request of her mother. Moreover, she built a guesthouse in the yard of the monastery where twelve paupers were fed daily, a custom initiated by Edith herself.

On the thirtieth day after her repose, the saint appeared to her mother, radiant and joyful, and said that she had been accepted by her King into everlasting glory.

“Satan accused me in the presence of my Lord,” she said, “but by the prayers of the holy apostles I crushed his head, and by the Cross of the Lord Jesus I overthrew him and trampled on him.”

On that same day there was born a little girl, whose parents had asked Edith before her death to receive her from the holy font. She said: “I shall receive her in the manner that is pleasing to God.” But since Edith was born into the heavenly world before this girl into the earthly, she was brought into the church without a sponsor, and was baptized by St. Aelfheah, St. Aethelwold’s successor in the see of Winchester. Then, in accordance with the custom of the Church, he gave her a candle, saying: “Receive this light, with which you will enter into the marriage of the Lord.” Suddenly, as if Edith were holding her little hand, she took the candle and held it. The man of God understood this to be a prophecy of her election by God, and immediately asked the parents: “Bring this girl up as one who is betrothed to God alone, and after she has been weaned bring her to the monastery.” This girl was called Brihtgiva, and later became abbess of St. Edith’s monastery at Wilton, reposing in holiness in 1065.

Then St. Edith began to show by signs and wonders that she was a citizen of the heavens and was accessible to the prayers of supplicants.

Now her tomb was covered with a shining white pall. One day, a woman who had been left alone there took a small part of this pall, wrapped it round her shinbone and stole away. But then a Divine shackle fettered the fugitive and fixed her leg to the ground so that she could not cross the threshold with her loot. She struggled for a long time in this condition until the sacristan came and ordered her to leave.

But the guilty woman remained rooted to the spot, deathly white, trembling and groaning. Then, however, she took the pall from her leg and handed it back, saying: “This bound me.” Immediately she was able to walk again and left. Many witnessed this miracle and praised God. And Edith’s mother was comforted in her distress.

Three years after her repose, St. Edith appeared to St. Dunstan and said: “The Lord in remembrance of His mercies has taken me up, and it has pleased His ineffable goodness that for the salvation of the faithful I should be honoured among men on earth in the same way that He has caused me to be honoured among the angels in heaven. So go to Wilton in obedience to the Divine command, and take up my body from the earth. Doubt not, and do not think that you are being deluded by some phantom; for this will be a sign of the truth of my words: except for those members of my body which I abused through childish frivolity, such as my eyes, hands and feet, you will find the rest of my body incorrupt. For I never knew lust or gluttony. And the thumb of my right hand, with which I used to make the sign of the Cross assiduously, you will also find incorrupt, so that the mercy of the Lord may appear in the part that has been preserved, and His Fatherly correction in the part that has been consumed.” Dunstan set off for Wilton, and when he was spending the night nearby at Sarum, he was taken in a vision to the tomb of the holy virgin, where lo! He clearly saw St. Dionysius standing at the altar together with the virgin Edith, resplendent in dazzling light. She then said to Dionysius: “You know, O father, what is pleasing to God in regard to me. Therefore, as the interpreter of the Divine counsel, and legate of the Divine will, tell this man who has come by what faith and authority I have invited him here.” St. Dionysius said: “Give heed, brother, to the vision you have just seen. What this beloved lady has just said is true. For she who deserved to be crowned among the citizens of heaven is worthy of the veneration of those on earth. Worthy of honour is this body, this temple of virginal chastity, in which the Lord and King of glory, the Lover of chastity, reigned. Such veneration which is pleasing to Christ is necessary for mortals.” Therefore the holy body was raised from the earth on November 3, 987, and everything was found as had been foretold.

Once a certain Glastonbury monk named Edulph was cutting away from the holy body a piece of cloth which had been carelessly wrinkled. At the same time he struck the holy body with his scissors. Immediately blood gushed out as if from a cut vein, and poured onto the clothes and pavement. The rash brother was terrified, and, abandoning the scissors as well as the holy body, he fell on his face confessing his crime and weeping tears of repentance. When he rose the blood had completely disappeared… Again, a sister was trying to cut away a part of the ribbon which was on the holy head. But she was prevented from doing this in a wonderful way. For the head raised itself as if alive and gave her a threatening look.

Some clerics from Brittany came to Wilton bearing with them the relics of St. Iwi, the hierodeacon and disciple of St. Cuthbert, who had spent the last years of his life in Brittany. They placed them with honour on the monastery’s altar. But when they wanted to leave, the holy relics stuck to the altar and could not be moved by any means. The foreigners wept, cried, rent their clothes and tore their hair, but to no avail. At length, Abbess Wulfrid consoled them with a gift of 2000 solidi, and they went sadly home.

A certain man who had stolen a piece of land belonging to St. Edith was apparently taken by sudden death without repentance. A little later he sat up in his coffin and said: “Help me, my friends, help me, all of you God’s faithful. Behold the intolerable wrath of St. Edith prevents this unhappy soul of mine from entering any part of heaven or earth. Nowhere does she allow the invader of her property to abide, neither to remain in this body nor to die.” But when the land that he had stolen was restored, he immediately breathed out his spirit.

Once King Canute was at Wilton for the feast of Pentecost. As he was eating, he kept laughing, declaring that he did not believe that Edith was a saint in view of the lustful habits of her father. Archbishop Ethelnoth contradicted him, and immediately opened the tomb of the holy virgin. And she, sitting up in the coffin, was seen to attack the abusive king. Then he, petrified, fell to the earth as if dead. At length, recovering his breath, he blushed and asked forgiveness for his rudeness; and from that moment he held the saint in great honour.

Once the same king was in trouble at sea. When he called on the name of St.Edith, the storm was suddenly stilled and he arrived safely at his chosen port. A similar miracle happened to Archbishop Aldred of York when he was sailing on the Adriatic Sea. Having called upon her name, she appeared to him visibly and said: “I am Edith”. Immediately the sea became calm.

St. Edith is commemorated on September 16 and November 3.

Holy Mother Edith, pray to God for us!

(Sources: Goscelin, Life of St. Edith, P.L., Paris, 1850, vol. 155, pp. 111-116; A. Wilmart, “La Légende de Ste. Edith en Prose et Vers pars le Moine Goscelin”, Analecta Bollandiana, 1938, LVI, pp. 5-101, 265-307; Donald Attwater, The Penguin Dictionary of Saints, London: Penguin, 1965, p. 109; David Farmer, The Oxford Dictionary of Saints, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1978, p. 120)



and those with him

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 Aethelbert (+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 riverbed, 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 valour. 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 Aethelred 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.

140 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 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 lit up the sky, he calmly vested himself for the Divine Liturgy, which he celebrated with the assistance of Deacon Alfget, Subdeacon Savin and Monks Aethelred 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.Aethelthryth (+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, counselled 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 to the 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 blood 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 counselled 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. John 12.50).”

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 915 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 Anglia 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 Christ 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 honour 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 laboured 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 labour. 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 to serve 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 Aethelred 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 Aethelwine. In 1010, relates Abbot Sampson, when the Danes were ravaging East Anglia, St. Edmund’s earthly kingdom, the saint appeared to Aethelwine 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 Aethelwine 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 Aethelwine 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, Aethelwine 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, Aethelwine 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 Aethelwine 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 clamour 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 Aethelwine 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 Aethelwine, had gone, he hasteneed 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, then twenty-four. But after much sweat and labour 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 Aethelwine 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 Aethelwine 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 Aethelwine 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 Aethelwine 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, Aethelwine 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, Aethelwine 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 neighbours, 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 Aethelwine 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 on the feast of the Meeting of the Lord (Candlemas, as it is called in the West), 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 twoedged 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) St. Edmund is commemorated on November 20 and April 29.

Holy Martyr-King Edmund, pray to God for us!

(Sources: Abbot Aelfric, Passio Sancti Eadmundi; Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, E, 870, 1013; Nova Legende Anglie, Appendix II, pp. 596-602; Rev. J.B. Mackinlay, Saint Edmund King and Martyr, London, 1893; David Farmer, The Oxford Dictionary of Saints, Oxford: The Clarendon Press, 1978, pp. 120-122)



The holy King Edward was born near the beginning of the eleventh century. His father was the English King Aethelred, and his mother – the Norman princess Emma. When Queen Emma was pregnant with him, “all of the men of the country,” as his earliest, anonymous biographer records, “took an oath that if a man child should come forth as the fruit of her labours, they would await in him their lord and king who would rule over the whole race of the English.”

In spite of this promise, Edward’s claim to the throne was laid aside in favour of those of Aethelred’s six sons by an earlier marriage – in particular, Edmund Ironside, who became king in 1015 and was killed in the same years, and the Danish King Canute’s sons by Aelgifu of Northampton (Harold I) and Queen Emma (Hardacanute). It must therefore have seemed a great miracle to his contemporaries that Edward should finally, when already in middle age, have succeeded to the throne of his fathers, reigning in peace for another twenty-four years. It must have seemed, moreover, that God was taking pity on His people again after the heavy chastisement of the Danish yoke (1016-1042); for, as the anonymous biographer writes, “just as a father, after chastising his children, is a peace with them again, shows himself a soothing comforter, so God’s loving kindness, sparing the English after the heavy weight of his rebuke, showed them a flower preserved from the root of their ancient kings, and both gave them the strength and fired their minds to seek this flower for the kingdom as well as for their salvation.”

When Edward was still in his cradle, he was brought to the monastery of Ely by his parents, “and was offered,” according to the monastery’s chronicler, “above the holy altar… Moreover, as the elders of the church who were present and saw it used to tell, he was brought up there in the monastery with the boys for a long time, learning the psalms and hymns of the Lord with them.”

Some have doubted whether an English king could have been dedicated his son to a life of monastic chastity in this way. But he was not regarded as the immediate heir: in the charters of the latter period of Aethelred’s reign, his name is added at the bottom of the list of princes. Moreover, so close were the links between the English royal family and the monasteries that both Kings Edgar and Edward the Martyr were brought up by monks, while the daughters of Kings Alfred and Edward the Elder, and the sister of Edward the Martyr, were dedicated as nuns. It is therefore not impossible that the future King Edward was brought up by monks, at least until the royal family was forced to flee to Normandy in 1013. And his later virginal life, even in marriage, is certainly not inconsistent with a vow made by his parents when he was only a child.

The fruits of the boy’s pious upbringing were soon evident. On February 2, 1014, King Swein of Denmark was miraculously killed by St. Edmund while he was ravaging East Anglia. This event was made known by revelation to Prince Edward, although he was only a boy of twelve at the time.

But when Edward had this revelation, his father King Aethelred and the whole of the royal family were in exile in Normandy, expelled by their subjects, who had been exasperated by his failed policies against the Danes, and especially by the fruitless payment of ever larger amounts of tax, the Danegeld. Archbishop Wulfstan of York saw in this and other betrayals the root cause of the people’s failure to repel the pagan Danes: “For there are here in the land great disloyalties towards God and towards the state, and there are also many here in the country who are betrayers of their lords in various ways. And the greatest betrayal in the world of one’s lord is that a man betray his lord’s soul; and it is also a very great betrayal of one’s lord in the world, that a man should plot against his lord’s life or, living, drive him from the land; and both have happened in this country. They plotted against Edward [the Martyr] and then killed him… Many are forsworn and greatly perjured, and pledges are broken over and again; and it is evident in this nation that the wrath of God violently oppresses us…” The English repented and recalled their king from exile. However, on April 23, 1016, he died “after a life of much hardship and many difficulties. Then, after his death, all the councillors of England chose Edmund [Ironside, his eldest son by his first wife] as king, and he defended his kingdom valiantly during his lifetime.”

