Friday, August 20, 2010

Statue of King Edmund at Bury St. Edmund

In the grounds of  Bury St. Edmunds, Suffolk, stands this magnificent sculpture of St. Edmund King of East Anglia (c. 841-70) who met his death at the hands of an invading army.

The following excerpt is from my book, Extraordinary Places...Close to London. (ISBN 0-8038-2031-3). Many people have described the book as a "travelling companion," but also that they've enjoyed "the nuggets of history, ghost and witch stories too..." Some have also described it as an "armchair travel book."

According to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles (a detailed account of the history of England covering 1000 years from Roman times to the middle of the 12th century) “…a great heathen force” of Vikings arrived in 865 on the eastern shores of England known as East Anglia. They lost no time in conquering every village in their path; ravaging and pillaging until nothing was left. Then a threatening message to King Edmund from Ivar, the captain of the Danes, “You will surrender your possessions and your people to me or die.” The king summoned his most faithful bishop for guidance but his suggestion that the king should flee was unacceptable. “…Alas bishop, I would rather die fighting so that my people might continue to possess their native land.” The bishop informed the king that word had come from the battlefields that his armies were defeated, all was lost, and surrender or flee was the only options.
The Chronicles tell us King Edmund was captured, tortured unmercifully and suffered unmentionable terrors. The Dane offered Edmund his life if he would renounce Christ. He would not, and was lashed until he almost died. With every lash he cried Jesus’ name infuriating his captors. Finally, he was tied to a tree and killed by a hail of arrows so that “…hardly a place on his body was not covered with arrows…” He was then beheaded. As a final insult, the pirates hid King Edmund’s head in the forest so that it could not be buried with his body.

Soon after King Edmund’s death, the Britons and some reformed Danes began to regard him as a saint because of his courageous life and honorable death. A shrine was erected and pilgrims traveled from all over Britain to honor this great man.

It is thought the final resting-place for the remains of Saint Edmund is a town called Bury St. Edmunds, in Suffolk, but some believe his remains are still in the churchyard at St. Andrews in Essex.