Home DH-Debate
28. Oluf Hunger
30. Niels the Old

29. Denmark's History - Erik Ejegod

Introduction - Erik Ejegod - Erik as King of Denmark - Canute is Canonized - Prince Svend in Crusade - Erik Ejegod's Queen and Children - Queen Bodil in Knytlinge Saga - King Erik Departs on Crusade - Links and Litterature -

Introduction

Erik Ejegod Engraving depicting Erik Ejegod made in the period 1500-1795. It has probably no portrait-likeness. From The Royal Library.

Erik Ejegod was the fourth of Sweyn Estridsen's sons to be elected king of Denmark. Posterity has given him the byname Ejegod, Egode or just the Good, probably because all his years of government were blessed with a good harvest, prosperity and good times. Saxo says he got his epithet "not only for his virtues but also because of the good times". The epithet can also be due to the fact that all sources - except Roskilde Chronicle - agree that he was a good king.

When his elder brother Oluf Hunger died in 1095, 19 years had passed since their father, Sweyn Estridson, passed away in 1076 after 27 years of reign, and few of his many sons were still alive. "According to the laws, Erik then assumed the government of Denmark after his brother Olaf, for he was the eldest of King Sweyn's sons, who then lived," Knytlinge Saga tells.

Like those of the brothers who had been kings before him, he ruled not very long, namely eight years from 1095 to 1103.
Royal families or dynasties through Denmark's history
Royal families or dynasties through Denmark's history - except for Magnus the Good - all kings descend from "Hardegon, the son of a certain Sven", who conquered at least part of Denmark around the year of 917. It gives a good overview to divide the list of kings and thereby Denmark's history into manageable groups.
The Knytlings got their name from their ancestor, Hardecnut, son of Hardegon. He is called Knud 1. and was in all probability Gorm the Old's father. Magnus the Good was the son of the Norwegian Saint King Olav the Holy; His reign forms a transitional period to the reign of Sweyn Estridson and his sons and grandsons. Sweyn Estridson was the grandson of Sweyn Forkbeard.
The rivaling kings, Svend, Knud and Valdemar all descended from Sveyn Estridson; their period appears as an interregnum to the Valdemar era.
Many historians, probably most, only consider the Valdemar 1. the Great, his son Knud 6. and Valdemar 2. Victory the Valdemars. But one can not have a patent on such definition, and it seems the author natural and appropriate to include their direct male descendants - including Erik 4. Plovpenning, Abel and Christoffer 1. - until Christoffer 2. which was the last king before the period without king
Valdemar 4. Atterdag was not a Union King, but it was his grandson Oluf, and his daughter Margrete 1. became ruling queen of the Scandinavian Union. One can say - with a little good will - that Valdemar Atterdag restored Denmark and thus created the foundation for the Kalmar Union with Norway and Sweden.
The early Oldenburger kings were also Union kings, but only for short periods.
The Civil War The Count's Feud was an important turning point in Denmark's history. As a consequence of the Lutheran Reformation, the kings took over the third of Denmark's arable land, which had belonged to the church. This wealth made it possible to push the old nobility aside and establish the absolute monarchy, which was an important cause of Denmark's historical decline. In 1848, a democratic constitution was introduced without acts of violence.
With the childless Frederik 7, the Oldenburg royal line died out in 1863. The throne was then given to Christian 9. of Glucksborg.

King Erik's greatest achievements were that he got his brother, Canute the Holy, canonized as a Catholic saint, and he managed to get the Pope's permission to establish a Nordic archbishopric in Lund, thereby detaching the Danish church from the Hamburg-Bremen archdiocese. Asser, whom Olaf had appointed bishop in Lund, became the first archbishop of the Nordic countries.

Sweyn Estridson was succeeded by five of his sons and then a grandson and a son of Erik Ejegod's daughter
Sweyn Estridson was succeeded by five of his sons and then a grandson and a son of Erik Ejegod's daughter.

Through his son Knud, who got the epithet Lavard, he became the ancestor of all later Danish kings, which undoubtedly contributed to his fame.

In 1798, the historian and book collector Peter Frederik Suhm wondered why Erik Ejegod called himself Erik 3. We send a thought to "Vita Anskarii", which tells: "While Ansgar stayed in Sweden, the prospects of a successful missionary work in Denmark vanished. Erik, King of Jutland, who had previously supported Anskar, had become unpopular with his pagan subjects, and in a fight, that lasted for three days, he and almost all his leading men were killed, and his only descendant, Erik 2. was left as ruler of only a small part of Jutland." Many other informations indicate that the Danish royal family really descends from Jutes' kings and ruled over a small part of the peninsula, Jutland, in the early Viking period. Erik Ejegod may well have considered these kings as his ancestors.

Erik Ejegod

Erik Ejegod was born in Slangerup in North Sjaelland between Fredrikssund and Hilleroed. Saxo says that during his visit to Constantinople, the emperor gave him a splinter of Christ's Cross and some of the sacred Nikolaus' bones that he sent home to his native city: "He accepted this sacred gift with great pleasure and sent it under the Emperor's seal to Lund and Roskilde, and in order to that his birthplace also should have a sanctuary to show, he sent a piece of Christ's Cross and Holy Niels' bones to Slangerup, for the church there he is said to have built, and where the altar stands, he is supposed to have seen the daylight.

Erik Ejegod's church in Slangerup
On the spot where Sweyn Estridson's royal estate was located in Slangerup, Erik Ejegod let built a very large church of soft stone with two towers, which later became a monastery church for the Cistercian nunnery, which Valdemar the Great let build there. Under the houses, gardens and asphalt in Svaldergade and Klosterstraede in Slangerup are many very large ruins from both the church and the monastery, which are well documented by both archaeologists and historians. It was a very large soft stone church with a large twin tower to the west. Photo Ejegod Tidende.

The first time that Erik Svenson, who was to be bynamed Ejegod or Egothe, appeared in the written story, is when in 1085 in Slesvig he assisted his big brother, Canute the Holy, to bind their brother, Olaf Hunger. Saxo tells: "The king commanded his warriors to bind him as one, who was convinced quilty and unable to bring forward anything to his defense. They refused, however, to harm a man of royal lineage with such an improper humiliation, for they had such great reverence for the royal line that they would rather kill one, who was born in this, than bind him, holding that he easier could bear the lot that is common to all people than to suffer a thrall's punishment. The Danes have always considered it the greatest shame and disgrace to be tied up and held that freeborn men were harder punished by being deprived of honor than by losing their lives." - "Canute and Olaf's brother Erik then executed that order".

Next time, we hear about Erik, is the following year in Odense, where Canute the Holy finds his destiny. Aelnoth tells: "Followed by his hird, he (Canute) goes to the main place of his struggle as well as to his victory and rest, namely Odin's Vi, together with his brother Erik, later famous king, also the renowned Sven and Benedict, his fellow in hardship and strife."