The seven short months of Edmund’s reign are among the most dramatic in English history, matched only by the nine months of Harold Godwinson’s in 1066.

The pattern of events, moreover, was very similar to that later drama: great extremes of heroism and treachery, culminating in the crucifixion of a conquered country.

Thus immediately after the witan proclaimed Edmund king in London, the bishops and chief men of Wessex assembled and unanimously elected Canute, the son of King Swein, as king. Meeting him at Southampton, writes Florence of Worcester, “they repudiated and renounced in his presence all the race of Aethelred, and concluded peace with him, swearing loyalty to him, and he also swore to them that he would be a loyal lord to them in affairs of Church and state.”

Undeterred by this treachery to the ancient royal dynasty that had served England so well, King Edmund raised no less than five armies against the Danes, and was finally killed, on November 30, not by a Dane, but by the ubiquitous traitor of his father’s reign. He was buried beside his grandfather, King Edgar the Peaceable, at Glastonbury. And so the whole of England passed into the hands of Canute the Dane… The young Prince Edward, lover of monasticism though he was, had shown great valour as a warrior in this period. Thus we read in a Scandinavian source that, during a battle for London between the English and the Danes, “Thorkel the Tall had taken the one part of the town; many of his host had fallen there. Then Earl Thorkel the Tall went to King Canute to win the other part of the town, and as luck would have it, just saved his life, for Edward, King Aethelred’s son, struck at that time a blow which men have held in memory in after days. Thorkel thrust Canute off his horse, but Edward smote asunder the saddle and the horse’s back. After that, however, the brothers had to take to flight, and Canute exulted in his victory, and thanked King Olaf for his help.”

Canute was to become an exemplary defender of the Church; but at the beginning of his reign he acted like the inveterate pagan that he still was, inflicting the last and largest ever Danegeld tax on the nation, while disposing of all his possible political opponents. Thus Prince Edwy, St. Edward’s half-brother, was killed, while his brothers Edward and Edmund were sent “to the king of the Swedes to be killed.”

The Swedish king, however, was a Christian, baptized by the English missionary bishop St. Sigfrid. So he would not acquiesce in Canute’s demand, in spite of the treaty he had with him. Instead, “he sent them to the king of the Hungarians, Solomon by name, to be preserved and brought up there…” To avoid the same fate, St. Edward and his brother Alfred were forced to return to Normandy.

Soon the princes had another shock. In July, 1017 King Canute married Emma, King Aethelred’s widow. To her sons in exile in Normandy it must have come as a shock that their mother should marry the conqueror of their country and the murderer of their brothers, while letting them languish alone in exile. This may explain, at least in part, the difficult relations King Edward had with his mother at the beginning of his reign.

Now on the death of King Canute, the throne of England passed to his son by Aelgifu of Northampton, Harold, while Denmark was ruled by his son by Queen Emma, Hardacanute. Initially, Emma hoped that her son Hardacanute would become king; and, supported by the powerful Earl Godwin of Wessex, she even had coins struck in Hardacanute’s name at her base in Winchester, while the coins in currency north of the Thames bore Harold’s name. However, when it became clear that he was not going to come to England from Denmark, she turned to her sons in Normandy. She wrote to them to leave Normandy and join her at Winchester.

Edward came first, but was forced to return after a battle in the Southampton area.

Then came his brother Alfred.

The murder of Prince Alfred – probably by Earl Godwin – was one of the excuses William of Normandy used for the invasion of 1066. The years which followed the murder, until Alfred’s brother Edward ascended the throne, were among the most wretched in English Orthodox history. The Danish rule, which had been tolerable under Canute, now became an oppressive yoke. In 1038 Archbishop Athelnoth “the Good” died, followed, seven days later, by Bishop Athelric of Selsey: “for he had besought God that he should not live long in this world after the death of his most beloved father, Athelnoth.” In the next two years these losses were compounded by the deaths of Bishops Alfric of Elmham, Beorhtheah of Worcester, Beorhtmaer of Lichfield and Edmund of Durham, who were succeeded by men of much lower spiritual stature. Thus to York came Alfric Puttoc, or the Hawk, who was angry when, in 1038, the vacant see of Worcester was not also given to him, as it had been, by an exceptional measure, to two of his predecessors. Instead the king gave it to a favourite of Godwin’s, Lifing of Crediton, who now held three sees simultaneously.

Nor was this the only case of sees held in plurality or through simony. Elmham was given to a king’s chaplain, Stigand (later archbishop of Canterbury). “But he was afterwards ejected, and Grimcetel was elected for gold, and held then two dioceses.”

However, as the spiritual atmosphere darkened, a revelation was given to one of the last of the holy bishops – Brihtwald of Ramsbury. He was once weeping over the plight of the people, “and asked,” records King Edward’s anonymous biographer, “that God’s mercy should look favourably upon them. At that time he passed the watches of his weeping in the monastery of Glastonbury, and weary after so many tears the man of God fell asleep. When lo! In the Holy of Holies he saw the blessed Peter, the first of the Apostles, consecrate the image of a seemly man as king, mark out for him a life of chastity, and set the years of his reign by a fixed reckoning of his life. And when the king even at this juncture asked him of the generations to come who would reign in the kingdom, Peter answered, ‘The kingdom of the English is of God; and after you he has already provided a king according to His will.’” The “seemly man” marked out for a life of chastity was King Edward. And the prophecy began to be fulfilled when King Harold’s successor Hardacanute died suddenly while drinking at a marriage feast in 1042. Supported by the most powerful man in the realm, Earl Godwin, Prince Edward was recalled from exile.

And so Edward was consecrated king of England in London at Pascha, 1043. “Great was the joy that the English had,” writes an early French chronicler. “For the Danes had held them cheap, and often humiliated them. If a hundred of them met a single Dane, it would go badly for them if they did not bow to him. And if they met upon a bridge, they waited; it went badly for them if they moved before the Dane had passed. As they passed, they made obeisance, and whoever failed to do this was shamefully beaten if caught. So cheap were the English held. So much did the Danes insult them.”

The long years of exile in Normandy seem to have wrought a profound change in the former fiery warrior of London Bridge. He was a man, writes William of Malmesbury, “from the simplicity of his manners, little calculated to govern, but devoted to God, and in consequence directed by Him; for while he continued to reign, there arose no popular commotions which were not immediately quelled.

There was no foreign war; all was calm and peaceable, both at home and abroad, which is the more an object of wonder, because he conducted himself so mildly that he would not even utter a word of reproach to the meannest person…. In the meantime, the regard which his subjects entertained for him was extreme, as was also the fear of foreigners; for God assisted his simplicity, that he might be feared who knew not how to be angry.”

153 And yet the inner fire was still there, though well controlled. “If some cause aroused his temper,” writes William of Malmesbury, “he seemed terrible as a lion, but he never revealed his anger by railing. To all petitioners he would either grant graciously or graciously deny, so that his gracious denial seemed the highest generosity. In public he carried himself as a true king and lord; in private with his courtiers as one of them, but with royal dignity unimpaired. He entrusted the cause of God to his bishops and to men skilled in canon law, warning them to act according to the case, and he ordered his secular judges, princes and palace lawyers to distinguish equitably, so that, on the one hand, righteousness might have royal support, and, on the other, evil, when it appeared, its just condemnation. This good king abrogated bad laws, with his witan established good ones, and filled with joy all that Britain over which by the grace of God and hereditary right he ruled.”

Indeed, in later centuries, when the English groaned under the exactions of their Norman kings, they appealed for a return to the just laws of the good King Edward.

“In the exaction of taxes he was sparing, as he abominated the insolence of collectors: in eating and drinking he was devoid of the addiction to pleasure which his state allowed: on the more solemn festivals, though dressed in robes interwoven with gold, which the queen had most splendidly embroidered, yet still he had such forbearance as to be sufficiently majestic, without being haughty; considering in such matters rather the bounty of God than the pomp of the world. There was one secular enjoyment in which he chiefly delighted; which was hunting with fleet hounds, whose baying the woods he used with pleasure to encourage: and again, the flying those birds, whose nature it is to prey on their kindred species. In these exercises, after hearing Divine service in the morning, he employed himself whole days. In other respects he was a man by choice devoted to God, and lived the life of an angel in the administration of his kingdom: to the poor and to the stranger, more especially foreigners, and men of religious order, he was kind in invitation, munificent in his presents, and constantly exciting the monks of his own country to imitate their holiness. He was of middle height; his beard and hair swan-white; his countenance florid; fair throughout his whole person; and his form of admirable proportion.”

Moreover, according to the anonymous biographer, who learned it “from the joint testimony of good and fitting men”, God glorified King Edward with the gift of miracles.

“A certain young woman, already provided with a husband, but gladdened with no fruits of the marriage, had an infection of the throat and of those parts under the jaw which.. are called glands. These had so disfigured her face with an evil smelling disease that she could scarcely speak to anyone without great embarrassment. She was informed in a dream that if she were washed in water by King Edward she would be cured of this most troublesome pox. She then, with the certainty of faith, revealed the dream’s instructions. And when the king heard of it, he did not disdain to help the weaker sex, for he had the sweetest nature, and was always charming to all suitors. A dish of water was brought; the king dipped in his hand; and with the tips of his fingers he anointed the face of the young woman and the places infected with the disease. He repeated this action several times, now and then making the sign of the Cross. And believe in wonder one about to relate wonders! The diseased parts that had been treated by the smearing of the king softened and separated from the skin; and, with the pressure of the hand, worms together with pus and blood came out of various holes. Again the king kneaded with his holy hand and drew out the pus. Nor did he shrink from the stench of the sick woman until with his healing hand he had brought out all that noxious disease. Then he ordered her to be fed daily at the royal expense until she could be fully restored to health. And hardly had she been at court a week, when, all foulness washed away, the grace of God moulded her with beauty. And she, who formerly through this or some other sickness had been barren, in that year became pregnant by the same husband, and lived henceforth happily enough with all around her. Although this seems new and strange to us, the Franks aver that Edward had done this often as a youth when he was in Neustria, now known as Normandy.

“Likewise a certain blind man was going about claiming that he had been advised in sleep, that if his blind face were washed in the water with which the king rinsed his hands, he would both overcome the blindness and restore his lost sight. When Edward heard of this from his privy councillors, at first he contradicted and blamed them for believing it to be true. But when they demanded urgently that he should not resist God’s will, at length he courteously agreed. It was then, as they say for certain, the day of the vigil of the festival of All Saints, when the king, having made his morning ablutions, entered the chapel. Meanwhile his servants washed the blind man with the same water, and conducted him after the king into the house of prayer.

