Unearthing St. Edmund

A source for Edmund's martyrdom in Íslendingabók

  • Ben Allport Institutt for lingvistiske, litterære og estetiske studier, Universitet i Bergen
Keywords: Íslendingabók, Abbo of Fleury, Bury St Edmunds, Hermannus the Archdeacon, Sources


In Ari fróði Þorgilsson’s Íslendingabók, the settlement of Iceland is said to have first begun from Norway in 870, the year that “Ívarr, son of Ragnarr loðbrók, had St Edmund, king of the English, killed.” He attributes his knowledge of the date of this martyrdom to a mysterious “saga” of St Edmund, the identity of which has long been debated. This note considers the various alternatives put forth by previous researchers and concludes that the most likely candidate for this saga is in fact a composite of two texts, Abbo of Fleury’s Passio Sancti Eadmundi and Hermannus the Archdeacon’s De miraculis Sancti Eadmundi. These texts are known to have been bound together in at least one manuscript from the early twelfth century. It is argued that a similar manuscript may have circulated in Iceland and was used to inform several other Old Icelandic texts composed over the following two centuries.