Erik Ejegod over the cathedral door in Ribe
The king who kneels for Christ's feet with a cross in his hand in the gable-relief in the triangle field over the cathedral door in Ribe Cathedral is probably Erik Ejegod. The unusual mustache suggests that some portrait likeness has been sought. Photo: Indskrifter p� Ribe Domkirke.

Knytlinge Saga let Erik and a few others escape from the church; but it seems unlikely that anyone could escape the bloodbath in the Church of St. Alban Martyr as Aelnoth describes it: "But as the enemies' number grew very fast, they were not only beaten to the ground but even trampled to death and strangled by their opponents who overthrew them, crowd after crowd. The holy house is sprinkled with blood, and the church's floor is wet with red streams." We must believe that Erik and the renowned Sven left the city before Canute's last stand, or at least, as Saxo tells about Erik, that he made his way through the peasant army before the attack on the church. �lnod would certainly not have failed to mention their participation in the fight if they really had stood by Canute's side to the end.

After the killing of Canute, Erik learned that the Danes preferred Olaf as the new king, and he chose to flee to Sweden. Saxo writes: "But when Erik heard it, he remembered it was he, who, following their brother's command, had given him the humiliation (to bind him on Canute's command), and for fear of his revenge he fled to Sweden with his wife Bodil." We can think that they sought refuge in the so-called "Syghridlef", which is mentioned in Valdemar's Jordebog. It is estimated to have been located in Eastern Gotaland and that it was the land that came into the royal family with Sweyn Forkbeard's wife, Sigrid Storraade.

Canute's and Edel's daughters both seem to have followed their uncle Erik to Sweden; at least both were married to Swedish great men: Cecilia with the Earl Erik, Ingegerd with Folke - from whom the Folkunger descended.

Erik Ejegod coin
Erik Ejegod coin, minted in Lund. There is no portrait likeness - perhaps apart from the mustache. Foto Den Kgl. Moent- og Medaillesamling.

It is said that as early as 1086, Erik was a married man, probably not a teenager. Perhaps he has been in his early twenties; which indicates that he may have been well over 30 years old when he became king in 1095.

Erik was big and strong, a head taller than other men. Saxo writes: "He was not only in possession of a gifted mind, but nature had also given him such a rare and admirable growth that he was a head taller than everyone else, and his wisdom corresponded to his height, so one would believe that nature had created and developed his whole body with the utmost care and accuracy; It had also given him strength in relation to his glorious body growth, so that no one was his equal in growth, neither could anyone compare with him in strength, for in both respects he was excelled above all others. He was, when he sat down, able to throw longer with spear or stone than people, who stood upright"

It is confirmed by Ryd Monastery Chronicle: "Secondly he was called Ejegod because he was so tall that one could see him, over all people from the shoulders up. He was also as strong as the four strongest men in the kingdom."

Erik Ejegods strength test
Saxo reports on Erik Ejegod's physical strength: "And no less good he was in pulling rope, because while he, himself, held the end of a rope with each hand, he let four excellent strong men pull at the other ends of the two ropes, and they did not only exert themselves in vain to pull him up from his seat, but soon he pulled what he held in the right and soon as he pulled with his left hand and caused by his great strength the opponents to let go the ropes".

Everywhere, he is praised for his generosity. Knytlinge Saga writes: "He was generous with money both against the chiefs and against his friends, and handed out a great amount to all those who came to him, and most to those who came to him from the most distant places; he also gave much to the poor."

Everything suggests that Erik Ejegod was a strong-willed and authoritative king with a much more winning personality than the confrontational and aggressive Canute the Holy. He was also an excellent speaker, Saxo says: "He also had the most wonderful voice and talked on tings not only with great eloquence but also so loud and clear that he could well be heard, not only by those who were close by but also by those who were far away. He had, in order to gain the favor of the ordinary people, the habit to finish his speeches with imposing on the men that when they came home, they should greet their wives and children as well as their domestics from him with the promise that he would take care that everybody got his right, for with regard to doing right, he said, he had the same obligation to everyone."

Knytlinge Saga emphasizes that Erik had a good memory and understood many languages: "King Erik was a wise man, and possessed extraordinary knowledge; He understood many languages, had an excellent memory and was very eloquent."

The Skjald Markus song:

The in battle famous prince
owned gold and brave heart,
great memory and other
good abilities without vices;
The noble man in all excelled,
in his youth, learned many
languages, the good Erik
surpassed in power most.


In connection with a Nordic peace meeting on Konghelle at the Goeta river's mouth into the Kattegat, Magnus Barfods Saga describes Erik Ejegod as a beautiful man: "People said they had never seen three chiefs more honorable than these were. King Inge was the oldest and greatest of them, and he was held by everyone as the one with the greatest glory of honor, but King Magnus as the most authorative and fastest, and King Erik was the most beautiful of them, but all were eloquent, prestigious and doughty."

Erik as King of Denmark

Aelnoth states that Erik Ejegod was chosen by the army, a choice that probably took place in the same way as the election of his brothers, Harald Hen, Olaf Hunger and most likely Knud the Holy: "By the whole army's choice, under the applause of the people." Which must mean that the army or the leding fleet gathered and agreed on which throne candidate they preferred, and then he was formally elected and hailed by the people of the county tings with the important Jyske Tings in Viborg as the first.

Coin minted by Erik Ejegod
Coin with a portrait of Erik Ejegod on the front. He has long hair parted in the middle but lacks the characteristic mustache, which we see on the cathedral door in Ribe. He's apparently clean shaved. He carries a stick with a fleur-de-lis, which also Canute the Holy does it in Odense city coat of arms. It must represent the Trinity and the proper Catholic faith. With his right hand, he greets his people. An eagle is depicted on the back of the coin. Foto Pinterest.

The use of this procedure for king elections is confirmed by Saxo's later description of one of the last surviving sons of Svend Estridsen, who made an effort to be elected as king after it had become known that Erik had died on the island of Cyprus: "Svend, who in age came next after Erik, was in confidence of his age so keen to become king, that he did not consider it necessary to wait for the ordinary election, but headed to ting in Viborg and did not hesitate to anticipate the ordinary election decision by being elected by a single county ting." However, he died on his way to Viborg.

As soon as Erik had become king, the famine stopped and the good times came back. Aelnoth continues: "By the help of God and the favor of the elements, the excellent Erik was raised to rule the kingdom, and after everyone's unanimous desire, he received chief power and sovereignty throughout Denmark. And as soon as he was elevated to power, it was as if times were completely changed. The wealth of the crop smiled to the farmer, goods and wealth grew in abundance, everyone could rejoice in joy and peace as before in the days of Solomon; For kings and rulers all around thought he was wise, good and resolute."

Memorial stone for Erik Ejegod at Borgvold in Viborg
At the top of Borgvold in Viborg, a stone was erected in 1915 in memory of Erik Ejegod. the inscription tells: "Travellers erected a small stone after his king Erik Ejegod, who died in the south" Photo Calvin Wikipedia.