When the king left after the canonical hours had been solemnly sung in honour of all the saints, word was brought to him by his courtiers that he who was blind now saw. The king, therefore, with pious curiosity, came unto him in the chapel, and, calling him to him, inquired whether he could indeed see. This the man began to affirm and gave thanks to God. To test the truth of his words, however, the king, as pure as a dove, stretched forth the palm of his hand, and asked for an account of his action. ‘You stretch out your hand, oh my lord king,’ the man replied. Once more the king, grasping his forefinger and middle finger like a pair of horns before the man’s eyes, asked what he did. And the man answered what he saw. Also, a third time, the king, grasped his beard in his hand, again asked him what he did. And the man furnished correctly the information that he sought. Then the king considered that he had been sufficiently examined, and went forward for a little to pray; and, having thrice bowed his knee before the altar, he gave thanks to God and entrusted the man to his servants to be maintained as long as he lived at the royal charge. The man lived for a long time at court, a witness to the virtue he had received by the glory of God.”

“Again,” writes Osbert of Clare, “it was revealed by a sure vision to a man who had been completely blind for three years, and who sprang from the citizens of Lincoln town, that he would recover the sight of both eyes from.. Edward. For he was ordered to be washed in the water poured on the king’s hands, and so be freed at length from the darkness of his former blindness. The blind man hastened quickly to court, and asked the king’ servants to grant him that which he had not had for a long time. And so, when his face had been washed in the same way as the previous blind man, he was restored to health, and the renewed glory of his former condition was given back to him. There still survives to this day a witness who saw him long ago as a blind man and afterwards knew him clear-sighted, with the darkness dispelled.

“The glorious king ordered a royal palace to be built at Brill, whereupon a great crowd of rustics poured into the wood with axes. It was summer time, when men, after they have filled their bellies, are quick to rest, and then, in the afternoon, hasten back more eagerly to work. Among the other labourers on the royal building was a young man named Wulfwi, who, from his greediness for wheat, was surnamed ‘Spillecorn’. He rose from sleep having lost his sight, and remained blind for nineteen years. At length God’s mercy looked upon him, and he who had lacked sight for so long a time regained it through a heavenly visitation. A citizen’s wife approached this man who laboured under so wondrous a disability, and told him in clear words what she had learned about him in a vision. ‘Dear man,’ she said, ‘visit eighty churches, bare-footed and wearing only woollen clothes; and thus you will experience the merit of the saints, whose patronage you seek with faith, in the purging of your blindness; but the privilege is reserved especially to St. Edward the king that the water in which he washes his hands should restore to you the light of your eyes.’ No sluggard after hearing this, the visited that number of churches, and finally he put his case to the king’s chamberlains. These made no haste to seek out the king and acquaint him with the poor man’s requirements. ‘For the poor man is always despised’; and when money runs out the name and fruits of friendship are wont to perish. The mendicant, however, battered diligently at the door of God’s mercy, in order to recover the sight of his eyes through… Edward the king. At length, worn out by the insistence of the blind man, a chamberlain went straight to the prince and related from beginning to end the vision which had been told the poor man. ‘Mother of God,’ said the king, ‘my Lady and ever virgin Mary, stand witness that I shall be exalted beyond measure [‘I shall be very grateful’, according to another version] if God should work through me that of which the vision told.’

Then the king dipped his fingers in the liquid element and mercifully touched the sightless eyes. And lo! Blood poured copiously through the hands of the prince. The man, cured of his blindness, cried out, and, filled with a great joy, exclaimed, ‘I see, O king, your bright countenance. I see the gracious face of life. God has given me light, and Edward the anointed.’ The man of God, contemplating this deed, gave thanks to Almighty God, by Whose mercy a day of brightness had dawned for the blind man. This miracle was performed by the dispensation of the Lord, just as it had once been revealed to him by the woman’s vision, at the royal house called Windsor… To the blind man miraculously made to see, he entrusted the custody of his chief palace for the term of his whole life.

“… When one of the courtiers had witnessed this great miracle, in which a blind man was freed from darkness by the king, he endeavoured reverently to steal what remained of the king’s washing water. Having carried the water out of doors, he came upon four beggars, of whom three were burdened with the loss of their eyes, and on the fourth only one eye was bright. But the courtier, a man of faith, washed their blindness, and the power of God restored to them, in the court of the great king, the seven lost eyes.”

The only serious blot on the life of King Edward, according to his biographers, was his relationship with his mother, Queen Emma – although, as we shall see, he repented of his harshness towards her. In 1043, the king, with Earls Godwin, Leofric and Siward, came to Winchester and imprisoned her. Then, according to the Anglo- Saxon Chronicle, they “deprived her of all her innumerable treasures, because she had been too strict with the king, her son, in that she had done less for him than he wished, both before his accession and afterwards…” It seems that she was also accused of plotting with King Magnus of Norway.

However, as Frank Barlow writes, “Emma, when reduced to poverty and despair, had a dream in which [St. Mildred] promised to help her because she, with Cnut, had patronized the translation of St. Mildred from Thanet to St. Augustine’s, Canterbury. Whereupon Emma borrowed 20s., sent it by means of her thegn, Aethelweard Speaka, to Abbot AAelfstan of St. Augustine’s, and, miraculously, the king’s heart was changed. Edward ‘felt shame for the injury he had done her, the son acknowledged the mother, he restored her to her former dignity and he who had proclaimed her guilty begged her pardon.’ Everything she had possessed was restored to her; her accusers and despoilers were confounded.”

Edward’s suspicions of his mother may have been the result of her close links with Earl Godwin of Wessex, the murderer of his brother Prince Alfred. The king, as we have seen, owed the smoothness of his accession to the throne in large part to the support of Godwin, and it was probably in gratitude for this support that he had agreed to marry his daughter Edith. However, he had never really lost his distrust for the powerful earl, and in 1051 the latent tensions between the two men flared into open conflict.

The king had promoted to the see of Canterbury a Norman, Bishop Robert of London, in preference to Godwin’s candidate (and relative), the Canterbury monk Alfric. The new archbishop quarrelled with Godwin, accusing him of encroaching on church lands in the Canterbury diocese. Then, in September, Count Eustace of Boulogne, the king’s brother-in-law, came to Dover with a small detachment of men.

A riot between the Frenchmen and Count Eustace’s men ensued, in which several people were killed. Godwin took the side of the men of Dover, which was in his earldom, and, having with his sons assembled a large military force, demanded of the king that he give up Count Eustace and his companions. However, the king, supported by the forces of Earls Siward, Leofric and Ralph, refused. Through the mediation of Earl Leofric, a military confrontation was avoided, and it was agreed that the king and Godwin should meet in London. But before they could meet, Godwin, seeing that his support was waning, fled. Then the king and the witan ordered the banishment of him and his five sons. Moreover, the king renounced his queen, Godwin’s daughter, and she retired to the convent of Wherwell.

After Godwin’s expulsion, the earldom of his eldest son Swein was given to Earl Odda, and it looked for a time as if King Edward would really be able to rule his kingdom through subordinates whom he trusted. But, even in exile, Godwin’s power was still great. “If any Englishman had been told that events would take this turn,” wrote the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, he would have been very surprised, for Godwin had risen to such great eminence as if he ruled the king and all England.”

So the next year Godwin attempted to win back his former position by force.

Helped by his sons Harold and Leofwine, who had levied troops in Ireland and landed in the West Country, he marched on London. Once again, a military confrontation was avoided, and both sides disbanded their troops. But this time the advantage was with Godwin, and the king fully restored to him and his sons, except Swein, all the honours they had forfeited. The king took back his queen, while Archbishop Robert, mounting a horse and dropping his pallium in the process, fled to the continent. Peace was restored, but in circumstances so detrimental to the king’s authority, and accompanied by the fickleness of such a large part of the people, that the omens for the future looked grim.

In the very year of Godwin’s rebellion, 1052, a sign was manifested which, to those with eyes to see, signified the holiness of the royal line of Wessex of which King Edward was the heir, and the evil of those who would attempt to contest its authority. For the body of Edward’s grandfather, King Edgar the Peaceable, was found to be incorrupt by Abbot Ailward of Glastonbury. Moreover, the irreverence with which the holy body was handled indicated how irreverently the royal authority of St. Edward was soon to be treated.

“For when,” writes William of Malmesbury, “the receptacle which he had prepared seemed too small to admit the body, he profaned the royal corpse by cutting it. When the blood immediately gushed out in torrents, shaking the hearts of the bystanders with horror. In consequence his royal remains were placed upon the altar in a shrine, which he had himself given to this church, with the head of St.Apollinaris and the relics of the Martyr Vincent; which, having purchased at great price, he had added to the beauty of the house of God. The violator of the sacred body presently became distracted; and, not long after, as he was going out of the church, he met his death by a broken neck. But the display of royal authority did not cease with that: it proceeded further, a blind lunatic being cured there…” At about the same time the relics of the Martyr-King Edmund of East Anglia were uncovered and found to be incorrupt by Abbot Leoftsan of Bury St. Edmund’s, which further helped to demonstrate the holiness of the royal rank that Godwin had so dishonoured by his actions.

In 1053, however, when he was at the height of his power, Godwin himself died in dramatic circumstances that suggested Divine retribution. He choked on a piece of bread after swearing to the king: “Let God Who knows all things be my judge! May this crust of bread which I hold in my hand pass through my throat and leave me unharmed to show that I was innocent of your brother’s death!” “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay, saith the Lord!” We now come to the affair of Archbishop Stigand, which was to have such fatal consequences for England. As we have seen, in 1052 Archbishop Robert fled to the continent, leaving his pallium behind. With the acquiescence of the king, but in face of the furious opposition of successive popes, Bishop Stigand of Winchester was allowed to take up the pallium and serve as archbishop in Robert’s place. The question is: was he a true archbishop? And: if so, could the English Church be said to have been under the pope’s jurisdiction during his archbishopric, that is, from 1052? The fact that Stigand had not received his pallium from the pope may not have seemed important; for a generation before both Archbishop Wulfstan of York and King Canute had protested against the supposed necessity of English bishops’ travelling the long and difficult journey to Rome for the pallium. Moreover, it was an historical fact that before 735 no English archbishop had done this. But Archbishop Robert was still alive and had not been formally deposed – and the pope upheld his claims.

Frank Barlow has shed some light on this problem. “Three aspects of the story need investigation,” he writes. “Was England aware of Stigand’s incapacity as archbishop, of his suspension from his episcopal office, and of his excommunication? “There is no doubt that during Edward’s reign Stigand was not recognised as an archbishop except in 1058 after the receipt of his pallium [which, however, he received from an “anti-pope”, Benedict X, thus forming the basis for another of the charges that the papal legates levelled against him in the council of 1070]. Until that year he consecrated no bishop. By 1061, when two bishops went to Rome for consecration, his incapacity was again notorious. The Normans, too, were either aware of the position or learned it in England. William, who needed traditional and legitimate coronation, must have disregarded Stigand with the greatest reluctance.

But from 1067 to 1070 seems to have been accorded full metropolitan respect by the Normans. Expediency or William’s arbitrariness may have been the cause.

