Died: ~ 869
FEast: Nov. 20th
Pandemics, torture victims, wolves, England
Not much can be known for sure of St. Edmund, since the Vikings that martyred him also burned any records that may have existed of his life. Tradition holds, though, that he was born into a royal Anglo-Saxon family around the year 841 (on Christmas) and that he may possibly have begun to rule at a young age - as early as 14. He was raised Christian, and when the Viking warriors advanced on his people, he fought alongside of them and was captured. The Vikings, not Christians themselves, demanded that King Edmund renounce his faith. If he were to do so, they would spare him.
He did not, so he was tied to a tree and repeatedly shot with arrows. He died while calling out to God, and was beheaded as well.
After they had tortured and killed him, the Vikings separated his head and body, but the legend goes that his people were able to re-locate his head because a wolf in the woods had been guarding it and making a noise that sounded like "hic", which is the Latin word for "here".
His remains were moved in the year 902 - to a place now called Bury St Edmunds - for that reason. The King at the time named Athelstan built a shrine there to St. Edmund, and soon it became a very popular spot to make pilgrimages. A monastery was built there later. When it was destroyed, St. Edmund's remains disappeared and it is still not known where they are located today.
Some say St. Edmund was the first patron of England until the third Crusade, in which the King Richard I visited St. George's shrine and did well in battle the next day. From then on, St. George has been declared patron of England, despite the fact that he was not from the country or likely ever set foot in the area.
As patron of pandemics, be with us as we continue to navigate the CoVID-19 Pandemic. Keep us healthy & safe, thoughtful & loving, hopeful & strong. Help us navigate residual effects when at last it ends, & aid in preventing another by changing our ideas & our hearts. Be with those on the front lines and with those who have lost loved ones or suffered themselves. Amen.
This icon of St. Edmund features symbols of his royalty and the wolf from his story. The colors I chose also reflect those found in Medieval stained glass windows, in which he can often be found. His posture and gaze is serious and calculating as a leader would be in battle, but he is also determined to do whatever he can for his country and faith.