Roskilde Chronicle nonetheless wishes to introduce a more sober assessment: "But, if this abundance came because of Erik, and the former famine because of Olaf, He must decide who knows everything before it happens and who arranges everything, when and how He wants to; for none of them deserved the lot, they got."

Ryd Monastary Chronicle says that the harvest became so abundant that grain prices fell dramatically: "When he became king, the soil immediately became so fertile that a small bushel of grain was not worth more than 2 pennies in regular coins."

Erik arranged for law and order, as it is a king's duty. He did not put his fingers between when punishing Vikings, thieves and robbers. Knytlinge Saga says: "King Erik now became a mighty and famous chief; he was the friendliest King you knew. He punished many people's crimes, destroyed Vikings and let thieves and robbers kill, mutilate on hands or feet, or even subject to other great punishments so that no bad people could thrive in Denmark for him. He was righteous in his judgments, and kept strictly the law of God."

King Erik exploited skilfully the political contradiction between the Pope and the Emperor to make true his father's ambition to create a Nordic archbishop-seat in Lund, thereby cutting the Danish Church free of the Hamburg-Bremen archbishopric seat's sovereignty and thus keep the emperor at a distance.

Medieval king insert bishop in his office
Medieval King appoints Bishop to his office. Foto Myers, Philip Van Ness Wikipedia.

For hundreds of years, the Scandinavian churches had been subjects to the Hamburg-Bremen Archbishopric. However, Archbishop Liemar of Hamburg-Bremen supported Emperor Henrik 4. in the investiture dispute with the Pope and advised him in many other political issues, and this opened an opportunity for direct contact between the Danish Church and the Vatican.

The Investiture Controversy around the year 1100 was about the right to appoint bishops and other ecclesiastical offices. The emperor wanted to appoint his own bishops, while the pope insisted that the Vatican should decide, who should be appointed to ecclesiastical offices in all Catholic countries.

Liemar also came into conflict with his own people, the Saxons, who were ardent opponents of the Emperor. It came so far that Liemar had to flee his diocese, Hamburg-Bremen, which was part of Saxony. In addition, the Pope excommunicated him for his support for the emperor, but it did not have much effect in Germany. For many years, the Hamburg-Bremen Archbishop did not have contact with the Scandinavian congregations, and the Nordic kings had long communicated directly with the Pope. Thereby, an independent Nordic archbishopric seat came to appear as an obvious opportunity for the Pope to weaken the Emperor's influence in Scandinavia, which King Erik did not hesitate to exploit.

Saxo initially writes that Erik went to Rome twice in this matter, but later he tells that Erik sent ambassadors to Rome, which is probably closer to the truth. Aelnoth was at the time placed in the center of events, if Erik personally had traveled to Rome, he would have mentioned it, especially because the case at issue was so crucial to his own life-situation. But at this point he is silent, he merely refers to King Erik sending ambassadors to the Pope.

German Emperor Henrik 4. lets a chain mail-dressed warrior chase Pope Clemens 3. out into the darkness
The German Emperor Henrik 4. lets a chain mail-dressed warrior chase Pope Clemens 3. out into the darkness. Drawing from German handwriting from around 1170.
An imperial army besieged Rome for three years and finally it had to resort to surrender, but Pope Gregory held out in the fortress of Castel Sant'Angelo and finally, was rescued by a Norman prince from South Italy, who was a St. Peter's vassal. But the Normans plundered Rome so thoroughly that the Pope became unpopular and had to flee the city.

Saxo writes about Erik's communication with the Pope: "To that the Danes should not be subject to a foreign archbishop in clerical cases, he did send messengers to the Pope to apply for the country to now have its own archbishop seat. The Pope did not fail to keep what he had promised." After the King had left the country to go to the Holy Land, a representative of the Pope came to Denmark to arrange the practicalities of the new Archbishop's seat: "There came a papal representative to the North to insert an archbishop in the country, and after taking estimates of the most important cities in the kingdom and carefully examining everything and making known to himself not only the various places, but also to the various people, who could come into question, he decided that the archbishop-seat should be in Lund, partly because of Asger's excellent piety, and partly because it is so easy to get to the city from the surrounding areas, both on land and at sea."

Since the days of Harald Bluetooth, Julin at the river Oder's mouth into the Baltic Sea had developed into a haven for outlaws and pirates: "Two men from Scania, Ale and Herre, who had been exiled for their iniquities," Saxo tells, "had also in their exile fled to Julin, the place where exiled Danes most safely could take refuge, and they did the same business as the other Julines and ravaged and destroyed in the grimmest way Denmark with their sea-robbery."

Julin on the island of  Usedom-Wolin
Adam of Bremen described the location of Jumne, which most people think is the same as Jomme or Julin, which city today is called Wolin on the island of Usedom-Wolin in the river Oder's estuary into the Baltic: "On the other side of the Leuticians, also known as the Wilzers, we meet the river Oddara, which is the most water-rich river in Slavia. At the mouth of this river, where it meets the Skythical Swamps, lies the famous city of Jumne" - He clearly locates the city to an island, as he continues: "There you can see Neptune in three shapes, because the island is washed by three streams of the sea" Jomsborg may have been a fortress strategically located near Julin, or just another name for Julin or Jomme.

In the same way, as George W. Bush attacked the terrorists' homeland, Afghanistan, Erik Ejegod took up arms against the pirates' hiding place, Julin. Following Saxo, Erik Ejegod attacked Venden several times: "Erik overcame the mighty Vendic people and weakened its power, but both the second and third time he cowed its wildness so efficient that it never since plagued him with their pirate raids."

Saxo tells that the Vends attacked "a noble man named Auden when he was sailing from the island of Sjaelland to Falster, and as he preferred death for captivity, they killed him." Then it was decided on the ting to make a war campaign against Venden: "Skjalm Hvide, who was the brother of Auden, then appealed on the ting so strongly over this that the commoners on his prompting decided that everyone should jointly avenge the killing of that one man."

"Denmark's youth then attacked Julin and besieged it so that Julins finally had to hand over all the pirates that were within the city's walls, and additionally pay a sum of money." The Danes let the pirates suffer a cruel death: " They tied them first with hands firmly tied behind to poles, then cut open their stomachs and pulled out the lower part of their exposed intestines, wrapping them around the poles, and did not stop these torments before their bowels had been completely removed from the stomachs, and the grim robber-souls had sounded their last sign"

Knytlinge Saga describes that Vendland originally belonged to the Danish king, but had been conquered by the Emperor, who had entrusted his son-in-law Bjorn to rule the country. King Erik attacked the country and won victory: "Then he sent an order for war over all his kingdom, and gathered a great army, he got ships and sailed with the whole army to the Vindland." - "King Erik let the villages all over the country burn, and the residents became so scared that they fled far and wide."

The death of the pirates at Julin
The Danes executed the pirates whom Julin's citizens had handed over to them by cutting open their stomachs and pulling out their intestines. Drawing by Louis Moe.

