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Author Topic: OTD 2nd June 958: Death of Archbishop Oda  (Read 81 times)


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OTD 2nd June 958: Death of Archbishop Oda
« on: June 05, 2021, 09:30:52 AM »
Continuing my series of posts from the Companions' Facebook page, here is the most popular post from the past week commemorating Oda se gode, the Viking-descended Archbishop of Canterbury. Here’s the entry:

Today we celebrate St Oda's day - a boy of Viking descent born in East Anglia. He fought at Brunanburh for King Æþelstan and miraculously re-forged the sword that was broken (“Thank you,” Tolkien). He ended up Archbishop of Canterbury - Oda, we salute you!
Oda’s father had been a warrior in the army of Ivar and settled in England. Oda was brought up as an English and Christian thegn called Æþelhelm and he decided to enter the church. About 926 AD he became Bishop of Ramsbury and was an important counsellor to King Æþelstan, including being one of the team sent to negotiate the restoration of Æþelstan’s nephew, Louis d’Outremer, as King of the Franks in 936 AD.
It would seem that during this visit he became a monk at Fleury-sur-Loire. He was obviously a man of talent because only 5 years later, in 941 AD, he became Archbishop of Canterbury.
Oda was a keen and determined reformer taking particular interest in the area of England that had been under the greatest Danish influence, East Anglia and the East Midlands. He kept his links with Fleury as well, and sent his nephew, Oswald (later Archbishop of York) to study there. He was also involved in Dunstan’s church reforms, and Dunstan admired him greatly, calling him “Oda se gode” (Oda the Good).
He crowned King Eadwig in 956 AD but quarrelled with him in 958 AD and took the part of Edgar who was rivalling his brother for power. He annulled Eadwig’s marriage on the basis of close kinship, almost certainly in a political act to support Edgar.
Oda died on 2nd June 958 AD.
Naturally miracles were recorded, including one written down in a “Life” shortly before 1100 AD by Eadmer who based it largely on the work of Byrhtferth, writing a century earlier at Ramsey Abbey, which had been founded by Oda's nephew St Oswald. The miracle in question occurred at the Battle of Brunanburh (937 AD) at which Æþelstan broke his sword:
“The king had brought blessed Oda into battle with him, trusting that he would defeat the enemy much more by the merits of this man than with hordes of soldiers. And while the most bitter and wretched slaughter was happening all about, a lamentable event occurred. For while King Æthelstan was fighting, his sword shattered close to the hilt and exposed him to his enemies, as if he were defenceless. Meanwhile Oda stood somewhat removed from the fighting, praying to Christ with his lips and in his heart for the safety of the Christian army, and for the sake of this continually raised his face, hands and eyes to those in heaven.
The king was perplexed about what to do in such a situation, for he thought it unspeakable to take a weapon from one of his men in order to arm himself. When a group of his adversaries noticed that the king had a broken sword and was unarmed, though they had begun to flee they turned their faces back to battle and set about obtaining revenge for their shameful flight by killing him most cruelly. Then all at once the air resounded with the clamour of the multitude crying out both for God to offer assistance and for venerable Oda to come forth as quickly as possible.
He raced up to the king and, although weary, asked what it was he wanted him to do. He listened to the king and immediately responded with these words: "What is the problem? What is worrying you? Your blade hangs intact at your side and yet you complain that it is broken. Come to your senses, extend your hand to the sheath, draw the sword and, behold, the right hand of the Lord shall be with you. And be not afraid, since the sun will not set until either flight or destruction envelops the enemies of your Lord who have risen up against you."
At these words all those who were listening were struck with great amazement, and casting their glance towards the king they saw hanging by his side the sword, which had not been there when they had looked earlier. Snatching it and taking comfort in the Lord, the king advanced and maimed or put to flight or dealt death to all the men rushing upon him from both his left and right. And so in accordance with the prediction of the servant of God, it came to pass that the king gained victory over his enemies exactly as the sun was setting.”
How very ironic that in this way the son of one of Ivarr’s warriors helped the Anglo-Saxon King to his great victory over the Viking and Scots armies at Brunanburh.