A day or two ago, as one does, I happened to catch the end of an interview on the Steam Radio; it involved two dons ... one, an Anglo-Saxon specialist; the other (to judge from the small fragments I heard of her input) a pro-Viking enthusiast. Is there some new exhibition somewhere highlighting the Vikings? Anyway, I may have got this wrong, but I think she was asked what the Vikings had done for us. Her reply was to the effect that every placename ending in -by is part of what the Vikings did for us.
Well, different people can see things differently ... and I come from a part of England with Viking placenames. Each such toponym suggests to me the expropriation of land and property, and the merciless slaughter of men, women and children; theft and rape and pillage; the destruction of much that I hold sacred.
But, for the interviewee, the Vikings are History and 'Heritage' and Exhibitions.
I possess a small relic of S Theodore, Martyr, Abbot of Croyland (alias Crowland).
Croyland is ... or, until the days of Tudor Minor, was ... a large Abbey in a disart; that is, in inaccessible lands remote from humankind. It founder is considered to be S Guthlac, but this morning I take you back to 870. An army of devout and principled believers in Odin is, by the Permissive Will of God, approaching Croyland. So, "putting on their sacred vestments, the abbat and all the others assembled in the choir, and there performed the regular hours of the holy office; after which, commencing it, they went through the whole of the Psalter of David. The lord abbat himself then celebrated high mass, being assisted therein by brother Elfget, the deacon; brother Salvin, the subdeacon; and the brothers Egelred and Wulric, youths who acted as taper-bearers.
"The mass being now finished, just as the abbat and his assistants before-named had partaken of the mystery of the holy communion, the Pagans bursting into the church, the venerable abbat was slain upon the holy altar, as a true martyr and sacrifice of Christ, by the hand of the most blood-thirsty king Osketul. His assistants, standing around him, were all beheaded by the barbarians ...."
Visitors and pilgrims can still see the skull of that Holy Abbot. He died, I suspect, without a thought for 'History' or 'Heritage' or magnificent Exhibitions or the career prospects of dons. His death, probably, has some connection with the deep sword wound by his left eye-socket.
Chroniclers tell us that on March 22, Bardney in Lincolnshire observed the Festival of the Many Holy Monks and Nuns martyred during the Danish Persecution. Not unfittingly; apparently King Osketul also managed to slaughter the monks of Peterborough and the nuns of Ely and many others of my dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ with whom I am most solemnly linked in my crucified Saviour and whose gracious suffrage I implore.