Guest Post by Paul Cawthorn

The Truth about St Edmund

For the main facts generally accepted as authentic, we must go back in time and revisit the dreadful year 870 AD, when the Danish invasion lead by Inguar and Ubba arrived in East Anglia, and set up winter quarters at Thetford in Norfolk.

1. The King of East Anglia was a young man called Edmund, of a high and noble character.

Edmund had ruled wisely for around 16 years and was about 30 years of age.

2. Though he knew he would be outnumbered by the two Danish armies, King Edmund led his troops and at Hoxne , some 20 miles east of Thetford in Norfolk, he defended his country, joining in battle November AD 780.  There was terrible slaughter, and the Danes won a decisive victory, capturing young King Edmund whilst he was “fighting fiercely.”

3. Edmund’s life was offered to him by Inguar, on condition he renounce his Christian faith  and accept the new rulers; the conquerors, as overlord.  King Edmund boldly defied the Danish threat, refusing their offers of ignoble release.

4. His captors tied Edmund to a tree and used his body for target practise for Norsemen’s arrows. In continued defiance, and knowing he was dying an honourable death, King Edmund as a follower of Jesus called out, “into God’s hand I commend my spirit.”

5. Eventually, the Danish leader ordered the executioner to strike off Edmund’s head, and this was witnessed by Edmund’s armour-bearer and told by Dunstan. Two generations later The East Anglian King was given Sainthood, and at this time, it was said that the king’s body was found on the battlefield, guarded by a wolf, and placed in the little wooden church of Hoxne.

6. Some 30 years later, Edmund’s body was removed to the monastery at Beodricsworth, afterwards to become known as Bury St Edmunds, and that curious name came to embody the story of a man who died for his faith. But the Danes were not all bad, and Danish King Cnut, was the most enthusiastic of the early benefactors of the monastery.

7. Over time, the monastery grew to become a mighty abbey would that would eventually become (with the exception of Glastonbury) the greatest of all the religious houses in England.

8. In it’s hey day, there were some 80 monks, 21 chaplins attending on the abbot and chief officers, and about 111 servants in various offices working on farms, and drawing rations from the abbey, in the form of broken meat, occasional old clothes, alms on the death of a monk, and entertainment for all comers in the guest-houses, for the benefit of many pilgrims to the Shrine of St Edmunds, ranging from royalty to the poorest tramp.

9.  32 abbots ruled from 1182 to 1539, until King Henry VIII ordered the destruction of the English abbeys, at the  Reformation.

10. Today’s Suffolk’s Cathedral with it’s Millennium Tower, welcomes visitors from all over the world including North America, especially remembering the price paid by US air servicemen in WW2 , who made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom today.

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