saints of july: way-back great-grandpa canute the holy, king of denmark

Among saints who celebrate a feast day in the month of July is my roughly 26th great-grandfather1, King of Denmark Canute IV of Denmark (born circa 1040–murdered July 10, 1086, as he knelt in front of the altar of Saint Alban’s Church in Odense, Denmark2,3), aka Canute the Holy / St. Canute IV / Canute IV Knud the Holy Of Denmark, and various variations thereof.

Murder of St. Canute the Holy:  1843 Christian Albrecht von Benzon (1816-1849) painting3

Per Wikipedia3“Canute was an ambitious king who sought to strengthen the Danish monarchy, devotedly supported the Roman Catholic Church, and had designs on the English throne.  Slain by rebels in 1086, he was the first Danish king to be canonized.  He was recognized by the Roman Catholic Church as patron saint of Denmark in 1101.”  Wikipedia continues:

Life
“Canute was born c. 1042, one of the many sons of Sweyn II Estridsson.  He is first noted as a member of Sweyn’s 1069 raid of England, and the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle reports that Canute was one of the leaders of another raid against England in 1075.  When returning from England in 1075, the Danish fleet stopped in the County of Flanders.  Because of its hostility towards William I of England, Flanders was a natural ally for the Danes.  He also led successful campaigns to Sember and Ester, according to skald Kálfr Mánason.

St. Canute, King of Denmark4

“When Sweyn died, Canute’s brother Harald III was elected king, and as Canute went into exile in Sweden, he was possibly involved in the active opposition to Harald.  On 17 April 1080, Harald died; and Canute succeeded him to the throne of Denmark…  On his accession, he married Adela, daughter of Count Robert I of Flanders.  She bore him one son, Charles (a name uncommon in Denmark in 1084…), and twin daughters Cæcilia (who married Erik Jarl) and Ingerid (who married Folke the Fat), born shortly before his death (ca. 1085/86).  Ingerid’s descendants, the House of Bjelbo, would ascend to the throne of Sweden and Norway and Canute IV’s blood returned to the Danish throne in the person of first Olaf II of Denmark.

King of Denmark
“Canute quickly proved himself to be a highly ambitious king as well as a devout one.  He enhanced the authority of the church, and demanded austere observation of church holidays.  He gave large gifts to the churches in Dalby, Odense, Roskilde, and Viborg, and especially to Lund.  Ever a champion of the Church, he sought to enforce the collection of tithes.  His aggrandizement of the church served to create a powerful ally, who in turn supported Canute’s power position.

“In May 1085, Canute wrote a letter of donation to Lund Cathedral which was under construction, granting it large tracts of lands in Scania, Zealand, and Amager.  He founded Lund Cathedral School at the same time.  Canute had gathered the land largely as pay for the pardon of outlawed subjects.  The clerics at Lund got extended prerogatives of the land, being able to tax and fine the peasantry there.  However, Canute kept his universal royal rights to pardon the outlaws, fine subjects who failed to answer his leding[sic] call to war, and demand transportation for his retinue.

“His reign was marked by vigorous attempts to increase royal power in Denmark, by stifling the nobles and keeping them to the word of the law.  Canute issued edicts arrogating to himself the ownership of common land, the right to the goods from shipwrecks, and the right to inherit the possessions of foreigners and kinless folk.  He also issued laws to protect freed thralls as well as foreign clerics and merchants.  These policies led to discontent among his subjects, who were unaccustomed to a king claiming such powers and interfering in their daily lives.

Aborted attempt on England
“But Canute’s ambitions were not purely domestic.  As the grandnephew of Canute the Great, who ruled England, Denmark and Norway until 1035, Canute considered the crown of England to be rightfully his.  He therefore regarded William I of England as a usurper.  In 1085, with the support of his father-in-law Count Robert and Olaf III of Norway, Canute planned an invasion of England and called his fleet in leding at the Limfjord.  The fleet never set sail, as Canute was preoccupied in Schleswig due to the potential threat of Henry IV, Holy Roman Emperor, with whom both Denmark and Flanders were on unfriendly terms.  Canute feared the invasion of Henry, whose enemy Rudolf of Rheinfelden had sought refuge in Denmark.

