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Discover the Legend of St Edmund

November 20 is St Edmund's Day and there are wonderful nods to the significance of the former Patron Saint of England across Bury St Edmunds in both art, architecture, horticulture and names. 

Who was Saint Edmund?

Bury St Edmunds takes its name from King Edmund, the original Patron Saint of England and King of the East Angles, who is widely believed to be buried in the town. 

The legend of St Edmund, who ruled East Anglia from AD 855 to 869, tells of the brave King Edmund who was killed by the Vikings after refusing to denounce his Christianity.

A wolf is a central figure of the legend. The story goes that after being killed with arrows and decapitated in Suffolk, the king's body was found but his head was missing. Supporters heard the wolf call them and they found him guarding the king's head, which was then reunited with his body.

Bedericesworth

Shortly after his death a shrine containing his remains was built in the Abbey in a town called Bedericesworth. This town later became Bury St Edmunds and the most popular and famous pilgrimage in England, visited by many kings. Saint Edmund later became the Patron Saint of England.

The Abbey was desecrated in the 16th Century, when Edmund’s remains are believed to have been removed from the shrine.
The commissioners who dissolved the Abbey on November 4, 1539, mentioned nothing about the body, and given St Edmund's royal status it is likely they would have quietly allowed the monks to remove the body from the shrine and relocate it.

According to a third-hand account from 1697, St Edmund was placed in an iron chest by a few monks but sadly the account does not give the location within the Abbey where he was buried. 

Where to find St Edmund

There are wonderful nods to the significance of the former Patron Saint of England across Bury St Edmunds in art, architecture, horticulture and names:

The Statue of St Edmund
Lovingly sculptured by Dame Elisabeth Frink (he even has her nose!) stands young Edmund, a mere boy when he took the throne of East Anglia in 855. The statue can be found beside St Edmundsbury Cathedral along with a wolf on guard.


Abbey Ruins
The Abbey of Bury St Edmunds was once among the richest Benedictine monasteries in England, until the Dissolution of the monasteries in 1539. It was a centre of pilgrimage as the burial place of the Anglo-Saxon martyr-king Saint Edmund. The Abbey Ruins can be found in the Abbey Gardens.


The Wolf
The 7ft wood carving by Ben Loughrill on the Southgate roundabout depicts the animal that, according to legend, looked after the head of King Edmund after he was killed in 869. 


The statue of St Edmund at his martyrdom
The iconic silver figure of St Edmunds by Emmanuel O’Brien stands tall on the Risbygate roundabout. The 9ft piece used stainless steel strands woven round the saint’s body pierced through with arrows. 

The Legend of St Edmund Book
An amazing oak book by Den Humphrey inscribed with the legend of St Edmund and the wolf can be found in the Abbey Gardens by the café.  


Banner of St Edmund
Banner of St Edmund by acclaimed artist Sybil Andrews who was born in Bury St Edmunds and later moved to Canada. It is hand embroidered in silks on linen and first conceived, designed and begun in 1930. The tapestry can be found in the St Edmund Chapel of St Edmundsbury Cathedral.


The Bishop’s Throne Carving 
In St Edmundsbury Cathedral St Edmund and his protective wolf are featured carvings in the Bishop’s Throne. The Bishop sits there when he visits the Cathedral. 


St Edmund’s Chapel
There is a small chapel in St Edmundsbury Cathedral named after the saint where you can also find the statue of St Edmund.


St Edmund’s Rose
Nestled in the Appleby Rose Garden, behind the bench made from the wing of an American 'Flying Fortress Bomber, is the St Edmund Rose. 


The Martyrdom of St. Edmund by Brian Whelan 
This beautiful painting by acclaimed Irish painter Brian Whelan hangs in the Lady Chapel of the St Edmundsbury Cathedral in St Edmund’s Chapel.


St Edmundsbury Cathedral Tower
One of the greatest symbols of St Edmund is on top of the cathedral. The Cathedral tower represents St Edmund’s crown.


Have we missed any? Where have you found St Edmund in Bury St Edmunds?