On this day in history : 20th November 869 – Edmund the Martyr, Saxon King of East Anglia, is slain by the Vikings…. The town of Bury St. Edmunds in Suffolk is named for him….

A medieval illumination depicting the death of Edmund the Martyr – Public domain

Little is known about Edmund as the Vikings destroyed all evidence of his reign…. He was king from around 855 and thought to have been East Anglian in origin….

The Great Heathen Army had advanced and captured his land in 869…. It is possible that Edmund was killed in battle – but legend has it that he was brutally executed…. After refusing to renounce Christianity he was beaten, then tied to a tree – shot at with arrows and then beheaded…. His head was thrown into the forest – but was later found by those loyal to him and along with his body was buried in a wooden chapel close to where he had died…. He was later moved to a monastery at Beodericsworth, which is now known as Bury St. Edmunds….

Depiction of St. Edmund’s Shrine (destroyed 1539) – Public domain

The monastery, which became his burial place in 903, was reputedly where miracles would happen at the shrine of the Martyr King – and it became a pilgrimage site…. The town grew up around the monastery and Edmund became venerated as a Saint…. By 925 the tale of St. Edmund had spread far and wide – and the name changed to Bury St. Edmunds….

St. Edmund the Martyr crowned by angels – from a manuscript of Bury St. Edmunds circa 1130 – Public domain

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