Saint of the Day – 15 February – Saint Sigfrid of Sweden (Died 11th Century) Apostle of Sweden, Bishop, Missionary, Miracle-worker – born at Glastonbury, England in the 10th Century and died in c 1045 at Vaexjoe, Sweden of natural causes. Patronage – Sweden.
Sigfrid is said to have been born in Glastonbury, England in the second half of the 10th century. It is said that St Alphege, Archbishop of Canterbury, converted him to the Christian faith. Sigfrid was an eminent Priest in York who was sent by the legendary King Mildred to assist in the Christianisation of Scandanavia.
At the behest of Olaf I Tryggvason, Sigfrid arrived in Norway in 995 with two bishops and his three nephews (Saint Winaman, Saint Unaman and Saint Sunaman) who were Cluniac monks. There he became a court Bishop for the Norwegian King and travelled to engage a tenacious adversary of Christianity, the renowned pagan sorcerer Raud the Strong. Inclement weather prevented landfall, so Sigfrid took his liturgical vestments to the prow and, lighting tapers and incense, placed a cross upon the stern and read from the Holy Gospel before blessing the vessel with holy water. The sail was ordered to be stowed away and the king’s ships rowed into the ford, at which point a miracle occurred wherein their passage stayed calm while a storm raged around them.
Due to the Battle of Svolder of 999-1000, Sigfrid and his nephews left for Sweden in 1002 where they founded three churches. This area was already being Christianised by the bishop Odinkar Hvite the Elder, who was based in Skara. Thus Sigfrid and his nephews went east to the region of Värend in Småland to continue their missionary efforts, erecting first a cross and then building a wooden church on the shores of Växjö Lake. Soon, eleven prominent men of the area were soon brought to the Christian faith and baptised in a spring near the mountain Ostrabo. Their influence began a steady stream of pilgrims, who flocked to hear the Word of God and gaze upon Sigfrid’s silken vestments, gold and silver vessels and other beautiful objects brought with him from England. King Olof Skötkonung soon became curious and sent a trusted councillor to investigate the matter. According to the councillor, as Sigrid lifted the paten during the Divine Liturgy, the host became a young Boy, whom he kissed, at which time the vision disappeared. Astonished by this, the king sent for the holy Bishop immediately but en route, Sigfrid made a detour in Utvängstorp to enlighten and Baptise the people there.
In 1008, Sigfrid Baptised the royal family in a spring near the village of Husaby, making Olof Skötkonung the first Christian King of Sweden, which marked the beginning of the Christianisation of Sweden. Sigfrid next travelled north to re-establish the See of Uppsala that had been founded by St Ansgar but the reversion to paganism was too strong in the region and he left in failure. During this time, the English Bishop Gotebald was sent from the Danish frontier city of Lund to Scania, where he built its first church and was appointed Bishop. In 1014, Olof Skötkonung assisted Sigfrid in the establishment of the Diocese of Husaby (later Skara), which became a suffragan of the Archdiocese of Hamburg-Bremen. The first Diocesan Dishop, a German named Thurgaut, was consecrated by Sigrid.
Entrusting the administration of Växjö to Unaman and his brothers, Sigfrid left to spread Christianity in Denmark. While he was gone, however, a local greedy nobleman gathered a group of pagans together to kill Sigfrid’s nephews and ransack the church in Växjö. When Sigfrid returned from his mission, he found his nephews’ heads in a weighted tub at the bottom of Lake Helgasjön near the church. The bodies were buried deep inside a forest. According to Sigfrid, the heads still possessed the ability to speak and told him the names of their murderers. Sigfrid glorified God that He allowed Unaman, Sunaman, and Winaman to become Martyrs. Soon Olof Skötkonung heard of the occurrence in Växjö and offered to execute the perpetrators, which Sigfrid refused. The King also offered to extract from them monetary compensation, which the saint also refused. Finally, Sigfrid requested landed property and was gifted the estates known as Hof and Tjuby. The laying of foundation remained extremely difficult for the destitute Bishop but he eventually rebuilt the church and placed inside of it the relics of his holy kin.
In his old age, Sigfrid had become very forgetful, once, he ordered a bath drawn during a fasting day and a voice came down and reproached him, at which point he removed himself from the bath and repented. He visited Bremen in 1030 and reposed in the Lord in 1045. His relics were placed below the high altar of the Växjö church and performed many miracles until the shrine was dismantled after the Swedish Reformation. Sigfrid’s legacy continued under his disciples, Bishops David and Eskil, who were later Martyred.
St Sigfrid was Canonised by Pope Adrian IV in c 1158.
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