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Confessional Lutheran theology, hagiography, philosophy, music, culture, sports, education, and whatever else is on the fevered mind of Orycteropus Afer

18 May 2012
  + Erik IX of Sweden +
18 May AD 1160

Stockholm Coat of ArmsErik Jedvardsson (Edward's Son) ruled much of Sweden from 1150 to 1160. He headed a Christian kingdom bordered by various pagan realms, all of which shared an ancient tradition of fighting with each other. During the middle of his reign, about 1155, he led a Swedish expedition into Finland, which was then loosely under Swedish rule. The objects were the consolidation of Swedish authority and the establishment of a protected Christian mission. This latter was headed by the English-born Henry of Uppsala, considered by many the founder of the Church in Finland.

Erik also gained renown for measures designed to to provide Sweden with fair laws and just courts, including steps designed to assist the poor and the infirm. One story of his death goes as follows: On 18 May 1160, the day after Ascension Day, while worshiping in an Uppsala church, word came that a pagan Danish army was approaching to kill him. He replied, "Let us at least finish the sacrifice. The rest of the feast I shall keep elsewhere." As he left the church, the pagans rushed upon him and killed him.

Other accounts claim that he was assassinated by Emund Ulvbane, who worked for the rival house of Sverker. Still another story says that the rival claimant Magnus Henriksson either caused or arranged Erik's death. The history of his recognition and official canonization is somewhat blurred. Regional fervor favored him but church politics seemingly denied him papal recognition. Indeed, Pope Alexander III, using the pretext that Erik was a boozer who died in a drunken brawl, censured his cult in 1172. Although no sources say anything officially, one must wonder if Swedish nationalism following this slight might have helped the Reformation later gain rapid inroads in Sweden.

Erik was honored both as an upholder of the Christian faith and as a national hero, the ancestor of a long line of Swedish kings. His bloodline also spread by marriage into the courts of Norway and Denmark. Within thirty years of his death, he was listed on the Swedish sanctorial calendar. He remains honored as the patron of the city of Stockholm and his likeness is on the city's coat of arms (above). He is also held as the principal patron of Sweden. His silver casket still sits in Uppsala's cathedral.

Collect

O God, who called Your servant Erik of Sweden to an earthly throne and allowed him to advance Your heavenly kingdom, giving him zeal for Your Church and love for Your people, mercifully grant that we who commemorate him this day may be fruitful in good works, and attain to the glorious crown of Your saints; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

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