“The warriors of the fleet, mostly made up of peasants who needed to be home for the harvest season, got weary of waiting, and elected Canute’s brother Olaf (the later Olaf I of Denmark) to argue their case.  This raised the suspicion of Canute, who had Olaf arrested and sent to Flanders.  The leding was eventually dispersed and the peasants tended to their harvests, but Canute intended to reassemble within a year.

Death
“Before the fleet could reassemble, a peasant revolt broke out in Vendsyssel, where Canute was staying, in early 1086.  Canute first fled to Schleswig, and eventually to Odense.  On 10 July 1086, Canute and his men took refuge inside the wooden St. Alban’s Priory in Odense.  The rebels stormed into the church and slew Canute, along with his brother Benedict and seventeen of their followers, before the altar.  According to chronicler Ælnoth of Canterbury, Canute died following a lance thrust in the flank.  He was succeeded by Olaf as Olaf I of Denmark.

Canonization
“B
ecause of his martyrdom and advocacy of the Church, Canute quickly began to be considered a saint.  Under the reign of Olaf, Denmark suffered from crop failure, which was seen as divine retribution for the sacrilege killing of Canute.  Miracles were soon reported as taking place at his grave, and his canonization was already being sought during the reign of Olaf.

“On 19 April 1101, persuaded by the envoys from Eric III of Denmark, Pope Paschal II confirmed the ‘cult of Canute’ that had arisen, and King Canute IV was canonized as a saint under the name San Canuto.  He was the first Dane to be canonized.  10 July is recognised by the Catholic Church as his feast day.  In Sweden and Finland he is historically, however, partially associated with St. Knut’s Day, which in reality was celebrated in the memory of the death of his nephew, Canute Lavard. [<- Underlining, my own:  the two men are often confused.]

In 1300, his remains and those of his brother Benedict were interred in Saint Canute’s Cathedral, built in his honour, where his remains are on display.

Legacy
“The reign of Canute has been interpreted differently through the times; from a violent king who tyrannized his subjects, to a strict but fair ruler who devotedly supported the Roman Catholic Church and fought for justice without regard to his own person.  He was never a thoroughly popular saint in Denmark, but his sainthood granted the Danish monarchy an aura of divine legitimacy.  The cause of the rebellion which killed Canute is unknown, but has been speculated as originating in fines issued to the peasants breaking the leding of 1085 as specified in the Chronicon Roskildense, or as a result of his vigorous tithe policy.

“The document of his donation to Lund Cathedral was the oldest comprehensive text from Denmark, and provided broad insights into Danish post-Viking Age society.  The donation might have had the aim of establishing the Danish Archdiocese of Lund according to Sweyn II Estridsson’s wishes, which was finally achieved in 1104.  Canute’s son Carl became Count of Flanders from 1119 to 1127, ruling as Charles the Good.  Like his father, Charles was martyred in a church by rebels (in Bruges, 1127), and later beatified.  According to Niels Lund, Lecturer in Medieval History at the University of Copenhagen, Canute’s abortive invasion of England ‘marked the end of the Viking Age.’

“In 2008, an X-ray computed tomography was taken of Canute, which showed that he was right-handed and of a slender build.  It also specified his cause of death as a thrust to the sacrum through the abdomen, negating Ælnoth’s account.  He had no injuries indicating he fought against multiple enemies, which can be seen as supporting an account saying he faced his death without a struggle.”3

Grave of King Canute IV the Holy of Denmark at Odense Cathedral aka St. Canute’s Church; in Odense, Denmark3

Here’s a lighter bio-read for the children 🙂 :  St. Canute,” reads the “Holy Spirit Interactive Kids Zone:” …

“…was a strong, wise king of Denmark and was called Knud IV.  He was a great athlete, an expert horseman, and a marvelous general.  He married Adela, sister of Count Roberts of Flanders.

“At the beginning of his reign, he led a war against the barbarians and his army defeated them.  He loved the Christian faith so much that he introduced it to people who had never heard of Christianity.  Through his kingdom, he spread the gospel, built churches and supported missionaries.

“St. Canute knelt in church at the foot of the altar and offered his crown to the King of kings, Jesus.  King Canute was very charitable and gentle with his people.  He tried to help them with their problems.  Most of all, he wanted to help them be true followers of Jesus.

“But trouble started in his kingdom because of the laws he had made about supporting the Church and he fled to the Island of Fünen. Then one day some angry people went to the church of Saint Alban where Canute and some of his followers were praying. He knew they had come to harm him.

