Born of Saxon stock, Edmund was brought up as a Christian and became king of the East Anglians before 865. In 869 to 870 an army of Vikings, led by Ingwar, invaded East Anglia. Edmund led his army against them but was defeated and captured. He refused to renounce the Christian faith or to rule as Ingwar’s vassal. He was then killed, whether by being scourged, shot with arrows, and then beheaded, as the traditional account relates, or by being “spread-eagled” as a sacrifice to the gods in accordance with Viking practice elsewhere. His death took place at Hellesdon in Norfolk, and his body was buried in a small wooden chapel nearby. Around 915 his body was discovered to be incorrupt and was translated to Bedricsworth, later call Bury St Edmunds. In 925 King Athelstan founded a community of two priests and four deacons to take care of the shrine. His veneration growing through the years, with its fulfillment of the ideals of Old English heroism, provincial independence, and Christian sanctity, by the eleventh century his feast figured prominently in monastic calendars in southern England and later in that of Sarum. His relics were again translated in 1095 to a large new Norman church and re-enshrined in 1198.
His iconography includes an arrow (often a golden arrow), the supposed instrument of his martyrdom, or else a wolf, believed to have guarded his head after death.
adapted from The Oxford Dictionary of Saints
O God of ineffable mercy, you gave grace and fortitude to blessed Edmund the king to triumph over the enemy of his people by nobly dying for your Name: Bestow on us your servants the shield of faith with which we can withstand the assaults of our ancient enemy; through Jesus Christ our Redeemer, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
The propers for the commemoration of Edmund, King of East Anglia and Martyr, are published on the Lectionary Page website.
The icon of St Edmund the Martyr was written by Helen McIldowie-Jenkins and is reproduced here with her generous permission.