But also the Danish had had great losses: "On this campaign, as Markus recounts, many lost their lives for fire and weapons" In connection with a section about Sweyn Estridson's children, Knytlinge Saga tells laconically that "King Svend's son Sigurd fell in the wind." Maybe it was on this occasion.

"Some of the Vends then went to King Erik. The king imposed upon them great fines, and declared the kingdom which the Danish kings had possessed in Vindland since King Sweyn Forkbeard had subjected it as his inherited land." It may well be true that Erik Ejegod led an expedition against Vendland, which was supported by the emperor. Denmark had just been politically connected to the papacy in the strife against the emperor.

Magnus Barfods Saga says that the Norwegian King Magnus began his royal work by looting in Halland. Nothing is reported about what Erik did about it: "In the winter, King Magnus traveled east to Viken, but by spring's approach he sailed with his fleet down to Halland and ravaged; he burned the place called Viskedal and even more stretches of land; he made much loot, and then returned to his kingdom."

After King Magnus had looted the Gothic lands for some time. The saga tells that a Nordic peace meeting was convened at Kongshelle at the mouth of the G�ta Elv: "Next summer, after the battle that King Magnus and the Swedish King Inge held, a royal convention in the Elv at Kongehelle was decided. To this came King Magnus from Norway, the King of Sweden, Inge, and the Dana King Erik Svendson." - Peace was settled between them: each of them should keep the kingdom their fathers had, but each of these chiefs themselves were to reimburse their subjects for the suffering of men and goods."

Erik may have got his byname Ejegod because everyone - or almost everyone - agreed that he was a good king. Only Roskilde Chronicle pours a little wormwood in the cup: "Erik ruled for 8 years and made up many unfair and unreasonable laws - He had 3 sons out of wedlock: Harald, Benedict and Erik, and with his wife the noble Knud."

Canute is Canonized

It was Erik Ejegod's credit that his brother Canute, who was killed in Sankt Alban Martyr's Church in Odense, was elevated to be a Catholic saint.

Part of Aelnoth's beautifully decorated book
Part of Aelnoth's beautifully decorated book about Canute the Holy and his contemporaries. Aelnoth was an English monk from Canterbury, who came to Odense around 1100 - in Erik Ejegod's reign, in all likelihood due to problems with Wilhelm the conqueror and his men. He wrote Denmark's first history book about Canute the Holy, Vita et Passio S. Canuti, about 1125; it is dedicated to King Niels. As a true historian, he based his account on statements by contemporary men and women, who had personally attended the events. Aelnoth must be by far the most reliable source of events around the killing of Canute. Foto Odense Museum.

In Erik's reign, the English monk, Aelnoth, tells, miracles happened at Canutes's grave: "At the precious martyr's remains" - "blind again have their vision, deaf regain their hearing, dumbs' tongues are loosened, withered hands again have their use, lames again become able to walk, and all who seek help in the name of Jesus get both physical health and heaven's grace."

Aelnoth was an eyewitness to Canute's placing in a saint's shrine in the year 1101; but he does not write anything about the take up of his bones in 1095. Therefore, we must assume that he came to Denmark in Erik Ejegod's reign, at a time between these two years. He was a monk in Sankt Knuds Kloster in Odense, who was responsible for the worship of the new saint. He must have been extremely well-informed about all matters concerning Canute the Holy.

Aelnoth does not write anything about that King Erik personally traveled to the Pope in Rome to work out Knud's canonization or his permission to establish a Nordic Archbishop's seat, as Saxo and Knytlinge Saga say.
Rector in Odense, Thomas Bircherods drawing of the shrines in 1696 Patterns on metal-lid fittings on the holy shrine in Odense Cathedral
Immediately after his violent death, Canute the Holy was buried in St. Alban Martyrs Church, where he and his men had found their end, and there he lay for more than nine years throughout Oluf's reign. After some time, miracles began to occur at the grave, but first during Erik Ejegod's reign, his bones were dug up and laid in a stone coffin under the altar in the new soft stone church, which was under construction. When Erik had obtained the Pope's permission, he was declared a Catholic Saint and on April 19, 1101, his bones were taken up from the stone coffin under great solemnity and laid in a splendidly decorated saintly shrine. Aelnoth was personally present and described the event. He writes that it was a beautifully crafted box made of the purest gold, adorned with red and sky-blue stones, pearls and beautiful jewels and equipped with safra-yellow silk and fine silk clothes.
During the Reformation, the king's men searched all churches and monasteries in Denmark and Norway to collect their wealth and destroy all traces of the Catholic superstition. However, priests and monks in Odense had succeeded in hiding the shrine by immuring it into the church's masonry. It came out in 1582 at a refurbishment, and on that occasion, there is talk about: "a shrine of gilded copper adorned with rock crystals" Catholic saints were still not popular in 1582, but Canute was after all king and therefore the shrine was again immured.
But at a new refurbishment in 1696 came casket forward again, but now there were suddenly two caskets. It was predicted by Knytlinge Saga: "In another shrine, the king's brother Benedict rests".
Left: When the shrines were out in 1696, they were drawn by the rector in Odense Thomas Bircherod. They were made of oak covered with gilt copper. Beads and crystals were gone, but there were traces of the frames, where they had been sitting. The coffins contained bones, silk residue and down-filled pillows. The shrines were again immured and were only found again in 1833 and placed in the crypt below the altar, where they still stand. There is little left of the copper plates today.
Right: Ornaments on the metal fittings on the lid of the shrine. The top one still has a frame for a crystal that is now gone. On the in-between band, one can clearly see the similarity with the Viking age animal patterns, the motif on the lower band is probably a little younger.
The long side of one of the sacred shrines in the crypt of Odense Cathedral
The long side of one of the sacred shrines in the crypt of Odense Cathedral. One long side each shrine has been decorated. One of the long sides has been decorated in thirteen fields with carved people, which one can still perceive as discoloration in the fields. One can imagine that thin copper plate has been pressed or hammered over the figures cut in oak wood and the copper has then been gold plated. A similar technique has probably been used in the production of the simultaneous golden altars in Tamdrup Church at Horsens and in the Sahl Church between Skive and Struer.
Detail of the Golden altar in Tamdrup The motif on the pillow in Canute the Holy's shrine
Left: Aelnoth talks about a shrine of gold. A sample of the contemporary "Golden Altar" from Tamdrup gives an idea of how the decoration in the fields at least on the long sides may originally have appeared. They have looked like "forged from the purest gold", as Aelnoth writes.
Right: Aelnoth talks about safran-yellow silk. Magnus Petersen has drawn the motif with two birds on the original safran-yellow - now faded - pillow on which Canute's head rests.

Knytlinge Saga and Saxo tell in detail about Erik's journey to Rome, among other things that he first went to Bari and visited Canutes's widow, Edel, and then visited the Pope on the way back. Saxo even lets Erik travel to Rome twice. But as mentioned before: Saxo first wrote half a century later, and Knytlinge Saga was first written down in Iceland several hundred years after the events.