“While his enemies were still outside, King Canute received the sacraments of Reconciliation and Holy Communion.  He felt compassion for those who were upset enough to kill him.  With all his heart he forgave his enemies.

“Then, as he prayed, a spear was thrown through a window and he was killed.  It was July 10, 1086.

“St. Canute tried to be a good king so he could thank Jesus for all the blessings he had received.  We, too, should thank God every day and offer him a crown made up of good deeds.”4

Bronze Statue of St. Canute at old Albani Church in Odense6

My ascent to Danish King St. Canute the Holy goes from my great-grandfather Carl Johan Eilertsen Fjelse (1848 Fjelse nedre Br.74, Nes, Vest Agder, Norway-Aft. Apr 1911 Norway) as follows:
-> Ellert Tollaksen Haugland (1806 Fjelse nedre Br.38.\Haugland, Hidra, Nes, Vest Agder, Norway-Aft. 1864)
-> Tollak Eriksen Osen (1768 Osen, Bakke, Vest Agder, Norway-Nov. 15, 1852 Fjelse nedre Br.37 II\Haugland, Hidra, Vest Agder, Norway)
-> Erik Tollaksen Sporkland (Aug., 1723 Sporkland, Bakke, Vest Agder, Norway-June, 1811 Osen\Husmannsplass u\Prestegården, Bakke, Vest Agder, Norway)
-> Tollak Johannessen Sporkland (1689 Sporkland Br.1.III, Bakke\Sirdal, Vest Agder, Norway-Bef. Sept. 7, 1763 Sporkland Br.1.IV, Bakke\Sirdal, Vest Agder, Norway)
-> Johannes Tollaksen Sporkland (Abt. 1653 Sporkland Br.1. II, Bakke\Sirdal, Vest Agder, Norway-Bef. June 10, 1742 Sporkland Br.1.IV, Bakke\Sirdal, Vest Agder, Norway)
-> Tollak Sigbjørnsen Sporkland (Sporkland Br.1.I, Bakke\Sirdal, Vest Agder, Norway-Apr. 2, 1685 Sporkland Br.1.II, Bakke\Sirdal, Vest Agder, Norway)
-> Sigbjørn Tollaksen Sandsmark (1611, lived at Sandsmark ytre, Bakke, Vest Agder, Norway)
-> Tollak Sigbjørnsen Stordrange (Apr. 1, 1658 Sandsmark ytre, Bakke, Vest Agder, Norway-Bef. 1598 Storedrange, Nes, Vest Agder, Norway)
-> Sigbjørn Torlaksen Drange (1530 Drange, Nes, Vest Agder, Norway- )
-> Torlak Gunnersen Stordrange (Bef. 1500 Stordrange Br.4.IV., Nes, Vest Agder, Norway- )
-> Gunnar Asbjørnsen Tengs aka Gunnar Osbjornson (1470 Tengs, Egersund, Rogaland, Norway-1546 Drangeid Br.4.IV, Nes, Vest Agder, Norway)
-> Unknown Gunbjørnsdtr Tengs (Tengs, Bjerkreim, Rogaland, Norway-same)
-> Gunnbjørn Tordsen Tengs (Tengs, Egersund, Rogaland, Norway-Aft. 1486 same)
-> Tore Gardsen Garå aka Tord (Tore) Gardson Benkestok (Abt. 1400 Garå, Talgje, Norway-Abt. 1454 same)
-> Ramborg Knutsdtr Lejon (Abt. 1360 Sweden-Aft. 1408 Finnø, Norway)
-> Knut Algotsen Lejon Folkunge IX aka Knut Algotsen
-> Algot Brynjulfson aka Algot Brynjulfson of Vestergtland
-> Brynjulf Bengtsen Lejon Gotland aka Brynjulf Bengtson
-> Bengt Magnusson aka II Bengt Hagfridsen Lejon; Bengt Hafridsson or Magnusson [“Lagmann:” attorney]
-> Magnus Eskilsson aka Peter Nef Eskildsen; Magnus Christinasson [“Lagmann:” attorney]
-> Eskild Magnussen [“Lagmann:” attorney]
-> Magnus Minneskold Bengtsson Folkunga aka Magnus Bengtsson Minneskjold Folkunga; Magnus Bengtsson
-> Bengt Snivel Folkunga aka Bengt Folkeson Snivel Folkunga; Benedikt Folkesen
-> Ingerid, or, Ingrid of Demark Knudsdtr.1
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SOURCES
1 Norwegian genea
logist Signe Elisabeth Zijdemans, Flekkefjord, Vest-Agder county, Norway, “Ahnentafel of Sally Marie Eilertsen Fjelse” [“Knut IV SVEINSEN Den hellige…son of Konge Sven ESTRIDSEN…& Dronning Rannveig TORDSDTR Aurland”]prepared Oct.  23, 2001; source, Norwegian bygdebøker; in possession of myself.
2 “For All the Saints,” website of St. Patrick’s Church, Washington, D.C., “Canute IV of Denmark,” accessed Jan., 2002.
3 Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, “Canute IV of Denmark,” at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canute_IV_of_Denmark , accessed July, 2018.  (Wikipedia source citations omitted in the above; see Wikipedia for at link indicated.).
4 Image of St. Canute, from the Catholic Exchange, at https://catholicexchange.com/st-canute-king-of-denmark , accessed July, 2018.
5 The “Holy Spirit Interactive Kids Zone,” “St. Canute,” at http://www.holyspiritinteractive.net/kids/saints/0119.asp , accessed July 18, 2018.
6 Image of St. Canute statue from Visit Odense website at https://www.visitodense.com/ln-int/canute-holy-gdk664346 , accessed July, 2018.
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favorite name: bridget, saint of sweden

