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January 19

St John Damascene - December 4

Saint Canute IV

King, Martyr

(Around 1042 – 1086)

“Let all men know how empty and worthless is the power of kings, for there is none worthy of the name but He whom heaven, earth and sea obey by eternal laws.”

Saint Canute IV

His Early Life

Canute was born around 1042, most likely in Denmark. He was the illegitimate son of King Sweyn III of Denmark and nephew of the King Canute who had reigned over England.

A Warrior

Canute is first noted as a member of King Sweyn’s 1069 raid on England. He was also reported as one of the leaders of another raid against England in 1075.

From Exile to King

When King Sweyn died, Canute’s brother Harald III was elected King. So, Canute went into exile in Sweden. In 1080, Harald died and Canute succeeded him to the throne as King of Denmark. As the King of Denmark, he was known as Canute or Knud IV. He married Adela, sister of Count Roberts of Flanders. They had one son, Saint Charles (the Good), who was born in 1084, and twin daughters Cæcilia and Ingerid.

“Canute the Holy”

King Canute was gifted with wisdom, charity, and kindness. He was also an excellent athlete, an expert equestrian, and a great general. At the onset of his reign, Canute led a war against the barbarians and his army defeated them. In the splendor of his success, kneeling at the foot of the altar, he surrendered himself and his kingdom to Jesus Christ, the King of kings. Through his kingdom, he spread the gospel message, constructed churches, and maintained missionaries. He became known as “Canute the Holy.”

Canute was a competent ruler, who cleared the seas of pirates and enacted laws for the strict administration of justice, which entailed restraining the power of the jarls (earls). He was a zealous Christian, who is said to have chastised his body with fasting, discipline, and hair-cloths. Canute also prayed assiduously. He also used his temporal power to spread the Gospel. Canute aided the missionaries in order to convert his people and imposed the payment of tithes for the upkeep, combatted heathen customs, and built many churches, including that of Lund. He gave the valuable crown that he wore to the church of Roschild in his capital (Zealand), where the kings of Denmark are still buried.

Devout King

Canute enhanced the authority of the church. He demanded austere observation of church holidays. Canute gave large gifts to the churches in Dalby, Odense, Roskilde, and Viborg, and especially to Lund. Ever a champion of the Church, he sought to enforce the collection of tithes. In 1085, Canute wrote a letter of donation to Lund Cathedral, which was under construction, granting it large tracts of land in Scania, Zealand, and Amager. He founded Lund Cathedral School at the same time.

Attempt to Capture England

Canute considered the crown of England to be rightfully his and regarded William I of England as a usurper. In 1085, Canute prepared to invade England when he reasserted his claim to that crown against the Norman conquerors. With his allies of Norway and Flanders, he began to assemble a huge fleet. The threat was so serious that William the Conqueror imported numerous mercenaries, removed supplies from the coastal towns, and instituted the Doomsday Survey. In the end, the Canute’s attempt was unsuccessful.

His Martyrdom

The heavy taxes Canute had hastily introduced for the tithe and for war and his disputes with the jarls led to a rebellion headed by his brother Olaf. This rebellion forced Canute to abandon the invasion and flee to the island of Fünen, Denmark. Canute was tracked down by the insurgents.

On July 19, at the church of Saint Alban, Canute, his brother, and seventeen of his followers were praying. While his enemies were still outside of the church, Canute confessed his sins at the foot of the altar and received Holy Communion. Stretching out his arms before the altar, he zealously commended his soul to his Creator. In this position, he was struck by a spear thrown through a window and was murdered for Christ’s sake there in Odense, Denmark on the island of Fünen.

Canute was buried in St. Alban’s, renamed St. Canute’s Cathedral. Miracles were recorded at his tomb. He was the first Dane to be canonized. In art, Saint Canute is a Nordic king with royal insignia, dagger, lance or arrow.

Born :                   Around 1042 most likely in Denmark

Died:                    July 10, 1086 (Feast Day – Jan 19) in Odense, Fünen, Denmark

Beatified:            Unknown

Canonized:         1101 by Pope Paschal II

Feast Day:          January 19, July 10 (on some calendars)

Patron Saint:     Denmark



Saint Canute is remembered for being a protector of the church and clergy. His actions, such as building and repairing churches and monasteries, demonstrated his commitment to the spiritual welfare of his people. While we may not have the ability to physically build a church, we all have the ability to build up the churches we attend through our daily or weekly participation in the Mass.

What can you do today to strengthen the spiritual welfare of your fellow parishioners and your church?


Saint Canute IV, Holy King and Martyr, you were model of Christian virtue and a servant of God, I turn to you in prayer seeking your intercession and guidance.

In your martyrdom, you bore witness to the faith. Grant me the grace to live a holy and meaningful live, the strength to stand firm in my convictions, and the courage to live out my faith in the face of challenges.

Saint Canute IV, pray for us. Amen


Saint Links 

AnaStpaul – Saint of the Day – 10 July– St Canute IV of King of Denmark (c 1042-1086) Martyr

Bartleby – Rev. Alban Butler Volume I: January. The Lives of the Saints. 1866. January 19 St. Canutus, King of Denmark, Martyr

Catholic Exchange – St. Canute, King of Denmark

Catholic Lane – St. Canutus, King, Martyr

Catholic News Agency – St. Canutus, King of Denmark Feast day: Jan 19

Catholic Online – Saint Canute IV

New Advent – Saxton, E. (1908). Canute. In The Catholic Encyclopedia

Reason2bCatholic – Saints Alive! | St Canute IV of Denmark

Saint of the Day – Saint of the Day – January 19 St. Canute IV

Sanctoral – Saint Canutus King of Denmark, Martyr († 1086)

Video Link

St Canute IV Of Denmark – Saint of the Day with Fr Lindsay – YouTube (St Francis Xavier – SPRING of FAITH)

Saint Canute, King and Martyr (19 January) ~ Dom Prosper Guéranger – YouTube (Sensus Fidelium)