“On the other hand, there is no evidence that anyone regarded Stigand as suspended from his episcopal office. He appears in all the witness-lists to ‘royal’ diplomas. He is known to have blessed abbots in 1061, 1065, and 1066… There is no strictly contemporary evidence that he was at any time shunned by the English kings, prelates, or laity…” The whole matter is greatly complicated, as we have seen, by the fact that the Roman papacy was anathematized by the Orthodox Church of the East in 1054, which meant that the anathemas that the Popes launched against Stigand from that time were null and void. Thus even if we agree that Stigand’s position was strictly uncanonical, it must also be admitted that it was providential, in that it meant a loosening of the ties between England and Rome at precisely the moment when the latter was falling into heresy and schism. Stigand had the other, not inconsiderable advantage that he was accepted by both sides in the near-civil war that had only just come to an end; so he could serve as a peacemaker between the king and Godwin’s faction.

King Edward’s decision to support Stigand as against his friend Archbishop Robert and the pope himself may seem surprising in view of his close cooperation with Pope Leo in his reforming councils since 1049. Perhaps he thought that the unity of the English Church and nation at this critical hour was the overriding priority – and if, so then in view of what happened after his death, we must believe that he was right. It was at this point that the king’s reputation for holiness may have played a critical part in saving his nation; for however much the popes fulminated against the “schismatic” Stigand, they never said a word against King Edward, and were forced to wait until after his death before launching an anti-English crusade… The traditionally turbulent Anglo-Danish North had been remarkably quiet during Godwin’s rebellion. This had much to do, no doubt, with the firm hand of Earl Siward of Northumbria. However, in 1053 Earl Siward died and was buried in the church which he had dedicated to St. Olaf outside York. Since his son had been killed in a battle against King Macbeth of Scotland, he was succeeded by one of Godwin’s sons, Tostig. Then, in 1057, the good Earls Leofric and Odda, who had been the foremost defenders of the Church in the Midlands, also died.

England’s spiritual heart was beating more faintly now; and from now on pressure on the sickly organism from without – specifically, from Rome – began to increase. Thus it was at about this time that one of the bishops-elect, Walter of Hereford, decided to go to Rome to be consecrated. If, as seems likely, he was trying to avoid the “schismatic” Archbishop Stigand, then he avoided Stigand only to fall into the hands of the much more surely schismatic Pope Nicholas! In 1061 this visit was followed by that of the archbishop-elect of York, Aldred, who went to Rome for his pallium in the company of Earl Tostig of Northumbria and several other English nobles. But “he found Pope Nicholas at first no friend to his desires,” writes William of Malmesbury, “for Aldred was not minded to give up [the diocese of] Worcester. Aldred was so bound by ties of love to Worcester that it was dearer to him than the dignity of the archbishopric. So, after long disputation, Aldred returned homeward and came to Sutri. Earl Tostig who was with him was threatening that for this [refusal by the pope] there would be no more paying of Peter’s Pence from England.” However, in the course of their journey home, Aldred and Tostig “were attacked by robbers and stripped, to the great horror of beholders, and made their way back to Rome. Their sufferings so far melted the rigour of the apostolic see, that Aldred received the pallium of York, having pledged himself to resign Worcester provided that he could find a better priest in the diocese to put in his place.”

It is interesting to speculate what would have happened if Aldred had returned to England without the pallium. It is quite possible that, following the example of Stigand, and with King Edward’s support, he would have assumed the archbishopric anyway, thus placing both of England’s metropolitan sees in schism from Rome. But the robbers – and Pope Nicholas’ sense of realpolitik – saved the day for Rome.

And to reinforce his authority in England, the pope now sent two cardinals with Aldred on his journey home – this was the first papal legation to England since the council of Chelsea in 787. They stayed with Prior Wulfstan at Worcester, and, impressed by his piety, suggested him for the bishopric of Worcester. “By these praises,” we read in Wulfstan’s life by William of Malmesbury, “they aroused the goodwill of King Edward in whom the trafficker in benefices and the covetous man never found anything to forward their designs. The Archbishops of Canterbury and York gave their support to the Cardinals, the one of kindness, the other of knowledge; both by their sentence. With them in praising Wulfstan were the Earls Harold and Elfgar, men more famed for warlike courage than for religion. They bestirred themselves vigorously in his cause, sending mounted messengers on Wulfstan’s behalf, who rode many miles in little time to hasten on the matter. So [Wulfstan] was presented to the Court, and bidden to take upon him the office of Bishop. He earnestly withstood them, crying out that he was unequal to so great a charge, while all men cried that he was equal to it. So entirely was the whole people agreed, that it were not wrong to say that in all those bodies there was, concerning this matter, but one mind. But, to be brief, the cardinals and archbishops would have lost their labour, had they not pleaded against his unwillingness the duty of obeying the Pope. To that plea he must needs yield… So King Edward well and truly invested Wulfstan with the Bishopric of Worcester… Not long after he was consecrated at York by [Archbishop Aldred]: because Stigand of Canterbury was under the Pope’s interdict.”

The new Bishop Wulfstan was the one Englishman, besides the king himself, who, by the reputation of his asceticism and miracle-working, and the power of his preaching, could have inspired his countrymen to rebel against the now schismatical papacy if he had chosen to do so. But it may be wondered whether the legates’ choice of Wulfstan for the bishopric (although they did not consecrate him) made him, so to speak, “the pope’s man” at this time. As we shall see later, he served his country well in 1066 when he galvanized support in the North for the new King Harold; but after 1066 he sadly succumbed to the new Norman-papist regime.

Much depended now on the character of Wulfstan’s close friend, Earl Harold, the new head of the Godwin clan and the most powerful man in England after the king.

We have seen him supporting his father in rebellion against the king in 1051; but this may have been the result of family pressure rather than proof of a rebellious disposition. From 1052 he appears as completely loyal to the king, even as against the interests of his brothers; and the king appears to have trusted him in a way he never trusted his father. Unlike his father, he gave generously to the Church. And his religious feelings, already in evidence through his love for Bishop Wulfstan, were further stimulated by his healing through a holy relic which had been revealed some years earlier and had passed into the possession of his earldom.

King Edward was childless; so the question of who should succeed him became more pressing as he grew older. The king and his witan thought of Prince Edward, the son of King Edmund Ironside and the king’s own nephew. After the Danish conquest of England in 1016, Edward and his family had gone into exile, first in Ladoga and Kiev in Russia, and then in Hungary. When they heard that he was alive, the English immediately sent an embassy headed by Bishop Aldred to the German Emperor Henry III in order to secure the prince’s return from Hungary.

Aldred failed because of Henry’s conflict with Hungary; but on the death of the emperor in 1056, the king tried again, sending, probably, Earl Harold, to perform this difficult and important task.

This time the mission was successful; but shortly after his arrival in England on August 31, 1057, Prince Edward died. Great was the sorrow of the English people, who suspected foul play: “We do not know for what reason it was so arranged that he could not see his kinsman, King Edward”, said the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle pointedly.

Many in the Norman faction suspected the Godwin family of removing another strong claimant to the throne. But since, as Walker argues, it was Harold Godwinson who carried out the difficult task of getting Edward from Hungary to England, it is very unlikely that he would have had any hand in an assassination attempt.

Moreover, Edward’s son Edgar was always treated with honour by Harold.

In 1063 Earls Harold and Tostig conducted a highly successful campaign by land and sea to subdue Prince Gruffydd of North Wales, who had been encroaching on English territory. The subjection of the Welsh further enhanced the prestige of Earl Harold, who, as well as being the biggest landowner in the country and the king’s brother-in-law, was now the king’s most trusted and efficient servant. There must have been many at this time who thought that he, rather than the young and inexperienced Prince Edgar, should succeed the old King Edward.

But in 1064 Earl Harold made a great blunder. The story is related with variants and inconsistencies in the Norman sources and on the Bayeux tapestry, but is not related at all in the pre-Conquest English sources. Nevertheless, this much is clear: that Harold sailed from Bosham in Sussex on a mission to the continent, that he was storm-driven onto the coast of Ponthieu, where he was captured by Count Guy, that William of Normandy ransomed him from Guy and treated him kindly at first, but that later he was persuaded, whether voluntarily or involuntarily, to make an oath over a box of artfully concealed holy relics in Rouen that he would support William’s claim to the English throne.

Now William’s claim was based, in the first place, on his blood relationship to Queen Emma, King Edward’s mother. But his case rested mainly on his assertion that in 1051 King Edward had promised him the throne on his death. The Norman sources further assert that in 1064 Harold was sent to Normandy by King Edward in order to confirm his earlier promise to William and in order that Harold should swear fealty to him.

Most modern historians believe that King Edward made this promise. Thus Ian Walker writes: “We have seen that it is unlikely that any such promise was given by Edward, but rather that it was probably invented and imparted to William by Robert of Jumièges, Archbishop of Canterbury, following his exile in 1052. If this was the case, could Edward nevertheless have intended to make William his heir at this later date? This is highly unlikely. In 1051 Edward had no clearly established heir, although he did have a number of potential heirs, all with better qualifications than William. Now, he had secured a suitable and established heir in the person of his nephew, Atheling Edgar, and a reserve in Harold, the son of his deceased nephew, Earl Ralph. As a result of this change in circumstances the reasons adduced against the nomination of William as heir in 1051 apply with even great force to any such nomination in 1064. He remained a man with only distant links to the English dynasty and little or no support in the country, although he was now secure in possession of his duchy and much more widely known and regarded than in 1051.

In addition, William’s recent conquest of Maine had resulted in the imprisonment and death of Edward’s nephew, Count Walter of the Vexin. Count Walter died in suspicious circumstances while in William’s custody, allegedly by poison, something unlikely to endear him to Edward. William of Poitiers hints that Edward was close to death and this was why he now sent Harold to pledge his kingdom. There is no support for this in English sources, which show that the king was still healthy enough to go hunting in autumn 1065. The suggestion that Edward intended William as his heir in 1064 seems less credible even than the case for this in 1051.”

Why, then, did Harold make the fateful journey? One Anglo-Norman source suggests that he was simply on a fishing trip and landed up on the wrong side of the Channel. However, the eleventh-century Canterbury Monk Edmer of Canterbury, using sources close to the family, has a much more plausible story, namely, that Harold “asked leave of the king to go to Normandy to set free his brother and nephew who were being held there as hostages” (Godwin had given these hostages to the king after his abortive coup in 1051). In support of this theory is the fact that Harold did return with one of the hostages, his nephew Hakon. William continued to hold Harold’s brother, Wulfnoth… Edmer continues: “The king replied: ‘I will have no part in this; but, not to give the impression of wishing to hinder you, I give you leave to go where you will and to see what you can do. But I have a presentiment that you will succeed in bringing misfortune upon the whole kingdom and discredit upon yourself. For I know that the Duke is not so simple as to be at all inclined to give them [the hostages] up to you unless he foresees that in doing so he will secure some great advantage to himself.’” The king’s prophetic spirit did not fail him; and according to a twelfth-century tradition, a great blow was miraculously struck at the oak in Rouen where Harold made his oath to support William’s claim to the throne – an oath, which, since he broke it when he himself became king, led to his and his country’s downfall. “For the oak, which was once a tree of great height and beauty, … is stated, wonderful to relate, to have shed its bark, and to have lost its greenness and its foliage. A sight well worth seeing, for a tree which a little time before was remarkable for the number and thickness of its leaves, shrivelled up from the roots, as quickly as did the gourd of Jonah and the olive of that other prophet and all its branches became white.”

