Saint of the Day – 19 January – St Canutus (1040-1086) Martyr, King of Denmark “Canute IV” – known as Canutus the Holy – Canutus was an ambitious king who sought to strengthen the Danish monarchy, devotedly supported the Roman Catholic Church and had designs on the English throne. Slain by rebels in 1086, he was the first Danish king to be canonised. He was recognised as patron saint of Denmark in 1101.
Saint Canutus, King of Denmark, succeeded his elder brother Harold on the throne of Denmark in the year 1080. He began his reign by a successful war against the enemies of the state and by planting the faith in the conquered provinces. Amid the glory of his victories he humbly prostrated himself at the foot of the crucifix, laying there his diadem and offering himself and his kingdom to the King of kings. After having provided for the peace and safety of his country, he married Eltha, daughter of Robert, Earl of Flanders, who proved herself a spouse worthy of him.
The justice of Saint Canutus as sovereign was well known. He applied himself to the reform of all internal abuses. For this purpose he enacted severe but necessary laws for the strict administration of justice, the repression of violence and tyranny by the powerful, without respect to persons. He favoured and honoured holy men and granted many privileges and immunities to the clergy. His charity and tenderness towards his subjects made him study all possible ways to make them a happy people.
To the virtues which constitute a great king, Canutus added those which prove the great saint. A rebellion having sprung up in his kingdom, the king was surprised at church by the rebels. Perceiving his danger, he confessed his sins at the foot of the altar and received Holy Communion. Stretching out his arms before the altar, the Saint fervently recommended his soul to his Creator; in this posture he was struck by a javelin thrown through a window and fell a victim for Christ’s sake by the enemies of his Christian reign.
St Canutus’ Cathedral below, also known as Odense Cathedral, is named after the Danish king St Canutus, otherwise Canute IV. It is a fine example of Brick Gothic architecture. The church’s most visited section is the crypt where the remains of St Canutus and his brother Benedict are enshrined.