21 February 2024

Dons, Murder, and Rape

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.



Albrecht von Brandenburg said...

I believe that there is a tomb of a subdeacon in St Patrick's cathedral, Dublin.


Joshua said...

When in a secondhand bookshop in Wellington, New Zealand, I espied on a high shelf a reliquary - of the True Cross! I tried to offer as much as I could afford to redeem it and return it to Catholic hands, but the owner indicated it was not for sale and that he felt it to be a blessing for his business; which I suppose it was.

Ben Whitworth said...

1 January, at Spoleto: Concordius, martyred c. 178
19 April, at Florence: Crescentius, subdeacon to S. Zenobius, c. 396
1 May, at Amiens: Aceolus, martyred with the deacon Acius, c. 303

These, along with S. Salvin (9 April), were the only saintly subdeacons I found when I was looking in about 2003. Probably many others could be found with modern search tools - or by more diligent/erudite searchers.

Quite a large number of lectors were martyred at various times, for refusing to hand over the sacred books.

Glad to hear that you are out of hospital, Father.

Simon Cotton said...

S. Tarcisius may even have been an acolyte.

El Codo said...

To be fair, Father, the other male speaker made your point clearly and demolished the lady’s rosy bouncy view of blonde Swedes.

Jhayes said...

I don’t know of a recent exhibition but National Geograhic released a six-part documentary last year. It’s well done for a public anudience and available for streaming on Amazon Prime. The series name is “Vikings: The Rise and Fall” people from several universities are interviewed.

Jhayes said...

The episodes most closely related to this discussion are the first and second: “The Road to Lindisfarne” and “The Great Heathen Army“.

Anonymous said...

It must be said that their holy deaths ultimately contributed to the conversion of said Vikings. The Scandinavians have historically shown a disarming fondness for saints they brought to martyrs' deaths. Within 20 years of killing St Edmund King and Martyr, the Viking rulers issues coinage venerating him. Scandinavia is enriched with ancient ecclesial dedications to Edmund, Alban, Botolph and other English saints.
Peter Doll