52 Ancestors In 52 Weeks, 2018; week 6 prompt:  Favorite Name.
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Favorite name, favorite name…  This one stumps me.  I don’t have a favorite name.  (I found choosing one for my own child tortuous; there are so many.)  Currently, my ears particularly like very old-fashioned names and, I love virtuous Quaker female names, but again, no favorite.

When I was in high school I remember going through a period of wishing my forename was more original than same-old same-old “Susan” though, and, “Bridget” was high on the list of my rather-haves; plus, raised Catholic, when I first began researching my Norwegian ancestry and saw “Saint” before some of my way-back great-grands, I was awed & delighted, so,

Saint Bridget in the religious habit and the crown of a Bridgettine nun, in a 1476 breviary of the form of the Divine Office unique to her Order1

I decided to honor with this week’s blog post, the patron saint of Sweden, my 18th Great-Grandmother Saint Bridget of Sweden (circa 1303–July 23, 1373).  From Catholic.org2:

“Saint Birgitta was the daughter of Uppland’s Lagman3, Birger Petersson and his wife, Ingeborg, who was a member of the same clan as the reigning family.  Birgitta’s family was pious; her father went to confession every Friday and made long and arduous pilgrimages as far away as the Holy Land.2

Image of Birger Petersson & wife Ingeborg at their Uppsala Cathedral, Sweden, tombstone.4

“Birgitta’s mother died, leaving Birgitta, ten years old, Katharine, nine and a newborn baby boy, Israel.  The children were sent to their maternal aunt for further education and care.  It seems that as a young child, Birgitta had a dream-vision of The Man of Sorrows.  This dream was very vivid.  Birgitta asked Him who had done that to Him. His answer:  ‘All those who despise my love.’  The memory of this dream never left Birgitta and may have even left an indelible mark on her sub-conscious.  As was usual during the Middle Ages, Birgitta was married when she was 13 years old to a young man, Ulf Gudmarsson with whom she had eight children, four daughters and four sons, all of them survived infancy, and that was very rare at that time.2

“When the King of Sweden, Magnus Eriksson married Blanche of Namur, he asked his kinswoman, Birgitta to come and be Lady-in Waiting and to teach the young queen the language and customs of her new country.  After her years of service at Court, Birgitta and Ulf made the long pilgrimage to Santiago di Compostela.  On the return journey Ulf became dangerously ill in Arras.  Birgitta feared for his death and sat all night by his bed praying, and then a bishop appeared to her, promised that Ulf would recover and ‘God had great things for her to do.’  He told her that he was Denis, Patron of France.  Ulf recovered and was able to continue his work as Lagman in the province of Närke until early in the year 1344, when he was very ill so Birgitta took him to the monks at Alvastra where he died and was buried.  Birgitta remained in a little house near the abbey and she spent along hours in prayer by Ulf’s grave.  She said that she ‘loved him like my own body.’  She arranged her affairs among her children and various charities and prayed for guidance.  She was 41 years old and in the abbey at Alvastra God called her ‘be My Bride and My canal’.  He gave her the task of founding new religious order, mainly for women.  He said that the other orders had fallen into decay and this new order would be a vineyard whose wine would revivify the Church.  He showed her how her abbey church was to be built, gave directions concerning the clothing and prayers of the nuns, 60 in all, who needed priests as chaplains, 13 priests, 4 deacons and 8 lay brothers.  These two communities were to be ruled by an abbess, who was to represent the Blessed Virgin Mary together with the Apostles in the Upper Room in Jerusalem.

