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
_______
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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