The Martyrdom of St. Edmund (870 C. E.)

This photograph shows one scene in an elaborate 15th century mural covering the interior walls of the Parish Church of Sts. Peter and Paul in Pickering, North Yorkshire, England. It depicts the killing of Edmund, King of East Anglia, by the Danish army in 870. Edmund was said to have been killed after being defeated in battle because he refused to renounce Christianity. He was supposedly pierced with arrows and then beheaded. The banners to right of the figures in the mural read (in modern translation): "Heaven's bliss as his reward, he shall have for his good deed."

The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle briefly mentions Edmund's defeat and death but makes no mention of his religious martyrdom. No other events of his life are recounted in the Chronicle. The Parker manuscript says the following about the events of 870:

Here the Danish army rode across Mercia into East Anglia and made winter camp at Thetford. And that winter King Edmund fought with them. The Danes were victorious and killed the king and overran all of that land.
The Laud manuscript of the Chronicle, a later variant than the Parker ms., calls Edmund, "Saint King Edmund," reflecting the fact that the legend of his martyrdom had been established by the that time. In fact, although its truth cannot be firmly established, the legend was accepted as true within a generation after the death and Edmund's tomb at Bury St. Edmunds became a site of pilgrimage.