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. Both venerable martyrs, but all things being in some ways equal I think I'll vote for the nonviolent resister, Stanislaus. (Although I can't see pacifism being effective against Viking marauders, to be fair.)
    And now I'm hungry for Turkish delight -- which paradoxically I just might find at the big Polish/Slavic supermarket not too far from me.

  2. Stanislaus declared the regime of the state during his time as grossly corrupt, unjust, murderous. Unlike a certain Russian patriarch today who is front and center leading the cheers for Putin’s corrupt, unjust, and murderous regime.

  3. I spent several lovely weeks in East Anglia, and I remember Bury St. Edmunds very well. So I had to vote for Edmund. But today is one of those contests where I would be happy for either saint to advance.

  4. I've been around Lent Madness long enough to become acquainted with Mr Rogers so in a spirit of neighbourliness my vote goes to Edmund, buried in the nextdoor diocese of Eds and Ips.

  5. Until the reign of Edward III Edmund was the de facto patron saint of England, with Edward the Confessor as a close runner-up. Edward, who was something of a mediaeval romantic, was the one who pulled the plug on Edmund and made George - who would seem to be more legend/myth than actual historical figure - the patron saint. Me, I'm with the movement to have Edmund re-instated, and that's why Edmund gets my vote today.

  6. Both were men of courage in their faith. However, I realized I really don't know much about English history prior to the 1500's and was enlightened to learn more and now search for more. In the same breath, Stanislaus also inspired me with his courage and his faith. What's a woman to do? Today, I chose Edmund. Another day?

  7. Memories of Lindisfarne and the other raided and /or dissolved monasteries caused me to vote for Edmund. But if there were to be a patron saint of England I think it ought to be Edward the Confessor.

  8. I was struck by the name of the city, "Bury St. Edmunds", and did a little digging to find out that the word "Bury" comes from "Borough" and has nothing to do with interring the saint. The town could be called "Edmundborough". Somewhat relieved to find this out.

    However, I'm not sure about making Edmund England's patron saint. England already has one. St. George, while not an Englishman, has been the patron saint of England since the Middle Ages. (Now there's a matchup for a future Lent Madness: Edmund vs. George for the title of patron saint of England.)

  9. Both are worthy martyrs. Tough choice. But my East Anglian roots and North England Viking roots are calling me to reinstate Edmund as Patron Saint of England. Edmund gets my vote today.

  10. Stanislaus excommunicating a former ally and faithful ruler with whom he had worked, we’re told, strikes me as more scheming Cardinal Woolsey than Thomas Becket. Worse, to join a treason plot led by the king’s own brother. Modern preachers meddling in right wing politics and urging insurrection from the pulpit are particularly offensive to me. Maybe with more understanding of contemporary history and why he made this choice, Stanislaus might shine. Edmund for me.

  11. Edmund was a king who lost a war; Stanislaus stood up to a king knowing that he would incur the king's wrath. My vote goes to Stan today (though I admire Edmund for calling upon Christ for help as he was being killed by his enemies).

  12. I have often wondered that if St. Edmund is buried in StEdmundsbury, who is buried in Old Sodbury?

  13. Here on the banks of the Stanislaus River in Mother Lode country, we remember Stanislaus as a Native American with a name that sounded like Stanislaus. He was helpful to early settlers and miners. So he has a river and a county named after him.

  14. "We know that Stanislaus stood up for injustice and lost his life for his words and actions. " We still need that attitude and action today. I'm voting for St. Stan

  15. Even after reading the bios I was undecided so I went with Edmund, in honor of my grandfather who died before I was born. Besides, long Polish name would be hard to fill in on the bracket which I’ve only missed one winner so far!

  16. All the horrible acts done against people back then are so awful to me. I hope throughout the day the images in my mind of what was done to both of these men do not surface.

  17. I would point out that hero v traitor depends on one's perspective. One man's (populace) will be another man's (king) traitor. It is a debate that can never be won outright.

  18. OK, being a loyal fan of the Chronicles of Narnia, I went for Edmund, though I'm fairly sure he's not descended from the saint.

    But if Stanislaus gets the nod, I won't complain. Though the "old" Edmund of the stories probably would.

  19. Both, "standing up to evil within" (speaking truth to power) and repelling a blunt-force attack... can be dangerous. Both can lead to a martyr's death and the desecration of the body. Both require God's help. But neither can destroy the soul.

  20. Not mentioned in the story of Edmund is the legendary story from English folklore related to a wolf. Edmund was decapitated by the invading Vikings, and a large gray wolf guarded that head until Edmund's friends could be given a proper burial with his body.

  21. St. Edmund is my choice. He is the patron saint of my parish and was the first patron saint of England until he was replaced by St. George. The Magna Carta was signed at his abbey, which was a place of pilgrimage for hundreds of year. If you have the opportunity, visit Bury St. Edmund's and see the remnants of the is beautiful. Legend has it that when Edmund's followers went searching for his body, they found his head being guarded by a wolf. Even the animals were moved by his devotion to Christ and his refusal to renounce his faith. St. Edmund is an example to all of us.

  22. I believe you have the wrong Edmund pictured here, this looks like Edmund I, not St. Edmund, Edmund the Martyr. Edmund I was killed in a brawl in the 10th century. Just sayin'.

  23. Both worthy! I too chose with difficulty. I cast my vote for St. Stan, Patron Saint of Poland, as a tiny gesture of appreciation to the Poles who are now offering help and shelter to those who have fled/are fleeing Ukraine.

  24. I voted for Edmund, but it was hard for me to distinguish one from the other. In the end, I have a itty bitty, tenuous link to the Danish, and I'm a big fan of King Canute (stop, ocean tides, stop!), so for Edmund's association, albeit one of opposition, I cast my vote for the English saint.

  25. Going for St. Stan today. I have very mixed feelings about a saint leading a war - evangelism by death is contradictory.

  26. I feel that poor Edmund should also have gotten to call himself Edmund the Martyr, though that would have been difficult given that one is usually dead after being martyred.

    I was disappointed in his portrayal in The Last Kingdom as lacking conviction, I hope he makes a stronger showing here.