Stanislaus the Martyr v. Edmund

How's your week going? More importantly, how's your bracket looking? At one level, who cares, right? As long as you're learning about some inspiring saintly souls and having some fun along the way, that's what really matters. And that's what this whole crazy online Lenten devotion is all about.

Is Lent Madness fair? No. Is it frustrating? Sometimes. But keep your eye on the prize! And that prize is the Golden Halo.

But that's a long way off! Today, we get Stanislaus the Martyr vs. Edmund. Patron saint of Poland vs. the patron saint (some would say) of England.

Yesterday, Enmegahbowh advanced against Dorothy Sayers 58% to 42%.

Time to vote!

Stanislaus the Martyr

Stanislaus of Kraków, also called Saint Stanislaus of Szczepanów, is canonized in the Catholic church as the first patron saint of Poland. When we don’t know much about a person’s life, their story can take on legendary qualities.

Stanislaus was born in Szczepanów, a town near Kraków, on July 26, 1030. After attending cathedral schools in Gniezno, the capital of Poland at that time, and then in Paris, Stanislaus was ordained a priest. He was named archdeacon to the bishop of Kraków and was known for his excellent preaching. His way of life set a good example for many people, and he was known for hearing confessions from both clergy and laity where people changed their lives because of his counsel. In 1072, after the bishop’s death, he was named bishop of Kraków and only accepted the role at the command of Pope Alexander II. Stanislaus was one of the first native Polish bishops and influenced Polish politics. He brought papal legates, or representatives, to Poland and encouraged King Boleslaw II the Generous (also known as King Boleslaw the Bold) to help spread Christianity in Poland by establishing Benedictine monasteries.

Some people in Poland opposed King Boleslaw because of his immoral behavior, support of incompetent rulers, and unjust wars. Stanislaus took the opposition’s side, led by the king’s brother, Wladyslaw Herman. Bishop Stanislaus excommunicated King Boleslaw, which means the king could not participate in the life of the church. This act led to Stanislaus’s death. He was charged with treason in 1079 and sentenced to dismemberment.

When King Boleslaw sent men to execute Bishop Stanislaus, no one would touch him. So, the king killed Stanislaus himself while he was saying mass in the Wawel castle. The guards cut up his body and scattered the pieces. People were outraged by Stanislaus’s death; King Boleslaw was overthrown, and his brother became king.

Stanislaus’s story is full of legend, to be sure. Whether he was a traitor or a hero is still up for debate. We know that Stanislaus stood up for injustice and lost his life for his words and actions. As followers of Jesus, may we learn courage and fearlessness from Stanislaus’s example.

Collect for Stanislaus the Martyr
Almighty and everlasting God, who kindled the flame of your love in the heart of your holy martyr Stanislaus: Grant to us, your humble servants, a like faith and power of love, that we who rejoice in his triumph may profit by his example; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Miriam Willard McKenney


While Edmund is a Turkish delight-eating fictional character in The Chronicles of Narnia, Saint Edmund is most assuredly not—he was king of East Anglia from 855 until his death in pre-Norman England.

In 793, the Vikings raided Lindisfarne, the Holy Island and monastery in Northumberland, destroying the church and monastic community there. By 866, the Vikings arrived in East Anglia where Edmund was king. Their presence was brutal: they showed “special ferocity” toward those regarded as representatives of Christianity. In Peterborough, one abbot and his community of 84 were all slain; raids in the marshes of eastern England killed all of the monks at Bardney, Ely, and Croyland. In defense of his country and his faith, Edmund led forces against the Viking threat. When “The Great Heathen Army” attacked East Anglia in 868, the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle recounts that “King Edmund fought against them, and the Danish took the victory, and killed the king and conquered all that land.” Edmund gave his life for his people and their faith, counting him among the martyrs.

One story of Edmund’s death is particularly notable for his confession of faith. While bound and captured, Edmund was beaten. “In between the whip lashes, Edmund called out with true belief in the Savior Christ. Because of his belief, because he called to Christ to aid him, the heathens became furiously angry. They then shot spears at him, as if it was a game, until he was entirely covered with their missiles, like the bristles of a hedgehog.” Edmund was ultimately decapitated.

In 1010, Edmund’s remains were moved to London to protect them from the Vikings, who had a notable interest in snuffing out any memory of his resistance. When the Viking King Canute converted to Christianity, he was instrumental in founding an abbey at Bury St. Edmunds, with Edmund’s shrine as a centerpiece. The abbey became a site of pilgrimage for many across England. After the Norman Conquest, a large town grew up around the monastery, which thrived until the dissolution of the monasteries by Henry VIII. In 1539, Edmund’s shrine was destroyed. Today, Edmund’s memory is kept and nurtured, including by some who moved to make him the patron saint of England as recently as 2013.

Collect for Edmund
Merciful God, who gave grace and fortitude to Edmund to die nobly for your Name: Bestow on us your servants the shield of faith, with which we can withstand the assaults of our ancient enemy; through Jesus Christ our Redeemer, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

David Sibley


Stanislaus the Martyr: Farkasven, CC BY-SA 4.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons

Edmund: Unknown author, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons



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89 comments on “Stanislaus the Martyr v. Edmund”

  1. Na zdowie to blessèd St. Stan!
    He won his court case with this plan:
    To sustain an objection
    He employed resurrection;
    Deep his habeas corpus writ ran.

      1. Thank you for the Wikipedia info on Stanislaus. Made up my mind. ST. Stanislaus got my vote.

    1. Agreed -- would you please give us some background on why you feel St. Stanislaus should advance? Thanks.

  2. Hedgehogs are cute animals. However, their spines can be prickly and are for protection. Edmund was shot with arrows until he looked like a hedgehog, but his love of and faith in Christ was his protection. He died professing his faith staying true to his belief in God and Christ.