“King Magnus Eriksson donated a little palace and much land to the new monastery, but almost as soon she had begun altering the palace and organising the work, Christ appeared to her and asked her to go to Rome and wait there until she got the pope to return from France to Rome.  She was to be there during the Holy Year 1350.  Birgitta left Sweden at the end of 1349 never to return.  For the rest of her life she saw visions concerning the reform of the Church, messages to kings and popes and many other persons in high places, directing them to work for the Church.  It may be noted that Birgitta never wrote in the first person.  She always said the she carried a message from a very High Lord.  Although she had longed to become a nun, she never even saw the monastery in Vadstena.  In fact, nothing she set out to do was ever realised.  She never had the pope return to Rome permanently, she never managed to make peace between France and England, she never saw any nun in the habit that Christ had shown her, and she never returned to Sweden but died, worn out old lady far from home in July 1373.  She can be called the Patroness of Failures.  In this she was like her Lord.  He was also classed as failure as He hung on the Cross.  Birgitta was a successful failure as she was canonized in 1391.  Birgitta was the only women ever to found a religious Order, Ordo Sanctissimi Salvatoris.  It was never a double order but an order primarily for women with permanent chaplains, ruled by an abbess.  The brothers had as their head, not a prior but a Confessor General who was responsible for the spiritual business of both convents.

“The order spread swiftly throughout Europe with monasteries from Scandinavia right through Europe down to Italy.  In modern times is has expanded into five different, juridically independant branches; Spain 1629, Rome 1911, U.S.A. 1970, Mexico at the change of the century.  None of these foundations have brothers (except U.S.A. which has one male convent).  The last Birgittine father died in Altomünster 1863.  She is the patroness of Sweden.  Her feast day is July 23.”2

In first & second grades I attended a Catholic elementary school.  We were rewarded with holy cards (picture old baseball cards but with a saint’s image on one side and her or his bio on the other) &, medalions for particularly good work or behavior.  I kept mine in an old cigar box, lost after my mother’s death when I was yet in grade school.  Below, an image of a similar dime-sized medallion of St. Bridget of Sweden:

