Eric IX of Sweden

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Eric
Stockholms stads tredje sigill.png
King of Sweden
Reign c. 1156 – 18 May 1160
Predecessor Sverker the Elder
Successor Magnus II
Born c. 1125
Died 18 May 1160
Uppsala, Kingdom of Sweden
Burial Church of Old Uppsala, later moved to Uppsala Cathedral
Spouse Christina Björnsdotter
Issue Canute I of Sweden
Filip Eriksson
Katarina Eriksdotter
Margareta, Queen consort of Norway
House Eric

Eric IX[1] of Sweden, (Swedish: Erik Jedvardsson; Erik den helige; died 18 May 1160), also called Eric the Lawgiver, Erik the Saint, Eric the Holy, and, in Sweden, Sankt Erik, meaning Saint Eric, was a Swedish king c. 1156-60. No historical records of Eric have survived, and all information about him is based on later legends that were aimed at having him established as a saint. The Roman Martyrology of the Roman Catholic Church names him as a saint memorialized on 18 May.[2]

Background[edit]

As later kings from the House of Eric were consistently buried at Varnhem Abbey near Skara in Västergötland, the family is considered to have Geatish roots like other medieval ruling houses in Sweden. He had a brother, whose name began with a "J". This brother has been identified with a Joar Jedvardsson, which is why modern sources sometimes use the name Eric Jedvardson. He is named as "Eirik the Saint, son of Jatvard" in King Sverre's Saga.[3]

Legend[edit]

One of the many images of Saint Eric in Stockholm as the city's symbolic patron.

Erik was a rival king, from 1150, to Sverker the Elder who had ascended the throne c. 1130 and was murdered in 1156, after which Eric was recognized in most or all provinces. According to legends, Eric did much to consolidate Christianity in his realm and spread the faith into Finland. In an effort to conquer and convert the Finns, he allegedly led the First Swedish Crusade against the Finns and persuaded an English Bishop Henry of Uppsala to remain in Finland to evangelize the Finns, later becoming a martyr.[4]

Eric was responsible for codifying the laws of his kingdom,[4] which became known as King Eric's Law (also the Code of Uppland). Additionally, he established a monastic chapter in Old Uppsala, which had come from the Danish abbey of Odense. He also established an unpopular system of tithes to support the Church similar to elsewhere in Europe.

Swedish nobles allied with the rival House of Sverker dynasty accosted Eric near Uppsala at Östra Aros as he was leaving church after hearing Mass on Ascension Day in May 1160 or 1161. He was pulled off his horse onto the ground by the swarming rebels, who taunted and stabbed him, then beheaded him. One version names his assassin as Emund Ulvbane, hired by the Sverker dynasty.

Succession[edit]

Magnus Henriksson, great-great-grandson of the late king Sweyn Estridson of Denmark did take power.(Magnus the Strong son of the Danish king Niels of Denmark (c. 1064–1134) has been confused with Magnus Henrikson but he did not outlive his father.) However, Magnus' reign proved short and he never fully consolidated the kingdom before likewise dying at rivals' hands the following year. Likewise his ally (and possible co-conspirator in Eric's death) Karl Sverkerson, was assassinated in 1167 after Eric's son Canute returned from exile. Knud defeated his Sverker rivals by 1173 and unified the kingdom in the decades before his death in 1195, establishing the House of Eric as the ruling dynasty (he was succeeded by his son Eric X and grandson Eric XI).

Family[edit]

Married to Kristina Björnsdotter of the Danish House of Estridsen.

Children
  1. Canute I of Sweden, King of Sweden 1167–1196.
  2. Filip Eriksson; some historians give Filip as the father of Holmger, the father of Canute II of Sweden.
  3. Katarina Eriksdotter; married to Nils Blake.
  4. Margareta Eriksdotter; married in 1185 Sverre I of Norway, died in 1202.

Veneration[edit]

Silver-gilt reliquary of Eric the Saint, Uppsala Cathedral.

