King Erik IX Jedvardsson was a ruler in Sweden from 1150 to 1160. Erik was honored as an upholder of the Christian faith and as a national hero and he is the ancestor of many Swedish Kings. And we are now finding out more about his horrifying death, how enemy’s swarmed him until he was half dead on the ground and continued to taunt him before cutting off his head (Um, Yikes).
The legend of saint Erik goes on as the king who died a terrifyingly dramatic death. It’s been speculated that Saint Erik IX died outside in a battle in front of the church located in Uppsala, Sweden. Erik had just wrapped up celebrating mass before the attack.
Researchers have found that Erik, also known as “Eric the Lawgiver, “Erik the Saint,” and “Eric the Holy,” may have been tortured to death.
The research project was lead by Uppsala University and they were given access to the the relics of King Erik IX. He has rested there since 1257 and the bone analysis has some interesting findings including:
- His health conditions
- Where he lived and how he lived
- The circumstances of death
There hasn’t been a lot of history regarding Erik Jedvardsson. The only accounts of his life were in the saint’s legend—which was preserved. The Saints Legend was written in the 1290s and it has often been referred to as “unreliable.” But the legend states that Erik was “the chosen king,” and that he was a devoted Christian who led a crusade against Finland and constantly supported the Church.
It was in 1160 when he was murdered and research is showing some interesting findings, according to the University:
“‘The interdisciplinary research collaboration on the analysis of the skeletal remains of Saint Erik provides extensive information about his health condition (orthopedists and radiologists), genealogy (aDNA analysis), diet (isotopanalys), and his death (forensic medicine)’, says project leader Sabine Sten, professor of osteoarchaeology at Uppsala University.
The reliquary contains 23 bones, seemingly from the same individual. They are also accompanied by an unrelated shinbone. The radiocarbon values measured in the bones are consistent with a death in 1160. The osteological analysis shows that the bones belong to a man, 35-40 years old and 171 cm tall.
Examinations of the bones using computer tomography at the University Hospital in Uppsala found no discernible medical conditions. DXA- and pQCT measurements conducted at the same hospital found that Erik did not suffer from osteoporosis, or brittleness of the bones. Quite the opposite, as he had a bone density about 25 percent above that of the average young adult of today. King Erik was well-nourished, powerfully built and lived a physically active life.
The isotope analysis points to a diet rich in freshwater fish, which indicates that the king obeyed the church rules on fasts, i.e. days or period when the consumption of meat was forbidden. Stable isotopes also imply that he did not spend his last decade in the expected Uppsala area but rather in the province of Västergötland further south. These conclusions should however be considered very preliminary, as there are as of yet very few other studies to compare the isotope values to.
The opening of the reliquary also saw DNA samples taken. It is hoped that these will produce results that will shed new light on questions of genealogy. This analysis has not yet been completed, and is expected to take another year. The researchers can, however, reveal that the samples have yielded DNA information..
The cranium in the reliquary is dented by one or two healed wounds that may have been due to weapons. The legends say that Erik led a crusade against Finland, which is thought to be a possible explanation of the injuries
The saint’s legend says that in the king’s final battle, the enemy swarmed him, and when he fell to the ground they gave him wound after wound until he lay half dead. They then taunted him and finally cut off his head. The remaining bones have at least nine cuts inflicted in connection with death, seven of them on the legs. No wounds have been found on the ribs or the remaining arm bone, which probably means that the king wore a hauberk but had less protected legs. Both shin bones have cuts inflicted from the direction of the feet, indicating that the victim lay on his front.
A neck vertebra has been cut through, which could not have been done without removing the hauberk, i.e. not during battle. This confirms that there was an interlude, as described by the taunting in the legend, between battle and decapitation. At no point do the documented wounds gainsay the account of the fight given by the much later legend.”
Wow, what a crazy story. And the research results will be published in the upcoming issue of “Journal Fornvannen,” don’t forget to get the issue for yourself. It’s published by the Swedish National Heritage Board. Check out the craziest rulers from Sweden below (and no i’m not saying King Erik was crazy, it was just a sweet video, enjoy).
Sweden Rulers who were Crazy!