This calendar of saints is drawn from several denominations, sects, and traditions. Although it will no longer be updated daily, the index on the right will guide visitors to a saint celebrated on any day they choose. Additional saints will be added as they present themselves to Major.

Friday, February 24, 2012

February 24 -- Feast of Saint King Ethelbert of Kent

Older sources list Ethelbert's feast on February 24, the day he died in 616.  Other sources say that his feast was moved to February 25.  I don't know the reason for the move, so for now I am sticking with the 24th.

Not that Battle of Wimbledon!
Ethelbert was the great-grandson of Hengist, one-half of the Saxon raiding firm Hengist and Horsa that conquered much of Britain.  Ethelbert was raised as a Wotan-worshipping Saxon, but after losing the Battle of Wimbledon to Ceawlin of Wessex, he somehow wound up being bretwalda (overlord) of England.  Good thing he waited to get married, as he'd have been a less likely candidate if the witan had known he'd be marrying a Christian.

Looks like a law-giving saint to me.
 King Charibert of Paris agreed that Ethelbert could marry his daughter Bertha provided that she could remain a Christian and bring over her chaplain, Liudhard.  Liudhard, by the way, is also a saint whose feast is celebrated on February 24.  Bertha was soon followed by Saints Augustine, Lawrence, et aliis, who began the campaign for conversion.  Ethelbert had a sit-down meeting with Augustine on the Isle of Thanet.  They met outdoors, since Ethelbert was afraid of being bewitched. [I guess it is easier to bewitch someone indoors.]  He came away so impressed with these representatives of his wife's faith that he gave them the old Roman Christian church in his capital city of Canterbury.  A couple years later, he accepted baptism, and with him came 10,000 other Saxons.  Many wars later, England established Christianity as its official faith, and many wars after that, it agreed to tolerate other faiths. 

Major Rant:  King Ethelbert promulgated the first English law code, perhaps the first law code of any Germanic country.  Yet on the North Wall of the US Supreme Court, the frieze honoring great lawgivers of the Middle Ages depicts Bad King John, not Saint Ethelbert.  John, the villain of the legend of Robin Hood.  John, who would not pay the ransom of his own brother, Richard.  John, who signed the Magna Carta (presumably the reason he's up there) but then scurried off to the Pope to have it nullified!  And this is the court to which Americans turn for Justice? 
John's at the far right, facing Louis IX of France

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