Aelnoth, by contrast, was in the right place at the right time, and he is not aware that King Erik in person traveled to Rome at any occasion. He writes: "However, the wise King Erik, who was considering the public good, sent messengers to the Pope in Rome, advised him of what had happened and asked him to take care of the devout desire of the believers with his papal authority" - "And after a joint decision with unanimous applause from all they next agreed, that the formerly glorious king was to be inserted in the already blessed martyrs flock in heaven, and with the martyr's shine was his name should also be extended to increased glory." (His Saintly name became Canutus)

The tough Jesus Christ
Left: In Aaby Church near Aarhus hung Denmark's probably oldest crucifix, now in the National Museum. This is a photo of a copy that hangs in the crypt church under Vor Frue Church in Aarhus. It is probably from about 1100. It is not the suffering Christ that we are used seeing him, helpless and powerless hanging on the cross, completely out of control and apparently incapable of sensing.
Right: The Christ from Aaby is a more grim type, quite like the Christ figure on the Jelling Stone, which is shown here. It shows that the 1100's were not far from the Viking age culturally. Our ancestors must have had difficulty accepting Jesus on the Cross, King of Heaven and Earth, in the form of the suffering Christ, whom we know from the later Middle Ages, and still in modern times, tortured, plagued, humiliated and deprived of all dignity.

Aelnoth writes: "In the 6. year of the glorious King Erik's rule, when all of Denmark's bishops were together with a lot of clergies and a countless crowd of the country's people, we poor sinners with our own eyes saw the precious earthly remains of the blessed martyr be taken up from the stone coffin and borne up from the church where they had so far been stored, and we saw how, accompanied by solemn worship and great expressions of joy from all those assembled, they were placed by the aforementioned bishop Humbald, white as snow, and wrapped in fine silk clothes, into the mentioned shrine. It was April 19." He could even tell how the weather was on that day.

Part of the eagle cloth from Canute's shrine
The eagle cloth is woven in purple byzantine silk. The cloth was found in Canute the Holy' shrine and has probably been wrapped around his earthly remains, when they were placed in a saint's shrine on April 19, 1101. The blanket is probably donated by his widow, Queen Edel, who in 1092 remarried to the Normann Roger Bursa, Duke of Apulia. The blanket is decorated with a stylized eagle with widespread wings and tail feathers. In the beak, the eagle holds a ring with a pendant, while the claws rest on a ribbon with some characters resembling writing. So far no one has been able to decipher the inscription. The eagle blanket is today exhibited in Sankt Knuds Church's crypt at Canute's coffin.

In all likelihood, it is also not the case that Erik himself brought home the famous eagle-carpet - in which Canute's bones were probably wrapped at the ceremony of placing them in the shrine and which was found in the Saint's shrine - from Queen Edel in Bari. Aelnoth explicitly writes that Queen Edel "sent rich gifts": "Also, the wise queen Edel, who before, as we have said, had been his noble wife, but was now married in faraway part of Italy to Roger, the famous Duke of Apulia, heard about the great and longingly awaited reputation of her formerly beloved husband. Then, after a wise decision of the Father in Heaven, from whom all good come, sent rich gifts up here to adorn her beloved husband's precious earthly remains."

According to a letter from Bishop Ricolf of Odense to the abbot in the English Evesham Abbey, Sct. Knuds Monastary in Odense was a daughter the monastery of Evesham, that originally sent 12 monks to Odense to take care of the worship of the new saint. "That happened during Wilhelm the Younger, the English King, and Eric the Most Wise, the Danes' king." Peter Frederik Suhm wrote in 1792.

Prince Svend on Crusade

The Middle Eastern churches in Palestine, Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, Turkey were the first Christian congregations in the world after Jesus suffered death on the cross. The Iraqi Chaldean Catholics, the Egyptian Copts, the Lebanese Maronites, the Armenian Apostolic Church existed as Christian congregations several hundred years before Europeans became Christians. "The Holy Apostolic Catholic Assyrian Church in the East" reckons its founding back to year 37 when the apostles Peter and Paul came to Antioch.

Spread of Christianity years 622 and 1096
Top: In the year 622 AD - Before the Muslim attack, Christianity was widespread throughout the territory which had previously been the Roman Empire which still existed in the East as the Byzantine or Eastern Roman Empire. In addition, it had gained a foothold in Ireland, Scotland, Mesopotamia, Saxony, Ethiopia and parts of India. There were many different Christian faiths.

Bottom: From 622 to about 750, the Muslim warriors swept across the Eastern Roman Empire and left the emperor with only Greece and some smaller areas on both sides of the Bosporus Strait. Syria was conquered around 636, Egypt 641, Mesopotamia and the Persian Empire, 650. At the beginning of the 700's, all of North Africa and Spain in the west and the countries of Central Asia and India to the east were also subjugated by Islamic warriors.

All of Africa, Spain, Asia Minor and the Middle East became lost to Christianity. Historians estimate that during the conquest, the holy warriors killed many more Christians than the Christians killed Muslims in their more limited conquest of the Holy Land. Probably - like so many historical conquerors before them - Allah's holy warriors to a big extent killed the Christian men and made their own children on the women. Map from Youtube "The Spread of Christianity" by Ollie Bye.

The prelude to the Crusades took place in the former Christian areas of the Eastern Mediterranean. For hundreds of years, the Muhammadans had pushed the Byzantine Empire back through Syria and Little Asia. The Christian Emperor in Constantinople asked again and again for help from his fellow believers in the West.

Eventually, the Pope, Urban 2., decided to help the troubled Christians in the East. In 1095 - the same year that Erik Ejegod became king of Denmark - he spoke to an assembly of barons and clerics in the French town of Clermont and called the Christianity to Crusade: "Most beloved brethren, moved by the exigencies of the times, I, Urban, wearing by the permission of God the papal tiara, and spiritual ruler of the whole world, have come here to you, the servants of God, as a messenger to disclose the divine admonition" - "For you must carry succor to your brethren dwelling in the East, and needing your aid, which they have so often had asked for. For the Turks, a Persian people, have attacked them, as many of you know, and have advanced into the territory of Romania as far as that part of the Mediterranean which is called the Arm of St. George; and occupying more and more the lands of those Christians, have already seven times conquered them in battle, have killed and captured many, have destroyed the churches and devastated the Kingdom of God. If you permit them to remain for a time unmolested, they will extend their sway more widely over many faithful servants of the Lord." - "Oh, what a disgrace if a race so despised, degenerate, and slave of the demons, should thus conquer a people fortified with faith in the Omnipotent God and resplendent with the name of Christ!" - "Let those who have formerly been accustomed to contend wickedly in private warfare against the faithful, fight against the infidel and bring to a victorious end the war which ought long since to have been begun. Let those who have hitherto been robbers now become soldiers of Christ. Let those who have formerly contended against their brothers and relatives now fight as they fought against the barbarians."

Pope Urban 2 calls for crusade in Clermont
Pope Urban 2 calls for crusade in Clermont in France. Photo The Middle Age Portfolio.