  3. A very difficult choice, having to choose between two martyrs for their faith.Finally went with Stanislaus mainly because he represented the non-Western European Christian community, which we English speakers are likely not especially fami!iar with.

  4. Not a nice read for 1st in the AM! It's a tie.. who got dismembered the smallest, or in more pieces? UGH!

    1. Thank you! I second that "Ugh!" I don't need the gruesome details at any time of day. I've never understood the appeal of that in any case.

  5. Stanislaus is a precursor to Thomas Becket and Oscar Romero, all three bishops murdered in their churches because of what they preached.

    1. Earl, I agree that Oscar Romero is a spiritual descendant of Stanislaus, but Thomas? Not so much. Thomas got the chop because he and Henry II, who had been the best of buddies, had a major falling-out over who had more power - the King or the Archbishop - and the King won, if one can call that winning.

  6. This was a difficult choice for me…. both of these saints seemed to be very devout and desperately desired Christianity to be spread in their respective countries. Their deaths were equally violent, in my opinion.
    If I understood correctly, I think the Polish saint’s brother seemed devastated by his brother’s brutal death. I was pleased that the brother overthrew the king! Maybe he too should be a saint!

    On the other hand, while I was on. Celtic Pilgrimage I spent time on Iona and Lindesfarne. Those Vikings were brutally violent and yet both of those communities overcame those Vikings!

  7. Generally, I'm not into martyr stories. But in this case, heritage wins the day for me. My paternal grandfather's maternal line were all from East Anglia, many from right around Bury St. Edmunds. I've tracked them back as far as the 1500s in that area. So I had to vote for the home team.

    ** Fun fact: many of the Puritans who sailed to what became the Massachusetts Bay Colony were from East Anglia. There are even linguists who suggest that the distinctive Boston-area accent owes a lot to the East Anglian accent(s). The U.S. city of Boston is in Suffolk County, Suffolk being one of the counties in East Anglia.

    Go, Edmund!

    1. If you like Boston, you'll like St. Botulph, after whom the original Boston was named -- coming up for a vote next Wednesday. Go Botulph!

  8. So, as I know many of these will be tough choices, this is the really the first for me in this series. At the same time, I have learned much from these postings. Thank you for your research.

    1. Welcome to Lent Madness.

      Curious to know which St. Stanislaus School you attend? This urging of votes without justification or reasoning smacks of an institution (school or parish) wanting their patron saint to advance.

      Nothing wrong with that, however, if you're asking people for their votes it is reasonable to offer an explanation of why they should vote for your candidate.

      1. I was thinking the same thing -- all these one-line posts, sounding as if they might have been written by kids ("My name is Ty, please vote for Stanislaus") certainly suggest an institutional campaign.

  9. The edge goes to the Polish bishop who opposed his king, rather than the English king who defended his kingdom.

  10. Here's to the power of confession and those who are healed by it. Stan must have been quite the confessor. Besides, the patron saints of eastern Europe have been working so hard this year, it really seems like one should be rewarded with a golden halo.

  11. So it seems to me that these two statements can't both be true: "Whether he was a traitor or a hero is still up for debate. We know that Stanislaus stood up for injustice and lost his life for his words and actions." If Stanislaus stood up for injustice then he's not a traitor, he's a hero; if Stanislaus was just a pawn of the king's brother who was out to steal the throne,then Stanislaus is a traitor and not someone worthy of emulating, as a saint should be.

    So without clear information, I simply can't vote, just as yesterday it was impossible to understand what theology Dorothy Sayers was truly a proponent of and whether or not Enmegahbowh betrayed his people, the Ojibwe, during the Dakota War.

    1. I don't know, it's not so much "facts" as we see them in the modern era, but what these people's lives have come to mean to myriads of folks throughout the ages, and how their "stories" inspired many to draw nearer to God.

  12. He probably won't make it to the next round, but had to vote for Stanislaus in solidarity with my Polish family I married into.

  13. I didn't have strong feelings one way or the other today, but I was swayed by Melanie's choice to go with "Polish bishop who opposed his king, rather than the English king who defended his kingdom" and Earl Higgins' astute connection of Stanislaus with Thomas Becket and Oscar Romero.

  14. I voted for Edmund with my heart this morning having spent many beautiful hours in quiet contemplation in the serenity of Bury St. Edmund. On reflection I think it is the right vote.

  15. The encrustations of legend are thick on both of these, but I'm going to have to go with the guy whose memory the Northmen and Danes tried to wipe away. I'm for anyone who resists violence and invasion. And . . . Narnia. Well played, David.

  16. Very gruesome tales these
    Which one can this poster please
    The one that finally opposed his king
    Or the one that stood up to the Vikings

    Legends both for in their martyrdom
    Both beheaded when death did come
    Praying to our Lord when they came to death
    Being raised to Sainthood in all this mess

    Not much is actually known of these
    Now to pick, so difficult- geez
    Edmund has this bloody vote today
    Because he fought so hard to maintain the Way

  17. Another hard choice today. I could’ve voted for either. Voting for Stan and the Eastern European connection today, with a large Polish family connection, and fond memories of visiting Krakow years ago.

  18. Fun fact - many medieval Icelandic manuscripts use the death of King Edmund as a dating technique; as in "thus-and-such happened X number of years after the death of King Edmund in England." He had a big impact, it seems.

  19. The wolf that guarded Edmund's head would be so disappointed if Edmund lost in the first round.

    1. I don't feel great about my Viking ancestors either. Maybe I'll atone with my vote as well.