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November 20

St Edmund the Martyr - November 20

Saint Edmund the Martyr
King of East Anglia
(Around 841 – 870)

“It was never my way to flee. I would rather die for my country if I need to. Almighty God knows that I will not ever turn from worship of Him, nor from love of His truth. If I die, I live.”

Saint Edmund the Martyr

His Early Life

Edmund was born around 841 probably in Nuremburg, Germany. Little is known of his family and childhood.

King at Age 14

On Christmas Day 855, 14-year-old Edmund was acclaimed king of Norfolk by the ruling men and clergy of that county. The following year the leaders of Suffolk also made him their king.

For 15 years, Edmund ruled over the East Angles with what all acknowledged as Christian dignity and justice. Edmund was a model ruler, concerned with justice for his people and his own spirituality. He himself seems to have modelled his piety on that of King David in the Old Testament, becoming especially proficient in reciting the Psalms in public worship. Edmund spent a year sequestered at Hunstanton learning the Psalter by heart.

Danish Invasion

Starting in 866, Edmund’s kingdom was increasingly threatened by Danish invasions. For four years, he and the East Angles managed to keep a shaky, often broken peace with them. Then, the invaders burned Thetford, England. King Edmund’s army attacked the Danes, but could not defeat the marauders. In a later account in the The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, reputedly derived second-hand from an eyewitness, Saint Edmund was compared to Saint Sebastien. So, he also became a saint invoked against the plague.

Prisoner and Martyr

King Edmund, mindful of the Saviour, threw out his weapons. He wanted to match the example of Christ, who forbade Peter to win the cruel Jews with weapons. Edmund was taken prisoner at Hoxne, Suffolk, England. He was tied to a tree, insulted and beaten with whips. Still, King Edmund refused to share his Christian kingdom with the heathen Danish invaders. In between the whip lashes, Edmund called out with true belief in the Saviour Christ. Because of his belief, because he called to Christ to aid him, the heathens became furiously angry. Then he was shot with arrows, till his body was ‘like the bristles of a hedgehog’. As if that was not enough, When the Danes saw that noble King Edmund would not forsake Christ, Edmund was beheaded, dying on November 20, 870 in Hoxne, Suffolk, England with the name of Jesus on his lips.

Saint Edmund thus remains the only English sovereign until the time of King Charles I to die for religious beliefs as well as the defense of his throne. Edmund was quickly revered as a martyr and his cultus spread widely during the middle ages. Saint Edmund was the Patrons Saint of England from 869 to 1350.

Saint Edmund is generally depicted as a bearded king holding his emblem – an arrow. Sometimes he is shown suspended from a tree and shot, or his head between the paws of a wolf.


Legend states that his supporters heard a wolf call to them. Then, they found the wolf guarding the king’s head, which was then reunited with his body fused back together. This is the reason why Saint Edmund the Martyr is the patron saint of wolves.

Stone Cross And Shrine

A stone cross at Hoxne in Suffolk, England marks one supposed location of Edmund’s death. The monument records that it was built on the site of an ancient oak tree which fell in 1848 and was found to have an arrow head embedded in its trunk.

Saint Edmund’s shrine at the Abbey of St Edmund in Bury St Edmunds became one of the most famous and wealthy pilgrimage locations in England. For centuries the shrine was visited by various kings of England, many of whom gave generously to the abbey.

Born :                   Around 841 probably in Nuremburg, Germany

Died:                    November 20, 870 in Hoxne, Suffolk, England

Beatified:            Pre-Congregation

Canonized:         Pre-Congregation

Feast Day:          November 20, formerly November 2

Patron Saint:     Against Plague; Diocese of East Anglia, England; East Anglia, England; Kings; Torture Victims; Wolve



Saint Edmund the Martyr’s unwavering commitment to his faith, even in the face of persecution, reflects immense courage. He learned to bear his crosses well as he upheld one of the most essential and important duties of a Christian life. Despite facing torture and death, Saint Edmund the Martyr faced his cross and remained steadfast in his faith. While we may not face martyrdom, we will all have some crosses which we need to face head on so we can obtain the strength to stand our ground under greater trials.

What little cross will you carry today well to obtain the strength to stand your ground under potential future greater trials? Like Saint Edmund the Martyr, how can your life today be a testimony to your Christian beliefs and values, influencing future generations positively?


Saint Edmund the Martyr,

I am in awe of your courage and steadfast devotion to Christ, so I come before you in prayer, seeking your intercession.

Strengthen my faith, dear saint, in times of trial, that I may remain steadfast in my commitment to God’s truth, even when faced with challenges and adversity.

May your legacy of faith and sacrifice inspire me, and may your prayers before the throne of God guide me on my journey towards holiness.

Saint Edmund the Martyr, pray for us. Amen.


Saint Links 

Aleteia – Saints to call on in a pandemic

All Saints & Martyrs – Saint Edmund

Bartleby – Rev. Alban Butler. Volume XI: November. The Lives of the Saints. 1866. November 20 St. Edmund, King and Martyr

Bury St Edmunds – 10 Things You May Not Know About St Edmund

Bury St Edmunds – Walking the St Edmund Way

Catholic Culture – Catholic Prayer: Collect for Saint Edmund the Martyr, King

Catholic Ireland – Nov 20 – St Edmund martyr, king, (841-870)

Catholic Online – St. Edmund the Martyr

CatholicSaints.Info – Saints of the Day – Edmund the Martyr, King – by Katherine I Rabenstein

Daily Prayers – Edmund the Martyr

Independent Catholic News – St Edmund

National Catholic Register – Nov. 20, St. Edmund of East Anglia, King and Martyr

New Advent – Phillips, G. (1909). St. Edmund the Martyr. In The Catholic Encyclopedia

Saints, Feast, Family – Saint Edmund the Martyr’s Story

Saint Mary’s Press – Saint Edmund the Martyr (c.841-870)

uCatholic -Saint Edmund, King and Martyr

Video Link

Cradio Saint of the Day: Saint Edmund of East Anglia – YouTube (CatholicSaints.Info)

Saint Edmund of East Anglia 11-20 – YouTube (ChurchMilitant Archives)