"God wills it!" cried the assembly. Then they parted and went home separately to prepare the crusades.

Already two years later, in 1097, a significant army was brought to that part of Asia Minor, which the Turks had deprived the Eastern Roman Empire. They quickly came to Palestine. In 1099, the Crusaders captured Jerusalem, killing a large number of Muslim defenders.

Albert of Aachen wrote "The History of Jerusalem" a few years after the conquest of Jerusalem. He, himself, took part in the first crusade as a house priest for one of the army's leaders, so we must believe that it is not a pure fabrication. He tells of Prince Svend of Denmark, who in the summer of 1097 traveled over the sun-drenched Anatolian plateau at the head of an army of 15,000 knights on their way to Jerusalem. Not far from Aksehir in the middle of Anatolia, they fell into a Turkish ambush. They fought bravely against a numerically superior enemy and many fell, but eventually, they had to succumb in the uneven battle and they "fell in a rain of arrows and was beheaded" The beautiful Burgundian princess, Florinda, followed with the Danish army. She had recently become a widow and wanted to be married to Svend. In the confusion of the battle, she managed to escape on a mule despite having six arrows in her body, but after a while she slipped exhausted from the blood loss and fell from the saddle, was captured by the Turks, sentenced to death and beheaded.

Part of Karel van Mander's painting Prince Svend's body is found
Part of Karel van Mander's painting "Prince Svend's body is found". Christian 4. was very interested in the story of Svend and Florinda. He let Ole Worms examine the story of Svend's death in Anatolia and then gave Carel van Manders the task of painting a picture, the painting is exhibited on the Castle of Fredriksborg. Fredriksborg Museum.

The story of Svend and Florinda became a great inspiration for poets. In his poem "The Liberated Jerusalem", the Renaissance poet Torquato Tasso let the only surviving knight in Svend's army, Rinaldo, wrestle the bloody sword out of the dead Svend's hand, and with this sword in hand, Rinaldo became the first crusader on Jerusalem's wall in 1099. In 1807, after the English had taken the Danish fleet, the Danish poet Jens Baggesen re-created part of Tasso's poem in Danish that he called "The Danes' Praise". Here Svend was a hero, whom the enemies feared to the last:

He did not fall defeated, the enemy trembled
still for the unweakened courage of the dying
His victory-proud soul was first raised to heaven,
when, on the ground, his last drop of blood ran.


We can think that Prince Svend was "the renowned Sven" , whom Aelnoth tells was present in Odense along with the later king Erik before Canute the Holy's last stand.

In 1997, Cambridge professor J. Riley Smith published a new book about the First Crusade, "The First Crusaders" in which he examined who actually participated in the campaign and the conquest of Jerusalem. He typed hundreds of names into a computer and the related information was run together. The result showed that the participants in the First Crusade were in close connection with each other even before the crusade. They were members of the international network called St. Peter's Vassals, who were princes and kings, who had given a special oath to the Pope to support him and make themselves and their power available to him. It was these princes, who were behind the new reform papal rule, as it was designed especially by Gregor 7. (dead 1085). St. Peter's vassals stuck together, their families inter-married, and it was first and foremost those, who followed Pope Urban 2's call in 1095 to head east and liberate Jerusalem.

Pope Gregory 7. in illustration in handwriting from 1000's.
Pope Gregory 7. in illustration in handwriting from 1000's.

It gives a whole new view of the First Crusade. It was not a particular French enterprise that many otherwise generally have thought, for many French princes did not participate at all. Some Sankt Peter Vasals lived in France, of course, but typically they lived in the periphery around France and Germany, in Sicily, in southern Italy, in Flanders, in Poland and Denmark. Sweyn Estridson was highly appreciated by Pope Gregor and became a Saint Peter Vasal. His son Knud the Holy married Edel, a daughter of the Saint Peter Vasal Robert of Flanders, who played an important role in the conquest of Jerusalem. After Knud's death in Odense, Edel was married to another Saint Peter Vasal, Roger of Apulia, who also took part in the crusade. Sweyn Estridson's son, the renowned Svend, fell in a battle against the Turks in Anatolia, as described above, and another son of Sweyn Estridson, Erik Ejegod, died in Cyprus on his way to Jerusalem. Professor J. Riley Smith suggests that the beautiful Florinda was the daughter of the Sankt Peter Vasal Eudes 1. of Burgundy.

The historian J. G. F. Raeder says that there is a brief comment by a German Yearbook author named Annalista Saxo from the 1100's that confirms Prince Svend's crusade: "A Brother of the Danish King with two Bisps in 1097 went to Jerusalem."

Erik Ejegod's Wife and Children

All of Erik's older brothers were princely married. Harald Hen married his cousin, Margrete, daughter of Svend Estridsen's brother, Asbjaern Earl. Knud the Holy was married to Edel, daughter of Count Robert of Flanders. Oluf Hunger married Ingerid, a daughter of the Norwegian king Harald Haarderaade. Erik was married long before he became a king; surely because he was placed so far down on the list of possible king's candidates, he had to satisfy with Bodil, who the historian J. G. F. Raeder believes was the daughter of Sweyn Estridson's hirdjarl, Thrund Fagerskind. Her brothers were Svend and Astrad, who fall with Knud the Holy in the showdown in Sankt Alban Martyrs Church in Odense.
Erik Ejegod's wife, mistresses and children
Erik Ejegod's wife and children.
- Knud, who earned the epithet Lavard, was killed in Haraldsted Forest on Sjaelland, though not before he had got a son named Valdemar, who became king of Denmark under the name Valdemar the Great. Knud Lavard was canonized as a Catholic saint.
- Harald, who got the byname Kesja. Erik Ejegod assigned him to rule the country when he went to Jerusalem.
- Erik, who got the byname Emune, became king after he had won the battle of Fodevig and killed his brother Harald and 11 of his sons.
- Benedict did not make himself noticed in history.
- Ragnhild married Hakon the Norwegian and got the son Erik, who was bynamed Lam. He became king of Denmark after Erik Emune's death.

Saxo reports very laconically: "Erik had three sons, Harald, Knud and Erik, of whom he is said to have bred the first with a lover, the other in his marriage and the third with another man's wife." Roskilde Chronicle mentions a fourth son with the name Benedict, who did not make himself noticed himself in the written history. In addition, it mentions a daughter named Ragnhild, who was married to a man named Hakon den Norwegian, who through his mother Sunniva was the great-grandson of Magnus the Good. Ragnhild and Hakon got a son named Erik, who became king of Denmark with the epithet Lam - about this later.

Queen Bodil on pilgrimage
Medieval figure, which is believed by some to imagine Queen Bodil on pilgrimage. Maybe a chess piece. Unknown origin. Wikitrans.