Just as the Lord’s withering of the fig tree signified the falling away of the Jewish synagogue, so the withering of the oak at Rouen signified the falling away of the English Church.

In 1065 a serious rebellion against King Edward’s rule broke out in the North.

Now the traditionally turbulent Anglo-Danish North had been remarkably quiet during Godwin’s rebellion in 1051-52. This had much to do, no doubt, with the firm but just government of Earl Siward; but his successor, Earl Tostig, while no less firm, appears to have been considerably less just.

According to the anonymous biographer, several members of the witan “charged that glorious earl with being too cruel; and he was accused of punishing disturbers more for desire of their property which would be confiscated than for love of justice.” But the same author excused Tostig on the grounds that “such… was the cruelty of that people and their neglect of God that even parties of twenty or thirty men could scarcely travel without being either killed or robbed by the multitude of robbers in wait.”

However, that there was probably some justice in the accusations appears from the fact that St. Cuthbert once intervened on behalf of a man condemned by Tostig, as Barlow describes in this summary of Simeon of Durham’s account: “[Tostig] had succeeded in arresting a man named Aldan-hamal, a malefactor notorious for theft, robbery, murder and arson. The criminal was condemned to death, despite attempts by kinsmen and friends to bribe the earl; and while in fetters at Durham awaiting execution, when all efforts at rescue had failed, his conscience was smitten, he repented of his crimes, and he promised St. Cuthbert that if he could go free he would make full atonement. St. Cuthbert heard his prayer, struck off his fetters, and allowed him to make a lucky escape into the church. The guards, under Tostig’s thane Barcwith, went in pursuit and considered breaking open the doors of the cathedral, for freedom of sanctuary, they thought, would allows all thieves, robbers, and murderers to laugh in their faces. But Barcwith was immediately struck down by heaven for his impiety and within an hour or two died raving mad; and Earl Tostig, terrified by his fate, pardoned the criminal and, later, held him in esteem.”

The immediate cause of the rebellion appears to have been an extra tax imposed by Tostig on his earldom. Just before the rebellion, in March, 1065, the relics of Martyr-King Oswin of Deira (Durham) had been discovered, and the holy Bishop Aethelwine of Durham had presented Countess Judith, Tostig’s wife, with a hair of the holy martyr. Could this have been a prophetic warning not to rise up against the lawful king? The rebels seized York while Tostig was hunting with the king in Wiltshire, and proceeded to slaughter his officials and seize his treasury. They then summoned Morcar, younger brother of Earl Edwin of Mercia, and with him as their “earl” marched south to plead their case with King Edward, ravaging Tostig’s lands on the way. Earl Edwin joined them at Northampton, and there Earl Harold also came as the emissary of King Edward.

Harold was in a most difficult position. His natural desire was to support his brother against the rebels. But that would have led to civil war, which Harold now drew back from, just as his father and King Edward had done during the earlier crisis of 1051-52. In his meeting with the king at Oxford he counselled agreeing to the terms of the rebels. With great sorrow and reluctance, the king complied: Tostig was deposed, the rebels were pardoned and Morcar was confirmed as Earl of Northumbria. In the following month Earl Tostig and his wife fled to her brother, Count Baldwin of Flanders.

Tostig was bitter that the king had not supported him against the rebels. But he especially blamed his brother Harold, claiming that the Northumbrians “had undertaken this madness against their earl at the artful persuasion of his brother, Earl Harold.” Harold denied this on oath; and since he gained nothing from the affair except the undying enmity of his brother, who fought against him in 1066, he must be believed.

The most serious result of the rebellion was the breakdown in health of the king, who, according to the anonymous biographer, had wanted to fight the rebels, but had been prevented by bad weather, his inability to raise enough troops and the reluctance of those around him to engage in civil war. “Sorrowing at this, he fell ill, and from that day until the day of his death he bore a sickness of the mind. He protested to God with deep sorrow, and complained to Him, that He was deprived of the due obedience of his men in repressing the presumption of the unrighteous; and he called down God’s vengeance upon them…” In the second half of his reign, as the situation within the country worsened, the holy King Edward turned more and more to heavenly pursuits, and his prophetic gifts manifested themselves in still greater abundance.

Once, at Holy Pascha, the king returned after the Divine Liturgy to his seat at the royal banquet in Westminster. “While the rest were greedily eating,” writes William of Malmesbury, “and making up for the long fast of Lent by the newly provided viands, he, with mind abstracted from earthly things, was absorbed in the contemplation of some Divine matter, when presently he excited the attention of the guests by bursting into profuse laughter: and as none presumed to inquire into the cause of his joy, he remained silent as before, till satiety had put an end to the banquet. After the tables were removed, and as he was unrobing in his chamber, three persons of rank followed him; of these Earl Harold was one, the second was an abbot, and the third a bishop, who, presuming on their intimacy with the king, asked the cause of his laughter, observing that it seemed just cause for astonishment to see him, in such perfect tranquillity of mind and occupation, burst into a vulgar laugh while all others were silent. ‘I saw something wonderful,’ said he, ‘and therefore I did not laugh without a cause.’ At this, as is the custom of mankind, they began to inquire and search into the matter more earnestly, entreating that he would condescend to disclose it to them. After much reluctance, he yielded to their persevering solicitations, and related the following wonderful circumstance, saying that the Seven Sleepers in Mount Coelius [Ephesus] had now lain for two hundred years on their right side, but that, at the very hour of his laughter, they turned upon their left; that they would continue to lie in this manner for seventy-four years, which would be a dreadful omen to wretched mortals. For everything would come to pass, in those seventy-four years, which the Lord had foretold to His disciples concerning the end of the world: nation would rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there would be earthquakes in divers places, pestilences and famine, terrors from heaven and great signs; changes in kingdoms; wars of the Gentiles against the Christians, and also victories of the Christians over the pagans.

Relating these matters to his wondering audience, he descanted on the passion of these sleepers, and the make of their bodies, thought totally unnoticed in history, as readily as though he had lived in daily intercourse with them. On hearing this, the earl sent a knight, the bishop a clergyman, and the abbot a monk, to… the Emperor of Constantinople, giving them at the same time what is called a holy letter, that the martyr-relics of the Seven Sleepers should be shown to the delegates of the king of England. It fell out that the prophecy of King Edward was proved by all the Greeks, who could swear that they had heard from their fathers that the men were lying on their right side, but after the entrance of the English into the vault, they published the truth of the foreign prophecy to their countrymen. Nor was it long before the predicted evils came to pass; for the Hagarenes, Arabs and Turks, nations averse to Christ, making havoc of the Christians [at the battle of Manzikert in 1071], overran Syria, Lycia and Asia Minor, altogether devastating many cities, too, of Asia Minor, among which was Ephesus…” Thus the reputation of King Edward, already renowned for his holiness in England and Western Europe, was beginning to spread even to the Orthodox East – whither so many exiled English families would soon have to flee.

On another occasion, as Ailred of Rievaulx tells the story, the king attended the service for the consecration of a church at Havering in Essex. As he was coming out of the church, a beggar met him and asked for alms. Edward did not have any money on him at the time; but since he never liked to send beggars away emptyhanded, he gave him the costly ring which was on his finger. Some time later, some English pilgrims were in trouble near Bethlehem in the Holy Land. A beggar came up to them and asked them what the matter was. When they had explained it to him, he helped them. Then he gave them a ring and asked them to give it to their king in England, with a message from St. John that for his chaste life he was to inherit the joys of Paradise in six months’ time. Edward received the message with joy, realizing that the beggar to whom he had given the ring was St. John the Evangelist and Theologian. And in six months’ time he reposed in peace.

The ring was found again when St. Edward’s tomb at Westminster was opened in 1102. A sweet fragrance filled the church, and the body was found to be completely incorrupt.

In 1163 the tomb was opened again. Frank Barlow writes: “They saw, a little obscured by the mortar and dust which had fallen down, the saint wrapped in a cloth of gold, at his feet purple shoes and slippers, his head and face covered with a round mitre, likewise embroidered with gold, his beard, white and slightly curled, lying neatly on his breast. Joyfully they called over the rest of the party, and as they cleared out the dirt from the tomb, they explored everything gently with their hands.

To their relief nothing had changed. The body was still intact and the vestments were only a little dulled and soiled. Six of the monks lifted the body, laid it on a carpet, wrapped it in a precious silk cloth, and placed it in a wooden coffin or feretory, which they had prepared. Everything they found with the body was transferred to the new shrine, except the ring, which Laurence [the abbot of Westminster] removed to preserve as a memorial and as a sign of his personal devotion to the saint.”

And so the holy king approached his departure from this life. One more public act of his reign remained to be performed: the dedication of his favourite project, the Abbey of St. Peter at Westminster. This act was of great symbolic importance; for according to tradition, the original church built on the site in St. Mellitus’ time had been dedicated, not by hand of man, but by angels; and now the last man of truly angelic life in the land of the Angles, the virgin King Edward, came to lay the last stone in the edifice of Anglo-Saxon Christianity. Built to atone for his inability to keep a vow he had made to go on pilgrimage to Rome, it became the last monument of English Orthodoxy before its engulfment by the papist heresy.

A great assembly of men from all parts of the land assembled to celebrate Christmas and then the dedication of the church to Christ. Then, as the Monk Sulcard relates, “on Christmas Eve itself, the most kindly king began to get worse.

Concealing the fact, however, he spent Christmas day both in the church and in the palace rejoicing with his nobles. But on the morrow, when he could hide it no longer, he began to rest apart, and sent messengers to bid his court be of good cheer and to carry out the dedication of his monastery through fitting persons.”

The dedication of the abbey church took place on Holy Innocents Day, 1065, as the innocent sufferer lay on his deathbed. The anonymous biographer, writing from eye-witness testimony, continues the story: “When King Edward, replete with faith, perceived that the power of the disease was forcing him to his end, with the commendation and prayers of the most important of God’s faithful he resigned himself to the funeral rites… “While he slept those in attendance felt in his sleeping body the travail of an unquiet soul, and woken by them in their terror, he spoke these words. (Up till then, for the last two days or more, weakness had so tired him that when he spoke scarcely anything he said had been intelligible.) ‘O eternal God,’ he said, ‘if I have learned those things which have been revealed to me from Thee, grant also the strength to tell them. But if it was only an illusion, let my former sickness burden me according to Thy will.’ And then, as they who were present testify, he used such resources of eloquence that even the healthiest man would have no need of more.

“’Just now,’ he said, ‘two monks stood before me, whom I had once known very well when I was a young man in Normandy, men of great sanctity, and for many years now relieved of earthly cares. And they addressed me with a message from God.

“’”Since,” they said, “those who have climbed to the highest offices in the kingdom of England, the earls, bishops and abbots, and all those in holy orders, are not what they seem to be, but, on the contrary, are servants of the devil, on a year and one day after the day of your death God has delivered all this kingdom, cursed by Him, into the hands of the enemy, and devils shall come through all this land with fire and sword and the havoc of war.”

