St. Edmund, King and Martyr

English Language Study for Russian Orthodox Learners

St. Edmund, King and Martyr (✝870)
Feast day – November 7 (20)

If we have died with Him, we shall also live with
Him; if we endure, we shall also reign with Him.
- II Timothy, 2:11

Saint EdmundEdmund was crowned King of East Anglia at the age of 14 in 855 on the day of Nativity of Christ.  The young man was born of Saxon stock and raised a Christian.  Well-educated and gifted, Edmund was deeply religious and could recite the entire Psalter by heart.

During his rule, the Danes not only raided England continuously, but also were beginning to occupy parts of the country.  In the year 866, they took York and marched south as far as Nottingham.  The next year, the Vikings crossed Mercia.  Villagers who were in the path of the invaders were either killed or enslaved.  In 870, the Danes entered East Anglia.  King Edmund met the enemy on the battlefield.  In the beginning, the king’s army was winning, but later the Vikings received large reinforcements.  Edmund was defeated and captured.

Hingmar, the barbarian leader, offered peace to the king on the condition that he denounce the Christian faith and become his vassal.  The saint replied that he would not betray the Lord in exchange for his life.  Edmund believed that he had been called by God to advance Christ’s kingdom.  He could not serve as the vassal of a heathen.

Hingmar ordered his warriors to scourge the king and tie him to a tree as a living target.  The archers shot arrows into Edmund.  Many arrows pierced through the king’s body as they hit the trunk of the tree.  St. Edmund was still alive when he was torn from the tree and dragged to the ground.  Then, the torturers beheaded the holy king and threw his body aside in the forest.  They thought that the king’s remains would never be found.   But, soon afterwards, the holy body was discovered due to the miraculous intervention of a dog.  No one knew where the dog came from, but it sat by the body protecting it from wild animals and howling to attract people’s attention.  Edmund’s servants buried the head and body of their king in a small wooden chapel built at the place of his execution.  In 915,  the incorrupt remains were transferred to an abbey named after the king – St. Edmundsbury.

By God’s grace, many Vikings converted to Christianity, and in less than 30 years after the martyr’s death, the former barbarians venerated Edmund as their beloved saint.  Ancient English icons often depict St. Edmund with a dog.

Celtic Cross