St. Bridget of Sweden medallion 5

My ancestral line to St. Bridget of Sweden runs from my maternal great-grandfather Carl Johan EILERTSEN Fjelse, on up like so: Ellert TOLLAKSEN Haugland (1806–after 1864), Tollak ERIKSEN Osen (1768–1852), Erik TOLLAKSEN Sporkland (1723–1811), Tollak JOHANNESSEN Sporkland (1689–before Sept. 7, 1763), Johannes TOLLAKSEN Sporkland (ca 1653–before June 10, 1742), Tollak SIGBJØRNSEN Sporkland ( –1685), Sigbjørn TOLLAKSEN Sandsmark (?–?), Tollak SIGBJØRNSEN Stordrange (before 1598–1658), Sigbjørn TORLAKSEN Drange (1530– ), Torlak GUNNERSEN Stordrange (ca 1500), Gunnar ASBJØRNSEN Tengs (1470–1546), Unknown forename (birth & death, Tengs, Egersund, Rogaland, Norway), Gunnbjørn TORDSEN Tengs ( –after 1486), Sir Tore GARDSEN Garå, Knight (ca 1400–ca 1454), Ramborg (ca 1360–ca 1408), Marta ULFSDTR Sweden (ca 1319–ca 1375), St. Bridget.6
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SOURCES
1 Wikipedia, “the free encyclopedia,” “Bridget of Sweden,” at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bridget_of_Sweden , accessed Feb., 2018.
2 Catholic.org, “St. Bridget of Sweden,” at http://www.catholic.org/saints/saint.php?saint_id=264 , accessed Feb., 2018.
3 “A lawspeaker or lawman (Swedish: lagman, Old Swedish: laghmaþer or laghman, Danish: lovsigemand, Norwegian: lagmann, Icelandic: lög(sögu)maður, Faroese: løgmaður, Finnish: laamanni) is a unique Scandinavian legal office. It has its basis in a common Germanic oral tradition, where wise people were asked to recite the law, but it was only in Scandinavia that the function evolved into an office. Two of the most famous lawspeakers are Snorri Sturluson and Þorgnýr the Lawspeaker.” — Wikipedia, “the free encyclopedia,” “Lawspeaker,” at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lawspeaker , accessed Feb., 2018.
4 Wikipedia, “the free encyclopedia,” “Birger Persson (Finstaätten),” at https://sv.wikipedia.org/wiki/Birger_Persson_(Finsta%C3%A4tten)#Barn_med_Ingeborg_Bengtsdotter , accessed Feb., 2018.
5 CatholicSaintMedals.com, “St. Bridget of Sweden Tiny Charm – Sterling Silver (#84804),” https://www.catholicsaintmedals.com/St-Bridget-Charm-Sterling-Silver-84804.aspx , accessed Feb., 2018.
5 Genealogist Signe Elisabeth Zijdemans, Flekkefjord, Vest-Agder county, Norway, “Ahnentafel of Sally Marie Eilertsen Fjelse,” prepared Oct.  23, 2001; source, Norwegian bygdebøker; in possession of myself.
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regent of kiev, saint olga (52 Ancestors #3)

Theme, Week 3 (Jan. 15-23):  “Tough Woman”
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SAINT OLGA

Tough” sums up my 32nd Great-Grandmother St. Olga of Kiev (ca 890-July 11, 969 A.D. Kiev) as surely as it does, oh, Al Capone? Bugs Moran? Dillinger?

….a cruel and barbarous woman [who] scalded her husband’s murderers to death in 945 and murdered hundreds of their followers…,” Catholics Online succinctly describes her in the second line of her bio.[1]

Olga’s husband, Grand Prince of Kiev Igor, was killed in 945 by a Slavic people called the Derevlians from whom the greedy Igor had tried to collect triple the amount of tribute owed. The Derevlians then traveled to Kiev to attempt to persuade the widowed Olga to marry their prince, Mal. Olga’s revenge upon them is detailed in this account from the Russian Primary Chronicle[2]:

“Olga was informed that the Derevlians had arrived, and summoned them to her presence with a gracious welcome. The Derevlians announced that their tribe had sent them to report that they had slain her husband, because he was like a wolf, crafty and ravening, but that their princes, who had thus preserved the land of Dereva, were good, and that Olga should come and marry their Prince Mal. …

“Olga made this reply: ‘Your proposal is pleasing to me; indeed, my husband cannot rise again from the dead. But I desire to honor you tomorrow in the presence of my people. Return now to your boat, and remain there with an aspect of arrogance. I shall send for you on the morrow, and you shall say, “We will not ride on horses nor go on foot; carry us [on your shoulders] in our boat.” And You shall be carried in your boat.’

“Thus she dismissed them to their vessel.

“Now Olga gave command that a large deep ditch should be dug in the castle. Thus on the morrow, Olga as she sat in the hall sent for the strangers, and her messengers approached them and said, ‘Olga summons you to great honor.’

“But they replied, ‘We will not ride on horseback nor in wagons, nor go on foot; carry us in our boat.’

“The people of Kiev then lamented: ‘Slavery is our lot. Our prince is killed, and our princess intends to marry their prince.’

“So they carried the Derevlians in their boat. The latter sat on the cross-benches in great robes, puffed up with pride. They thus were borne into the court before Olga, and when the men had brought the Derevlians in, they dropped them into the trench along with the boat. Olga bent over and inquired whether they found the honor to their taste. They answered that it was worse than the death of Igor. She then commanded that they should be buried alive, and they were thus buried.

“Olga then sent to the Derevlians the following message: ‘I am now coming to you, so prepare great quantities of mead in the city where you killed my husband, that I may weep over his grave and hold a funeral feast for him.’