“’Then I said to them, “I will show God’s designs to the people, and the forgiveness of God shall have mercy upon the penitents. For He had mercy on the people of Nineveh, when they repented on hearing of the Divine indignation.”

“’But they said, “these will not repent, nor will the forgiveness of God come to pass for them.”

“And what,” I asked, “shall happen? And when can a remission of this great indignation be hoped for?” “’”At that time,” they answered, “when a great tree, if cut down in the middle of its trunk, and the part cut off carried the space of three furlongs from the stock, shall be joined again to the trunk, by itself and without the hand of man or any sort of stake, and begin once more to push leaves and bear fruit from the old love of its uniting sap, then first can a remission of these great ills be hoped for.”’ “When those who were present had heard these words – that is to say, the queen, who was sitting on the floor warming his feet in her lap, her brother, Earl Harold, and Rodbert, the steward of the royal palace and a kinsman of the king, also Archbishop Stigand and a few more whom the blessed king when roused from sleep had ordered to be summoned – they were all sore afraid as men who had heard a speech containing many calamities and a denial of the hope of pity. And while all were stupefied and silent from the effect of terror, the archbishop himself, who ought either to have been the first to fear or give a word of advice, with folly at heart whispered in the ear of the earl that the king was broken with age and disease and knew not what he said. But the queen, and those who had been wont to know and fear God in their hearts, all pondered deeply the words they had heard, and understood them quite otherwise, and correctly. For these knew that the Christian religion was chiefly dishonoured by men in Holy Orders, and that… the king and queen by frequent admonition had often proclaimed this.”

King Edward died on January 5, 1066. The first part of his prophecy was fulfilled exactly; for one year and one day after his death, on January 6, 1067, Duke William of Normandy, having been crowned as the first Catholic king of England, set off on the three-and-a-half-year campaign which destroyed the face of the country – the Antichrist had come to England! Modern historians have accused King Edward of weakness. Humility, gentleness and chastity in the midst of a corrupt and adulterous generation are not properly thought of as signs of weakness, but rather of great spiritual strength and grace.

However, let us concede that St. Edward had a certain weakness: like Tsar-Martyr Nicholas II, whom he resembled so closely, his weakness was that he trusted people too much, and was constantly being betrayed by them.

In 1013 he and his father had been betrayed by the people when they drove him into exile in Normandy. In 1016 the people had again betrayed his brother King Edmund, forcing him into exile again. In 1017 his mother had married his country’s conqueror and abandoned him with his brother Prince Alfred in a foreign land. In 1036 his brother had been murdered, and only a few years later, in 1045, he had been forced to marry the daughter of his brother’s murderer. He had trusted Archbishop Robert, who was the only man to share his perception of the danger posed by Earl Godwin – but the people forced the expulsion of Robert and the reinstatement of Godwin. He had trusted Earl Harold, but Harold refused to fight against his rebellious brother Tostig. He had trusted the English people when they recalled him from exile in 1043, thereby ending the hated Danish yoke; but the people had often, like the stiff-necked Israelites, longed to return to the spiritual Egypt, as when the Northumbrians demanded a return to the laws of the Danish Canute.

And yet as the English Moses lay on his deathbed there were still a few, those who had been his closest attendants, who wept for him. To these he said, as the anonymous biographer recounts it: “’Do not weep, but intercede with God for my soul, and give me leave to go to Him. For He will not pardon me that I should not die Who would not pardon Himself that He should not die.’ Then he addressed his last words to the queen who was sitting at his feet, in this wise, ‘May God be gracious to this my wife for the zealous solicitude of her service. For she has served me devotedly, and has always stood close to my side like a beloved daughter. And so from the forgiving God may she obtain the reward of eternal happiness.’ And stretching forth his hand to his governor, his brother, Harold, he said, ‘I commend this woman and all the kingdom to your protection. Serve and honour her with faithful obedience as your lady and sister, which she is, and do not despoil her, as long as she lives, of any honour she got from me. Likewise I also commend these men who have left their native land for love of me, and have up till now served me faithfully. Take from them an oath of fealty, if they should so wish, and protect and retain them, or send them with your safe conduct safely across the Channel to their own homes with all that they have acquired in my service. Let the grave for my burial be prepared in the minster in the place which shall be assigned to you. I ask that you do not conceal my death, but announce it promptly in all parts, so that all the faithful can beseech the mercy of Almighty God on me, a sinner.’ Now and then he also comforted the queen, who ceased not from lamenting, to erase her natural grief. ‘Fear not,’ he said, ‘I shall not die now, but by God’s mercy regain my strength.’ Nor did he mislead the attentive, least of all himself, by these words, for he has not died, but has passed from death to life, to live with Christ.

“And so, coming these and like words to his last hour, he took the Viaticum from the table of heavenly life and gave up his spirit to God the Creator on the fourth [more accurately: the fifth] of January… Then could be seen in the dead body the glory of a soul departing to God. For the flesh of his face blushed like a rose, the adjacent beard gleamed like a lily, his hands, laid out straight, whitened, and were a sign that his whole body was given not to death but to auspicious sleep. And so the funeral rites were arranged at the royal cost and royal honour, as was proper, and amid the boundless sorrow of all men. They bore his holy remains from his palace home into the house of God, and offered up prayers and sighs and psalms all that day and the following night. Meanwhile, when the day of the funeral ceremony dawned, they blessed the office of the interment they were to conduct with the singing of masses and the relief of the poor. And so, before the altar of St. Peter the Apostle, the body, washed by his country’s tears, is laid up in the sight of God. They also cause the whole of the thirtieth day following to be observed with the celebration of masses and the chanting of psalms and expended many pounds of gold for the redemption of his soul in the alleviation of different classes of the poor.

Having been revered as a saint while still living in the world, as we wrote, at his tomb likewise merciful God reveals by these signs that he lives with Him as a saint in heaven. For at the tomb through him the blind receive their sight, the lame are made to walk, the sick are healed, the sorrowing are refreshed by the comfort of God, and for the faith of those who call upon Him, God, the King of kings, works the tokens of His goodness.”

St. Edward’s body still lies in Westminster Abbey. The papist church celebrates his memory on the day of his repose, January 5, and the day of his translation, October 13.

Holy Father Edward, pray to God for us!

(Sources: Anglo-Saxon Chronicle; Liber Eliensis; Encomium Emmae Reginae; Florence of Worcester, Chronicle; Anonymous, Vita Aedwardi Regis; Edmer, Historia Novorum in Anglia; William of Malmesbury, Gesta Regum Anglorum, Gesta Pontificum Anglorum, Vita S. Wulfstani; Sulcard, The History of Westminster; Ailred, Vita Sancti Edwardi, P.L.CXCV, col. 769; Osbert of Clare, Vita Aedwardi Regis; Geoffrey Gaimar, L’Estoire des Engleis; Benedictine Breviary, October 13, supplement; V. Moss, Saints of England’s Golden Age, Etna, Ca. Center for Traditionalist Studies, 1997, pp. 59-60, 93-96; Saints of Anglo-England, Seattle: St. Nectarios Press, volumes I, II and III; Ian Walker, Harold, the Last English King, Stroud: Sutton Publishing, 1997; Gabriel Ronay, “Edward Aetheling: Anglo-Saxon England’s Last Hope”, History Today, January, 1984, vol. 34, pp. 34-51; J. Robertson, Anglo-Saxon Charters, Cambridge University Press, 1956; A.S.Napier, “An Old English Vision of Leofric of Mercia, Philological Transactions, 1908, pp. 180-187; Frank Barlow, The English Church, 1000-1066, London: Longmans, 1979; Canon Busby, Saint Swithun, Winchester, 1971; Michael Swanton, Anglo-Saxon Prose, London: Dent, 1975; M. Ashdown, English and Norse Documents, Cambridge, 1930)



The holy Martyr-King Edward was the son of King Edgar the Peaceable of England and his first wife, Queen Ethelfleda, who died not long after his birth in 963 or 964. Already before St. Edward’s birth, his father had had a dream. He told this to his mother, the abbess St. Aelgifu, who was greatly gifted for her gift of prophecy and wonder-working. She interpreted the dream as follows:- After your death the Church of God will be attacked. You will have two sons. The supporters of the second will kill the first, and while the second will rule on earth the first will rule in heaven.

Now King Edgar had been anointed twice on the model of King David: first in 960 or 961, when he became King of England, and again in 973, when his dominion expanded to the north and west and he became “Emperor of Britain”, receiving the tribute of eight sub-kings of the Celts and Vikings. But between these two anointings he had married again and fathered a second son, Aethelred. When King Edgar died in 975 (his relics were discovered to be incorrupt in 1052), Aethelred’s partisans, especially his mother, argued that Aethelred should be made king in preference to his elder half-brother Edward, on the grounds that Edgar had not been anointed when he begat Edward in 959 or 960, and that his first wife, Edward’s mother, had never been anointed, so that the throne should pass to the younger son, Aethelred, who had been born “in the purple” when both his parents were anointed sovereigns.

The conflict was settled when the archbishop of Canterbury, St. Dunstan, seized the initiative and anointed St. Edward. However, the defeated party of Aethelred did not give up their opposition to God’s chosen one… St. Edward, according to an early source, “was a young man of great devotion and excellent conduct. He was completely Orthodox, good and of holy life.

Moreover, he loved above all things God and the Church. He was generous to the poor, a haven to the good, a champion of the Faith of Christ, a vessel full of every virtuous grace.”

However, many troubles met the young king on his accession to the kingdom. A great famine was raging through the land, and, beginning in the West and spreading to the East, a violent attack was stirred up against the holy monasteries by a prominent nobleman named Elfhere. Many of the monasteries which King Edgar had established were destroyed, and the monks were forced to flee. Thus according to a contemporary monastic writer: “The whole kingdom was thrown into confusion, the bishops were agitated, the noblemen stirred up, the monks shaken with fear, the people terrified. The married clergy were glad, for their time had come. Abbots, with their monks, were expelled, and married clergy, with their wives, were introduced [in their place].”

The root of the trouble was that in the previous reign the white clergy had been expelled from the monasteries in which they had been living unlawfully, had been replaced by real monks, and were now seeking to be re-established in their former place. Also, the nobles coveted the lands which King Edgar had given to the monasteries. Already in the previous reign there had been a council to discuss this question, and when it was suggested that the white clergy be restored to their place, a voice was heard from a cross on the wall: “Far be it from you! You have done well: to change again would be wrong.”

In spite of this, the pressure continued and erupted into violence at the beginning of the reign of King Edward. However, King Edward and Archbishop Dunstan stood firm in a series of stormy councils attended by all the leading men of Church and State. Thus at one council, which took place at Kirtlington, Oxfordshire, after Pascha, 977, the tension was so great that the king’s tutor, a bishop, died suddenly during the proceedings. Then, at another council in Calne, Wiltshire, when the white clergy were renewing their complaints, St. Dunstan said: “Since in my old age you exert yourselves to the stirring up of old quarrels, I confess that I refuse to give in, but commit the cause of His Church to Christ the Judge.” As he spoke the house was suddenly shaken; the floor of the upper room in which they were assembled collapsed, and the enemies of the Church were thrown to the ground and crushed by the falling timber. Only the beam on which the archbishop was sitting on a beam did not move.