For thousands of years, it had been custom in Scandinavia and the whole of the Germanic world that a king could have frills, that is, mistresses. Already Tacitus told in his book, Germania, that Germanic men generally were content with one wife, only the king could have more wives and mistresses. There are several examples of Germanic kings in the early Middle Ages having children with high-born women throughout their kingdom. Erik Ejegod's father, Sweyn Estridson, thus got at least 17 sons with various distinguished women, none of whom were the queen. Erik also had several frills, but he became king relatively late in his life, and therefore he could not beat his father in this respect.

It may - according to ancient tradition - have been so that for the king all women throughout his kingdom were attainable. But one feels a sarcastic distance to this old-fashioned custom in Saxo's expression "and the third with another man's wife."

Svend Aggesen uses the term "different wives", being understood that none of the mothers were more legitimate wives than others.

Saxo writes that Erik went to Sweden with his wife Bodil in 1086 after Knud's death in Odense: "But when Erik heard this, he thought about that it was he, who, following their brother's command, had given him this humilliation. (to bind him on Canute's command), and for fear of his revenge, he fled to Sweden with his wife Bodil." Then, they were already married nine years before he became king. Bodil must have followed him through all the years in both adversity and triumph.

Most sources have no reservations about Erik's many mistresses, they just list that Erik had sons with those women. Only Saxo believes it was morally reprehensible: "He did not content himself to bee private with his wife, but had mistresses, although fate had been so good to him to give him a wife who excelled both in beauty and virtue.

Queen Bodil's spring close to Boerlum Monastery
Queen Bodil's spring close to Boerlum Monastery. In Vendsyssel there is a Queen Bodil's Spring. It is believed that the spring is named after Queen Bodil, who precisely had her family in this area of Denmark, it is said. The spring water runs down into a baptismal font, most likely originating from the monastery. Wikitrans.

Bodil apparently had no trouble sharing her husband with other women, which he further describes: "Nor did Queen Bodil lack indulgence of her husband's improper conduct, for she showed the girls, whom she sensed he felt love, motherly love, and to show her husband so much more docility, she accepted them as her maids, as long as she lived, yes, in order to make their beauty more fairly appreciated, she often even arranged their hair with her own hands, and even it had been more than enough if she did not become angry, she even showed love to them. As she could not please her husband with her own beauty, she wanted to do it by others and preferred to protect the man's love for them, rather than avenge the humiliation that she was exposed to."

When Erik decided to go on a crusade, Bodil wanted to follow him. Saxo tells: "Queen Bodil was not late to decide to accompany her husband; she made the same promise as he did, but she would not share the bed with him."

Queen Bodil in Knytlinge Saga

Knytlinge Saga's story about Queen Bodil is special in that it is very different from Saxo's and others' stories about the queen. The saga accounts for Bodil's family in many details, which indicates that the story is not completely taken out of thin air. It lets us know that Bodil was the Emperor's half-sister. Other sources tell us that at the parents 'departure to Jerusalem, her little son, Knud, was put in the care of the important noble family of Skjalm Hvide in Fjenneslev on Sjaelland, but after some years - perhaps because the intelligence about the parents' death in Cyprus reached Denmark - he was transferred to Duke Lothar's court in Saxony (Lothar later became Emperor 1125-37).

Granite baptismal font in Ejstrup Church
Granite baptismal font in Ejstrup Church west of Kolding. Foto Lennart Larsen.

According to the fragments of Robert of Eli's saint description from about 1135, Knud Lavard was born in Roskilde Skt. Gregor's Day in his father's first time as a king. Therefore, if Knytlinge Saga speaks truthfully, he can be born in 1097, as Erik first waged a war in Venden, where he found Queen Bodil and then she had to endure the mandatory nine months. Intelligence about the parents' death may have reached Denmark in 1105, and Knud would then have been 8 years old.

What gives one a second thought is that you don't send a boy of 8-10 years to a place, where there are no relatives, who can take responsibility for him. There must have been someone in Saxony, who was in family with the boy and felt a special responsibility for him. Which leads to that Knytlinge Saga may be right in saying that Bodil was a half-sister to the emperor. And thus the whole story that she was a daughter of Sweyn Estridson's hird-jarl, Thrund Fagerskind from Vendsyssel can not be true - wherever it comes from.

Knytlinge Saga tells that the Emperor took possession of Vendland, who was the Danish king's inheritance land. He set a man named Bjoern to run the country on his behalf. Bjoern asked to have the Emperor's sister, Mrs. Bothild, as a wife, which the Emperor confessed to him. The Saga says: "About her family line is told that she was the Emperor's half-sister on the mothers side, but her father was Thorgaut and was Danish of origin; he was a trusted man in King Svend Ulfson's court, and was the most beautiful man you could see, why also King Harald Sigurdson (?) gave him the nickname Fagerskind. His father was named Ulf; he was an earl in Denmark, and was a great warrior; He sailed on raids to the western countries, ravaged much in Gallisseland (most likely Galicia in present Spain), and conquered and destroyed the land, and he was therefore called Galisse Ulf. He married Earl Hakon Eriksson's daughter Bothild, and she was the mother of Thorgaut Fagerskind.

The leding fleet
The leding fleet. Foto Danmarks Historie i Billeder.

Erik gathered an army, attacked Vendland and took it back after fierce fighting: "There had been so many fallen that no one could count them. Also, the Emperor's brother-in-law Bjorn was between them, and almost the whole of the army that had followed him."

Later in the saga is told about Erik and Bothild: "King Erik had taken prisoner Emperor Henrik's sister, Mrs. Bothild, who, as previously reported, had been married to Bjoern. With her, King Erik bore a son. This boy was named after the king's brother Knud (Canute) the Holy; he was early promising and handsome in appearance. When he was still young, King Erik told Mrs. Bothild: "You have now stayed here for some time, but now it must stop; I will let you go home to your kinsmen. To this, she answered: "I think that we had not come together because of love, and you had been together with me more of desire than of love; You must confess to me, Lord! that our son Knud travel with me to brings me to relief in my misery". The king replied to her again: "I do not have so much good to pay your kinsmen for that I should give them that this boy should grow up there because it is my notion that he will be a glory to his kinsmen and many others." She was then taken home to her kinsmen, and the King let here be accompanied by an appropriate group of followers. But Knud grew up at his father's court."

There are also similarities in the two reports on Bodil's family. In both cases, she is the daughter of a former earl for Sveyn Estridson, who was called Thrund or Thorgaut and had beautiful skin. Both in Knytlinge Saga and at Saxo, Erik and Bodil have some problems with their sexual life together.

King Erik Departs on Crusade

In 1103 Erik Ejegod proclaimed on the county tings that he intended to go to "The Holy Land, where the Savior had lived".
King Erik proclaims his will to go on crusades on the ting in Viborg
King Erik proclaims on the thing in Viborg that he will go on crusade. History-painter Anker Lund.

According to Saxo, the occasion should be that a musician's magic songs turned him so insane that he killed four of his own men: "Eventually, his lifeguards got him overwhelmed by throwing blankets over him from all sides, and so they with great danger for all of them got hold of him. When he again came to his senses, he paid the fine he had incurred because he had broken the rules of the hird, but in order to make even stricter amend for his sin he set himself to do a pilgrimage and go to the Holy Land where the Savior had lived."