“When they heard these words, they gathered great quantities of honey, and brewed mead. Taking a small escort, Olga made the journey with ease, and upon her arrival at Igor’s tomb, she wept for her husband. She bade her followers pile up a great mound, and when they had piled it up, she also gave command that a funeral feast should be held. Thereupon the Derevlians sat down to drink, and Olga bade her followers wait upon them.

“The Derevlians inquired of Olga where the retinue was which they had sent to meet her. She replied that they were following with her husband’s bodyguard. When the Derevlians were drunk, she bade her followers fall upon them, and [went] about herself egging on her retinue to the Massacre of the Derevlians. So they cut down five thousand of them; but Olga returned to Kiev and prepared an army to attack the survivors.”[2]

Bad enough.  But, Great-Grandmama Olga did not stop there.

“The Old Russian annals describe four types of vengeance organized by Olga,” Russiapedia[3] tells us.  First, the preceding capture and, burial alive of the 20 matchmakers.

Second, Olga “asked the Drevlyans to send better ambassadors to her, but as soon as they arrived, they were burned in a bathhouse.

2ND REVENGE OF OLGA: BURNING AMBASSADORS ALIVE IN BATHHOUSE

“Soon after that Olga went to the land of the Drevlyans, supposedly to have a funeral feast in memory of her murdered husband.  Having made her enemies drunk during the feast, the governess then ordered them all killed.  The annals report about five thousand victims in this third act of revenge.”

The 4th and “last vengeance took place in the year 946 when Olga traveled around the land of the Drevlyans in order to gather tributes. She besieged the town of Iskorosten, which refused to pay her. According to legend, the Princess asked that each household present her with a dove as a gift. Then she tied burning papers to the legs of the doves and let them fly back to their homes. As a result, the entire town was destroyed by fire.”[3]

4TH REVENGE OLGA: BURNING OF DEREVLIAN CAPITAL OF ISKOROSTEN

HOW did this viciously vengeful woman come to be canonized a SAINT!, you may be wondering.

Converting to Christianity ca 957 — she was baptized at Constantinople — Olga worked to spread Christianity in her country and, in light of her proselytizing influence, the Orthodox Church calls St. Olga by the Greek honorific, “Isapóstolos,” or, “Equal to the Apostles.”[1]

PAINTING, SERGEI KIRILLOV: THE BAPTISM OF GRAND PRINCESS ST OLGA

“It is a strange historical twist that the first ‘Russian’ woman to be canonized in the Orthodox Church was a Viking warrior princess who spent much of her life as a pagan,” writes Heidi Sherman in “Grand Princess Olga: Pagan Vengeance and Sainthood in Kievan Rus.” (No kidding.)

“Olga earned her sainthood,” Sherman continues, “by becoming the first member of the house of Riurik…to convert to Christianity. But the role of this battle maid in the spread of Christendom to the eastern Slavs is only part of her remarkable contribution to the history of Eastern Europe. … ….it took the will and perspicacity of a barbarian widow to begin the transformation of the Rus lands from a loosely knit pagan chieftaincy into a more stable and centralized Christian kingdom.”[4]

Great-grandmum St. Olga Regent of Kiev is included in the book, “Saints Behaving Badly: The Cutthroats, Crooks, Trollops, Con Men, and Devil-Worshippers Who Became Saints,” by Thomas J. Craughwell, hardcover 2006, which I may just check out for the amusing title alone. 😉

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Footnotes

1 Catholic.org, “St. Olga,” at http://www.catholic.org/saints/saint.php?saint_id=427 , accessed Jan., 2015.

2 The Primary Chronicle of Rus’, traditionally ascribed to the Saint, Nestor; now looked upon as likely a composite work by various Rus’ monks.  Sourced here via Stetson University (Florida, U.S.A.) online at http://www2.stetson.edu/~psteeves/classes/rusprimaryolga.html , accessed Jan., 2015.

3 “RUSSIAPEDIA (Get to know Russia better),” at http://russiapedia.rt.com/prominent-russians/history-and-mythology/princess-olga-of-kiev/ , accessed Jan., 2015.

4 “Grand Princess Olga: Pagan Vengeance and Sainthood in Kievan Rus,” Heidi Sherman, World History Connected (“published by the University of Illinois Press, and its institutional home [of] Hawaii Pacific University”), at http://worldhistoryconnected.press.illinois.edu/7.1/sherman.html , accessed Jan., 2015.

Images, all, public domain online.
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