In all this turmoil King Edward stood firm together with the archbishop in defence of the Church and the monasteries. For this reason some of the nobles decided to remove him and replace him with his weaker younger brother. They seized their opportunity on March 18, 979.

On that day the king was out hunting with dogs and horsemen near Wareham in Dorset. Turning away from this pursuit, the king decided to visit his young brother Aethelred, who was being brought up in the house of his mother at Corfe Castle, near Wareham. He took a small retinue with him, but suddenly, as if playing a joke on him, his retinue broke up and went off in all directions, leaving him to continue on his way alone.

When Aethelred’s mother, Queen Aethelfryth (Aelfryth), heard from her servants that the young king was approaching, she hid the evil design in her heart and went out to meet him in an open and friendly manner, inviting him into her house. But he declined, saying that he only wished to see his brother and talk to him. The queen then suggested that while he was waiting he should have a drink. The king accepted.

At that moment one of the queen’s party went up to the king and gave him a kiss like Judas. For then, just as the king was lifting the cup to his lips, the man who had kissed him leapt at him from the front and plunged a knife in his body. The king slipped from the saddle of his horse and was dragged with one foot in the stirrup until he fell lifeless into a stream at the base of the hill on which Corfe Castle stands.

The queen then ordered that the holy body be seized and hidden in a hut nearby.

In obedience to her command, the servants took the body by the feet and threw it ignominiously into the hut, concealing it with some mean coverings.

Now there lived in that hut a woman blind from birth whom the queen used to support out of charity. While she spent the night there alone with the holy body, suddenly, in the middle of the night, a wonderful light appeared and filled the whole hut. Struck with awe, the poor woman cried out: “Lord, have mercy!” At this, she suddenly received her sight, which she had so long desired. And then, removing the covering, she discovered the dead body of the holy king. The present church of St. Edward at Corfe stands on the site of this miracle.

The stream into which the holy king’s body first fell was found to have healing properties. Many pilgrims who washed their eyes in the water recovered or improved their sight. These include two reported cases in modern times.

At dawn the next day, when the queen learned of the miracle, she was troubled and decided to conceal the body in a different way. She ordered her servants to take it up and bury it in a marshy place. At the same time she commanded that no one should grieve over the king’s death, or even speak about it. Then she retired to a manor in her possession called Bere, about ten miles from Corfe.

Meanwhile, such grief took hold of Aethelred over his brother’s death that he could not stop weeping. This angered his mother, who took some candles and beat him with them viciously, hoping thereby to stem the flow of his tears. It is said that thereafter Aethelred so hated candles that he would never allow them to be lit in his presence.

When St. Dunstan, archbishop of Canterbury, heard the news he was greatly saddened by the death of his beloved spiritual son, and at the coronation of his halfbrother, Aethelred, at Kingston he prophesied great sorrow for the English people in the coming reign. The prophecy was exactly fulfilled after Dunstan’s death in 988, when the pagan Danes invaded England and eventually, in 1016, after over twenty years of bloody war, conquered the country.

The contemporary Anglo-Saxon Chronicle expressed the universal horror felt by the English Orthodox people at this time: “No worse deed for the English was ever done than this, since first they came to the land of Britain. Men murdered him, but God exalted him; in life he was an earthly king, but after death he is now a heavenly saint. His earthly kinsmen would not avenge him, yet his Heavenly Father has amply avenged him. Those earthly slayers would have destroyed his memory upon earth; but the Heavenly Avenger has spread his fame abroad, in the heavens and upon the earth. Those who before would not bow in reverence to his living body, now humbly bend the knee to his dead bones. Now can we perceive that the wisdom of men, their deliberations and their plots, are as nothing against God’s purpose.”

Almost a year passed, and it pleased Almighty God to make known the heavenly glory of the martyr-king. A pillar of fire was seen over the place where his body was hidden, lighting up the whole area. This was seen by some devout inhabitants of Wareham, who met together and raised the body from the place where it lay.

Immediately a sweet, clear spring of healing water sprang up in that place. Then, accompanied by a huge crowd of mourners, the body was taken to the church of the Most Holy Mother of God in Wareham and buried at the east end of the church. This first translation of the holy relics took place on February 13, 980.

Meanwhile, the queen’s deceit and treachery were made known throughout the country, the fame of the innocent martyr-king increased, and many signs and miracles testified to his holiness. The nobleman Elfhere, deeply repenting of his destruction of monasteries and opposition to the king, decided to have the body translated to a worthier resting-place. Bishops and abbots were invited, together with Abbess Wulfrida of Wilton and the nuns of Wilton monastery, who included St.Edith, the king-martyr’s half-sister. A great number of laymen and women of Dorset also converged on Wareham.

Then the holy body was disinterred in the presence of the whole people and was found to be completely incorrupt. Seeing this, St. Dunstan and the other bishops led the people in hymns of praise to God, while St. Edith ran up to her brother’s body and embraced it with tears of joy and sorrow combined. Then the body was lifted onto a bier and with a great procession of clergy and laity was taken to Shaftesbury, to the women’s monastery founded in the ninth century by St. Edward’s ancestor, King Alfred the Great, in honour of the Most Holy Mother of God. The procession began on February 13, 981 and arrived at Shaftesbury seven days later, on February 20. There the holy body was received with honour by the nuns and was buried with great ceremony on the north side of the altar.

On the way from Wareham to Shaftesbury, two poor men who were so bent over and paralyzed that they could hardly crawl on their hands and knees were brought close to the bier. Those carrying it then lowered the sacred body down to their level, and immediately in the sight of all they were restored to full health. A great shout rose to the heavens, and all together glorified the holy martyr.

On hearing of the miracles worked through the saint, Queen Aelfryth was overcome by remorse and decided to go to him to ask forgiveness. But as she was riding to Shaftesbury with her servants, her horse suddenly stopped and refused to go further, nor would he be moved by blows of the whip and threats. Then the queen realized that she was held back by the force of her sins. Jumping off the horse, she prepared to continue her journey on foot. But again she was hurled back and could make no progress. Later, weeping bitterly over her sins, the queen retired to a convent at Wherwell, where “for many years she clothed her pampered body in hair-cloth, sleeping at night on the ground without a pillow, and mortifying her flesh with every kind of penance”.

During the twenty years after the translation of the relics of St. Edward to Shaftesbury, many miracles were worked through the intercession of the holy martyr-king. Thus there was a woman living in a remote part of England, who had an infirmity of her legs and daily poured forth prayers for her health. One night St.Edward appeared to her in a dream and said: “When you rise at dawn, go without delay to the place where I am buried, for there you will receive new shoes that are necessary for your infirmity.” Waking early, the woman reported the dream to her neighbour; but she, disbelieving the vision, declared that it was imagination. And so the woman disobeyed the command of the saint. But he, appearing to her a second time, said: “Why do you spurn my command and so greatly neglect your health? Go then to my tomb and there you will be delivered.” She recovered her strength and said: “Who are you, lord? Where shall I find your tomb?” He replied: “I am King Edward, recently killed by an unjust death and buried at Shaftesbury, in the church of Mary, the blessed Mother of God.” The woman woke early, and thinking over what she had seen, took was needed for her journey and made her way to the monastery. There she prayed for some time with humble heart to God and St.Edward, and was restored to health.

Great miracles continued to be worked at the tomb of the royal martyr, and in 1001 his brother Aethelred, who had succeeded him on the throne, granted the town of Bradford-on-Avon “to Christ and His saint, my brother Edward, whom, covered in his own blood, the Lord Himself has deigned to magnify by many signs of power.”

At about the same time the tomb in which the saint lay began to rise from the ground, indicating that he wished his remains to be raised from the earth. In confirmation of this he appeared in a vision to a monk and said: “Go to the convent called by the famous name of Shaftesbury and take commands to the nun Ethelfreda who is in charge of the other servants of God there. You will say to her that I do not wish to remain any longer in the place where I now lie, and command her on my behalf to report this to my brother without delay.” Rising early, and perceiving that the vision he had seen was from God, the monk quickly made his way to the abbess as he had been commanded and told her in order all that had been revealed to him.

Then the abbess, giving thanks to God, immediately told the whole story to King Aethelred, at the same time making known to him the elevation of the tomb. The king was filled with joy and would have been present at the elevation if he had been able. But, being prevented by the invasions of the Danes, he sent messengers to the holy bishops Wulsin of Sherborne and Elfsin of Dorchester-on-Thames, as well as to other men of respected life, instructing them to raise his brother’s tomb from the ground and replace it in a fitting place. Following the king’s command, those men joyfully assembled at the monastery with a vast crowd of laymen and women. The tomb was opened with the utmost reverence, and such a wonderful fragrance issued from it that all present thought that they were standing amidst the delights of Paradise. Then the holy bishops drew near, bore away the sacred relics from the tomb, and, placing them in a casket carefully prepared for this, carried it in procession to the holy place of the Saints together with other holy relics. This elevation of the relics of St. Edward took place on June 20, 1001.

St. Edward was officially glorified by an act of the All-English Council of 1008, presided over by St. Aelfheah, archbishop of Canterbury (who was martyred by the Danes in 1012). King Aethelred ordered that the saint’s three feastdays (March 18, February 13 and June 20) should be celebrated throughout England. The church in which St. Edward’s relics rested was rededicated to the Mother of God and St.Edward, and that part of the town was renamed “Edwardstowe” in honour of the saint. The town kept this name throughout the Middle Ages: only after the Protestant Reformation was the original name of Shaftesbury restored.

Many miracles continued to be worked at the tomb of St. Edward. Thus during the reign of his nephew, King Edward the Confessor (1042-1066), a man named John living in north-west France, whose whole body had been so bent by severe pain that his heels were touching his loins and he was unable to stand upright, was told in a vision at night to go to England to the monastery at Shaftesbury, where St. Edward lay, as there he would recover hid health. He told this vision to his neighbours and relatives, and with their help and advice he crossed the English Channel and after many detours at last reached the monastery. Having prayed there for some time to God and St. Edward he recovered his health, and remained as a servant at the monastery for the rest of his life.

Not long after, a leper came to the tomb of the saint, and after invoking God’s help by prayers and vigils, he received complete cleansing from his infirmity.

Another man who had been bound in heavy chains for his sins was suddenly freed from them as he was praying earnestly at the tomb. Again, Bishop Herman of Salisbury was staying at the monastery, and a poor blind man whom he supported was with him. While the bishop was delayed, the blind man decided to go and pray at the tomb, led by a boy who guided his steps. He continued praying until evening, when the wardens who were looking after the church asked him to leave. He refused, and said that he would wait on the mercy of God and St. Edward.

Impressed by his faith, they let him stay, while insisting that the boy return to his lodgings. After staying at his place for some time, the blind man was overwhelmed first by extreme cold, then by extreme heat. And then he recovered his sight. The next morning, some would not believe the miracle; but when witnesses came forward who affirmed that he had been blind for a long time, praise was given to Christ Who works great wonders through His Saints.

One of the miracles associated with St. Edward was the continual quivering of his incorrupt lung. It is known that this lung still quivered in the twelfth century.