The musician plays for King Erik
The musician plays for King Erik. Drawing by Louis Moe

When he announced his journey on Viborg Ting, it aroused great excitement. Saxo describes the Jutes's dismay: "When he also published on Viborg Ting, the common people became completely dismayed, wailing as if it were a father they were to lose, and shouted that by travelling away he would endanger the nation, why everyone were crying tears, begging him to stay at home. Eventually, they embraced, bathed in tears, his knees, and pleaded with him earnestly not to pay more attention to the promise he had made than to the general good; he could be certain, they said that God liked better that he stayed home and took care of the righteousness of the kingdom than he went into exile."

Saxo continues: "Then the king determined that his son Harald, who had reached the necessary age and maturity, should be in charge during his absence, and Skjalm Hvide, who was higly regarded for his noble family line and his great righteousness" - "got the duty raising Knud (Lavard)."

Since the death of Svend Estridsen in 1076, the royal power had passed from the older of his many sons to younger ones. Wilhelm af Malmsbury partly confirms that the sons had sworn among themselves that at any time the oldest of them should be king: "Sweyn, when he was near the end of his life, tied all the inhabitants with the oath that, since he had fourteen sons, they should give the kingdom to each of them in order as long as the problem persisted.". Wilhelm does not elaborate on the order, but for posterity it is easy to see that it was by age.

Viking sailing routes to Constantinople
Viking routes in Russia. It is possible that Erik chose the route along the Gulf of Finland to the river Neva, Lake Ladoga, Volkhov River, Lake Ilmen, the river Lovat, the Western Dvina and then pulled overland to the Dnieper River, which empties into the Black Sea. But Saxo explicitly writes that he sailed to Russia, which may be Novgorod, and he then traveled over land to Byzantium. Moreover, in Constantinople, the Emperor gave him ships, suggesting that he had not arrived to there in ships. Foto Pinterest.

By appointing his son Harald Kesja to the regent in his absence, he sought to bring him into position as his successor as king despite the fact that there were still alive sons of Sweyn Estridson who were younger than himself, Svend, Ubbe and Niels. This must surely have created a dislike to Harald Kesja from the start, who may have contributed to his fall and early death.

Saxo does not define Erik's travel route very carefully, he merely writes: "However, Erik went by Ship to Russia, from where he tavelled over land through this kingdom and a large part of the Eastern World, until he reached Byzanz." Maybe he went by ship along the Dvina River to Novgorod and then continued with horse-drawn sleds over the ice on the rivers, as was widely used.

The Emperor of Constantinople had a lifeguard composed of Scandinavians, called Vaeringegarden. Scandinavians were known to keep their word and promises, and when they had sworn allegiance to a prince, they would fight to the last man. Emperor Alexio's daughter Anna Kommena talks about difficult situations in Constantinople, where the "Ax armed warriors", as she calls them, were the emperor's only support. It was a rule that Scandinavians of royal blood could not be allowed in the guard and may not have access to Constantinople, because it was feared that their loyalty to their kings should override their allegiance to the emperor. Harald Haarderaade was in Varingegarden for many years, but he carefully concealed his royal descent.

Erik Ejegod in conversation with the emperor in Constantinople
Erik Ejegod in conversation with the emperor in Constantinople. Drawing by Louis Moe.

Probably for this reason, Erik Ejegod refused at the city gate. But the Danes in the Vaeringegarden were allowed to go out and greet their king in smaller groups. Saxo writes: "However, the Danes who had entered Greek service went to the Emperor and asked if they could go out and greet their king; he gave them permission, but he told them do it separately, to avoid that the king by his speech sholuld to captivate and seduce them all at the same time." Erik spoke to them and admonished them to bravery and to "lead a sober life and not indulge in drunkenness."

Thanks to the intelligence of Erik's admonitions to his compatriots, he was after a few days received by the Emperor. The Emperor let a painting of the King in full size be painted. As a gift, Erik received a piece of Christ's cross and a piece of the Holy Nicolaus' bones, which he immediately sent home to his birthplace, Slangerup.

After some time in Constantinople, the Emperor gave Erik and his followers some ships, Saxo says: "At last, the Emperor gave him some warships and provided him with food, and then he sailed to Cyprus"

"Here the king was attacked by fever, and when she felt that his last hour was near, he asked for his body to be burried in the capital there on the island." says Saxo.

Erik Ejegod's tomb in Cyprus
Erik Ejegod's tomb in the city of Paphos on the Greek part of Cyprus. Foto Lcw27 Wikipedia.

Knytlinge Saga siger:"He died in the city called Basta"

Therefore, we know he is buried in Cyprus, probably in the island's capital at that time, but we do not know the exact place.

It is clear from Anders Soerensen Vedel's reading about 1600 of a now lost version of Robert of Ely's account of the saint Knud Lavard that Knud's mother, Queen Bodil, continued after the death of her husband to the Holy Land, where she died on the Mount of Olives and was buried in Jehoshaphat Valley. It is not exactly known where she is buried but it can be at the attractive burial ground between the Mount of Olives and the Temple Mount, possibly near the Holy Virgin's Church.

However, when reading both Older Sjaelland Chronicle and Saxo, one can get the idea that she died in Cyprus with her husband. Saxo writes: "His wife also succumbed to the troubles of this pilgrimage and died." Which can cause us to think that the cause of death was a form of infection as they died almost at the same time.

Links and Literature

Roskildekroeniken Heimskringla
Svend Aggesen Heimskringla
Knytlinge Saga Oldnordiske Sagaer Bind 11
Saxo Grammaticus Heimskringla
Full text of "Danmark under Svend Estridsen og hans Soenner" J. G. F. Raeder - Archive.com
Aelnoths fremstilling af Knud den helliges historie Heimskringla
Kongeraekken Kongehuset
Harald Hens love Historisk Tidsskrift - Joergen Olrik inc. Radulfus Niger paa Dansk.
Kong Knuds lidelseshistorie Also called: "Passio sancti kanuti regis et martiris" - Heimskringla.
Adam af Bremen: Om Landene og Oeerne i Norden Heimskringla
Ryd Klosters Kroenike Heimskringla
Skt. Nikolaj Kirke og Vor Frue Kloster Ejegod Tidende
Kongemagt, kirke og kernefamilie -1000 -1300 Middelalderens historie docplayer
The Historical Reality of the Muslim Conquests Raymond Ibrahim
Speech of Urban II at the Council of Clermont, November 26, 1095 Salem Instruction
Danmarks Historie 4 - Ole Fenger - Gyldendal og Politikken.
Saxo Grammaticus oversat af Fr. Winkel Horn - Sesam.
"Helgenkongens Skrin" by Jens Vellev in Skalk Nr.4 1982.
"Myten om Prins Svend" by Kurt Villads Jensen in Skalk Nr.2 2001.

Tilbage til start af artikel

20190725

Passed W3C Validation