icon of St Sigfrid, image from Western Icons project
Today (16 February) we commmemorate St. Sigfrid of Glastonbury, Apostle of Sweden (ca. 1045). From Baring-Gould
[Anciently venerated in Sweden ; named in the Cologne and other German Kalendars. Authority :— Joannes Magnus, Archb. of Upsal, Hist. Goth. lib. xvii., c. 18, 19, 20.]
The faith of Christ was first preached in Sweden, as has been already related (February 3rd) by S. Ansgar, in the ninth century; but the Swedes soon relapsed into their former heathenism, partly from want of a sufficient supply of teachers, till the reign of Olof Scobkongr [Skötkonung]. This prince sent ambassadors to King Edred (others say Ethelred) of England, to renew the ancient alliance between the two crowns, and desired that some persons might be sent to him, knowing the Christian law, to instruct him and his people. Edred received the proposition with joy ; and, assembling the prelates and chief clergy of his kingdom, exhorted them to make choice of proper missionaries for this great work. Sigfried, archdeacon of York, perceiving that most of those present shrank from the undertaking, as one hazardous and laborious, sprang to his feet, and offered himself for the mission. His offer was at once accepted. He was consecrated bishop, and then sailed to Sweden, taking with him his three nephews Sunaman, Unaman, Wiaman, and other companions.
He landed in South Gothland [Småland], where now stands the cathedral of Wexio [Växjö], which, by the admonition of an angel, he caused to be erected ; and there he made some stay, the king being at that time absent in West Gothland. The chief Jarl or earl of those parts came to see the strangers, and observed their conduct with interest ; he was even present when Sigfried celebrated the Holy Sacrifice ; of all which he gave an account to the king, informing him that he had seen the old man, as he called him, whilst he was standing at the table of his religion, raise above his head a most radiant and beautiful infant, who extended his arm towards him with a smile. The king sent for the saint, and, at his coming, went forth to meet him, and received him with joy ; and, after he had been sufficiently instructed in the Christian faith and moral law, was baptized with his queen, and many of his nobles, and gave the saint the royal castle of Husaby to be converted into a church. For this it was well adapted, for the palaces of the Scandinavian kings and nobles consisted of huge halls with sleeping-apartments in what might be termed the aisles, and doors at both ends. By removing the partitions and beds, and blocking up one door, the building at once assumed the appearance of a stately church, of nave and side aisles, separated by huge square pillars of pine-wood.
At Husaby, Sigfried long resided, till he had converted all West Gothland [Västergötland], to the faith of Christ. But this was not effected without opposition, and his three nephews, Sunaman, Unaman, and Wiaman, to whom he had committed the care of the Church of Wexio, were murdered, and their bodies cast into a neighbouring pool. The murderers were discovered, and the king would have put them to death, but were spared at the intercession of S. Sigfried, but the king forced them to pay a blood-fine, which he offered to the bishop as the nearest kinsman of the deceased. Sigfried, however, refused to receive the money. The relics of the three brothers were miraculously discovered by a light hovering above the pool in which they lay. Their names have been recorded among the saints on Feb. 15th, along with their uncle, S. Sigfried. This loss of his coadjutors did not discourage the saint from the work of the Gospel, which he carried on with great success. He was buried in the cathedral of Wexio, and canonized by the Pope in 1155.