However, in 1904 an eleventh-century glass vessel contained “a shrunken nut-like object” was found beneath a small marble slab in front of the High Altar. The vase may still be seen in Winchester Cathedral, but the relic, which was probably St.Edward’s lung, was thrown away… In 1931 Mr. Wilson-Claridge discovered some bones in a lead casket in the north transept of Shaftesbury Abbey. Although the archaeological evidence suggested that these were indeed the relics of the saint, he decided to seek the advice of a professional osteologist, Dr. T.E.A. Stowell. He examined the bones and in a long report published in The Criminologist came to the conclusion that they were the bones of a young man of about 20 (the saint was about 17 when he was martyred), that he was a Saxon and not a Celt, that certain bones were missing (we know that parts of the relics were removed to Leominster and Abingdon in 1008), and that certain bones were injured. These injuries corresponded to a person being dragged backwards over the pommel of a saddle and having their leg twisted in a stirrup.

From all this evidence Dr. Stowell concluded that these were indeed the bones of the martyred King Edward.

However, at the time when the holy relics were about to be transferred to the Russian Church Outside Russia, opposition suddenly arose. Another (two-page) report on the relics was commissioned which challenged the findings of Dr. Stowell, arguing that the bones were of an older man. Then the brother of Mr. Wilson- Claridge sought a high-court injunction preventing the Russian Church from receiving the relics. Even some members of the ROCA supported the brother of Mr.Wilson-Claridge, claiming that he had a half share right in the relics. The citizens of Shaftesbury also argued that the relics should stay in Shaftesbury.

One ROCA hierarch, Archbishop Mark of Germany, questioned whether St.Edward was a true saint because, as he claimed, the heresy of the Filioque was entrenched in England at the time. However, a Synodical decision declared in favour of St. Edward, and the doubting hierarch “agreed with the former decision after having been acquainted with the historical information compiled by His Grace, Bishop Gregory, who cited a list of names of Western saints of the same period who have long been included in our list of saints (among whom are St. Ludmilla, St.Wenceslaus of Czechia, and others).”

The present writer has argued that it is far from clear whether the Filioque was in general use in England at the time of St. Edward (late tenth century), and that in any case no less rigorous a theologian than St. Maximus the Confessor had declared, when the Roman Church first adopted the Filioque, that she did not in fact understood in a heretical sense at that time. Thus the possibility exists of a heresy being accepted at an early stage out of ignorance, while those who hold it remain Orthodox.

In England, meanwhile, a long legal battle began, during which the holy relics were kept in a bank vault. At one point the Attorney General decided that the relics belonged to the Queen of England. Then he changed his mind, but insisted that the relics should be kept especially secure – probably because they were the relics of a king. Finally, on March 18/31, 1995, the principal feastday of St. Edward, the case against the ROCA was dismissed and the relics were returned to the Church.

Miracles continue to be worked through St. Edward to the present day. Thus the English Orthodox Christian “S.P.” writes: “I was very happy to be pregnant again but saddened to learn that I had caught the rare disease of toxoplasmosis. The doctors advised me to abort at once: ‘Come through to this room,’ they said, ‘and it will be over in a few minutes.’ As an Orthodox Christian, I refused to have any truck with this. They promised me, a malleable (so they thought) young woman of 23, a child with no legs and no arms. I put my faith in God. Later, six months pregnant, I returned to the clinic for a scan. This time the doctors came out with a slightly more reassuring story: my child, for they could see him now, would have arms and legs, but he would be born blind.

“It was at this very time that I first came to read the little brochure, The Recorded Miracles of St. Edward the Martyr. I had always been attracted by St. Edward’s icon and when I read that his first miracle had been to heal a blind woman, I was overwhelmed with the thought that my son should be called Edward. We decided to baptise him so, despite our Archbishop who refused to recognise the Saint and tried to force my husband into changing the name. And when Edward was born, he was not blind, but a good, happy baby, perfectly normal and so strong and healthy! Imagine our joy! The doctors were very surprised, and perhaps a little ashamed of themselves, but they did show me and my husband the umbilical cord and placenta.

It was astonishing, for we could clearly see how the top half of the cord had been discoloured an ugly black by an infection. The discoloration had stopped exactly half-way down the cord. I am so thankful to God and St. Edward. The Lord is truly wonderful in His Saints.”

S. McDonnell, an Orthodox Christian from Australia, writes: “On Great Friday this year I met up with Edward, a Bulgarian friend, in Jerusalem. He related the following to me while we were at the Holy Sepulchre.

“As a child, he had not been baptised. Recently he had asked to receive the sacrament of holy baptism in Jerusalem. The priest, Fr. Iakovos, agreed but informed Edward that he would have to change his name because it ‘was not Orthodox’.

Much saddened, Edward agreed, but went home with a grief-stricken heart because he was fond of his name. That night while he slept, a young man wearing a cloak of purple and a square shaped crown of gold appeared and said: ‘I am Edward, King of the English. You bear my name. Be baptised.’ That was all. (I later found out from Fr.Niphon of St. Edward’s Brotherhood that the Saxon crown was a square one.)

“I was surprised and showed my friend Edward a paper icon of St. Edward that I carry with me. I asked if this was the one. Shocked, he stammered out yes, noticing particularly that St. Edward’s crown was square and his cloak purple for a King. You can imagine how shaken I was by this, my mouth was open, I just couldn’t believe it.”

L.J. writes: “I was suffering from terrible pains in my left eye. Nothing helped me, and all the specialists agreed that surgery is going to do more damage than help.

One night, when I woke up from intense pains in my left eye, I, without thinking what and why I am doing, started to reach for a tiny peace of cotton, which was given me at St. Edward’s Brotherhood. I found it and put it on my left eye.” She explains how she called upon St. Edward in a short prayer, and continues: “And immediately went to sleep. In the morning I thought ‘what a strange thing I have done in the night’. I looked in St. Herman Calendar and realised that it was exactly St. Edward’s feast day – March 31! I thought, ‘If only I would have asked them to remember me in a molieben, my eye would have healed completely.’ Since March 31, or, more precisely, April 1, I have never again suffered from the pains in my eye, although it has not healed completely.”

St. Edward the Martyr is commemorated on March 31, February 13 and June 20.

Holy Martyr-King Edward, pray to God for us!

(Sources: The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle; Anonymous, “Vita Oswaldi”, in J. Raine, Historians of the Church of York, Rolls Series, 1874, vol. I; “Passio et Miracula Sancti Edwardis Regis et Martyris” (11th century), in Christine Fell, Edward King and Martyr, University of Leeds, 1971; William of Malmesbury, Gesta Regum Anglorum; J.M.Kemble, Codex Diplomaticus Aevi Saxoni, 1845-8, no. 706; D.J.V. Fisher, “The Anti- Monastic Reaction in the Reign of Edward the Martyr”, Cambridge Historical Journal, 1952, X, pp. 254-270; Theodoric Paulus, quoted in Orthodoxy America, May-June, 1981; Living Orthodoxy, volume IV, no. 4, July-August, 1982, p. 16; V. Moss, “Western Saints and the Filioque”, Living Orthodoxy, volume IV, no. 1, January-February, 1982, p. 29; J. Wilson-Claridge, The Recorded Miracles of St. Edward the Martyr, Brookwood: King Edward Orthodox Trust, 1984; V. Moss, The Saints of Anglo-Saxon England, Seattle: St. Nectarios Press, volume 2, 1993; Archimandrite Alexis (Pobjoy), “The St.Edward Brotherhood”, Necropolis News, Brookwood, Surrey, vol. 2, no. 1, April, 1996; “S.P.”, “A Miracle of St. Edward the Martyr”, Orthodox England, vol. 1, no. 4, June, 1998, p. 14; “A Holy Name: A Miracle of St. Edward”, Orthodox England, vol. 2, no. 3, March, 1999, p. 11; “Miracle of Saint Edward”, The Shepherd, vol. XXVI, no. 2, October, 2005, p. 23)



St. Edwin was the second Christian king in England, and the first in the northern English kingdom of Northumbria. He was born in 584 into the royal family of Deira, and spent much of his early life in Wales and East Anglia, fleeing from King Ethelfrith of Northumbria. He married Cwenburga of Mercia, by whom he had two sons. In 616, with the help of King Redwald of East Anglia, his host in exile, Edwin defeated and killed Ethelfrith at the battle of the River Idle, and became king of Northumbria.

After the death of Cwenburga, he sought the hand of Ethelburga, a Christian princess from Kent. His suit was initially rejected, but then accepted on condition that Ethelburga was allowed to practice her own religion and that Edwin would seriously consider becoming a Christian. In 625 St. Paulinus was consecrated bishop and sent to York as Ethelburga’s chaplain.

Edwin thought long and carefully before becoming a Christian. He received a letter of encouragement from Pope Boniface, and he was astounded when St.Paulinus displayed clairvoyance concerning a mysterious vision that Edwin had had some years before. But he still insisted on consulting with his chief men about the matter. At this meeting Coifi, the chief pagan Priest, confessed his conversion to the new religion, and even took the initiative in destroying his pagan idols. Inspired by this example, King Edwin, his nobles and a large number of the poorer people agreed to be baptised by the holy bishop in York at Pascha, 627.

Under the leadership of Saints Edwin and Paulinus, the conversion of the north of England to the Christian faith proceeded apace. Moreover, St. Edwin acquired extensive territories in Scotland (the Scottish capital of Edinburgh is named after him), in the West (Anglesey and Man) and even in the south, becoming the overlord of the southern kingdoms except Kent.

The Venerable Bede writes: “So peaceful was it in those parts of Britain under King Edwin’s jurisdiction that the proverb still runs that a woman could carry her new-born babe across the island from sea to sea without any fear of harm. Such was the king’s concern for the welfare of his people that in a number of places where he had noticed clear springs adjacent to the highway he ordered posts to be erected with brass bowls hanging from them, so that travellers could drink and refresh themselves. And so great was the people’s affection for him, and so great the awe in which he was held, that no one wished or ventured to use these bowls for any other purpose. So royally was the king’s dignity maintained throughout the realm that whether in battle or on a peaceful progress on horseback through city, town, and countryside in the company of his thegns, the royal standard was always borne before him. “

However, the British Christian King Cadwalla of Wales rebelled against him, and, combining with the pagan King Penda of Mercia, defeated and killed King Edwain on October 12, 633 St. Edwin at the battle of Hatfield. His sons Osfrid and Eadfrid were also killed. The site of the battle is said to have been near Doncaster. However, according to another tradition, it took place in Sherwood forest, Nottinghamshire.

There, in a clearing in the forest, he was secretly buried. By the time his friends had returned to collect the body for a proper royal burial in York, people were calling him St. Edwin. A small wooden chapel was erected on the spot where he was first buried, which is now in the town of Edwinstowe.

“The head of King Edwin,” writes Bede, “was carried to York and subsequently placed in the church of the blessed Apostle Peter, which he had begun to build, but which his successor Oswald completed…” St. Edwin is commemorated on October 12.

Holy Martyr-King Edwin, pray to God for us!

(Sources: The Venerable Bede, Ecclesiastical History of the English People, II, 5, 9-18, 20, III, 1; “St. Mary’s Church, Edwinstowe”; David Farmer, The Oxford Dictionary of Saints, Oxford: The Clarendon Press, 1978, p. 126)