The assassinated king Eric was buried in the Old Uppsala church, which he had rebuilt around the burial mounds of his pagan predecessors. In 1167 as his son began to take power after the death of the last Sverker king, Eric's body was enshrined. Eric's son Knud encouraged veneration of his father as a martyr. Facts and fiction about his life were inseparably mixed together, including the alleged miracle of a fountain springing from the earth where the king's head fell after being cut off. In 1273, a century after Knud consolidated Sweden, Eric's relics and regalia were transferred to the present cathedral of Uppsala, built on the martyrdom site. The translation both displayed and extended the depth of his religious following.

Although Eric was never formally canonized, he is considered a saint whose feast day in the Roman Catholic Church and Evangelical Lutheran Church in America is 18 May. Swedish traditions included processions on his feast day from the cathedral to Old Uppsala to petition for a good harvest.

Uppsala Cathedral (Uppsala domkyrka) continues to display the relic casket. During the Middle Ages, each new Swedish king took his oath of office with his hands on the reliquary.[5] The original medieval casket was melted down by Johan III, partly in order to pay off the Älvsborg ransom required by the Treaty of Stettin (1570) and to finance war against Russia. The present Renaissance style casket was commissioned in the 1570s to contain his relics by Johan's Polish Catholic queen, Catherine Jagiellon.

In April, 2014, Swedish researchers opened the current reliquary to examine its contents, and the cathedral displayed the funerary crown during the forensic examination period.[6][7] On March 19, 2016, researchers announced preliminary results that Eric's relics contained injuries consistent with legends of his demise, and that they would soon publish a detailed account. Twenty-three of the twenty-four bones in the reliquary came from the same 30 to 40-year-old male (the other bone, a shinbone, is from a male from the same time period); not only did the bones display healed wounds consistent with the Finnish crusade and a lifetime of battles, the decapitated body contained multiple stab wounds in the back from around the time of death.[8]

Patronage[edit]

Coat of arms of Stockholm, depicting Eric the Saint and based on the medieval seal.

Eric is the patron saint of Stockholm and his crowned head is depicted in the city's coat of arms.

Saint Eric is portrayed in art as a young king being murdered during Mass with the bishop Henry of Uppsala. In Uppsala Cathedral there is a series of late medieval paintings depicting Eric and Henry of Uppsala.

Archaeological evidence[edit]

According to the legend, King Erik the Saint was slain while he attended the mass at the ecclesia Sancte trinitatis 'Trinity church' at Mons Domini. The current Trinity church in Uppsala was founded in the late 13th century and cannot be the church where Eric was slain. Scholars have discussed different locations of the older Trinity church, but the presence of pre-cathedral graves in the vicinity of the cathedral might suggest that the original Trinity church was located at the same spot as the cathedral. In an effort to elucidate this early history of the cathedral and Mons Domini, archaeologist Magnus Alkarp and geophysicist Jaana Gustafsson examined a large part of the cathedral with ground-penetrating radar (GPR). The results from this investigation confirmed the existence of an older building beneath the cathedral, in all the details corresponding with the outline of a 12th-century Romanesque church, which implies that the cathedral is the site of the earlier Trinity church.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Referring to Erik Magnusson as King Eric XII is a later invention, counting backwards from Eric XIV (1560-8). He and his brother Charles IX (1604-11) adopted numerals according to a fictitious history of Sweden. The number of Swedish monarchs named Eric before Eric XIV (at least seven) is unknown, going back into prehistory, and none of them used numerals. It would be speculative to try to affix a mathematically accurate one to this king.
  2. ^ "Martirologio" (in Italian)
  3. ^ King Sverre's Saga, Chapter 100
  4. ^ a b Kiefer, James E., "Erik, King of Sweden", Biographical sketches of memorable Christians of the past
  5. ^ Borrelli, Antonio. "Sant 'Erik IX", Santi e Beati
  6. ^ Gastaldo, Evann. "Scientists pry open coffin of king murdered in 1160". USA Today. Retrieved 25 April 2014. : reported as a "coffin".
  7. ^ reliquary of Saint Erik
  8. ^ Guy-Ryan, Jessie. "The Gruesome Legend of Swedish King Might Actually Be True". Atlas Obscura. Retrieved 29 April 2016. 

External links[edit]

Erik the Saint
Born: 1120 Died: 18 May 1160
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Sverker I
King of Sweden
1156–1160
Succeeded by
Magnus II