Book 2, Chapter 4, 857 AD to 878 AD – Destruction of Croyland Abbey
This occurred in 870, and in the same year the large, wealthy, and famous Abbey of Croyland was plundered and destroyed, and it’s numerous monks ruthlessly slain, the first of a long and dismal catalogue with which the chronicles of that time are filled. Ingulph, who was subsequently secretary to William the Conqueror, and abbot of this celebrated monastery, has left in his narrative a circumstantial account of the Danish attack, the details of which had been transmitted during the intervening period, and his account may be summarized, as furnishing a specimen, of what was common all over England at that time. He says, speaking of one of the many attacks in East Anglia by the Danes,
A few young men of Sutton and Gedeney, throwing away their arms, with difficulty escaped into an adjoining wood, and the next night arrived at the monastery of Croyland, where, while abbot Theodore and his brethren were performing the matin vigils, crying aloud and weeping, with tearful accent they related at the door of the church the slaughter of the Christians, as well as the destruction of the whole of their band. All were in a state of distraction upon receiving these tidings. The abbot, in the first place, retained with himself the more aged monks, and a few children, thinking that their defenceless state might possibly move the barbarians to pity, but failing to bear in mind the words of the poet:
‘In men who follow camps no faith or pity lives.’
All those who were stouter and of more youthful age, he then ordered to fly to the adjoining fens, and there await the termination of the warfare, he also bade them take with them the sacred relics of the monastery, these being the most holy body of Saint Guthlac and his scourge and Psalter, as well as their most valuable jewels and muniments, that is to say, the charters of foundation given by king Ethelbald, and the confirmation thereof by the other kings, as also some of the gifts presented by king Wichtlaf.
“Accordingly obeying his commands with the greatest sadness of heart, they loaded a boat with the aforesaid relics, and the muniments of the kings, after which they threw the table of the great altar, covered with plates of gold, which king Wichtlaf had formerly presented, and their chalices, together with basons for washing, pots, patens, and other vessels of brass, into the well of the convent. All these, except the table, sank, the end of which, in consequence of its length, always made its appearance, projecting above the surface of the water, upon which they drew it out and, as they perceived the fires in Kesteren approaching nearer and nearer, fearing every moment that the Pagans would arrive, left it behind with the abbot and the aged men before mentioned, and then embarking in their boat, they reached the wood of Ancarig, which was adjacent to their island on the south side thereof, and remained there with brother Toret, an anchorite, and others of the brethren residing there, for the space of four days, they themselves being thirty in number, of whom ten were priests, and the rest of lower rank.
“After this, Abbot Theodore, taking with him two of the aged monks, concealed the said table outside of the church, on the northern side thereof, but where it was so concealed has never been ascertained up to the present day. Then putting on their sacred vestments, the ‘abbot and all the others assembled in the choir, and there performed the regular hours of the holy office, after which, commencing it, they went through the whole of the Psalter of David. The lord abbot himself then celebrated high mass, being assisted therein by brother Elfget, the deacon, brother Savin, the sub-deacon, and the brothers Egelred and Hulric, youths who acted as taper-bearers.
“The mass being now finished, just as the abbot and his assistants before named had partaken of the mystery of the Holy Communion, the Pagans bursting into the church, the venerable abbot was slain upon the holy altar, as a true martyr and sacrifice of Christ, by the hand of the most blood thirsty king Osketul. His assistants, standing around him, were all beheaded by the barbarians, while the old men and children, on attempting to fly from the choir, were seized and examined with the most cruel torments, that they might disclose where the treasures of the church were concealed, and afterwards put to death, the Lord Asker, the prior, in the vestry, the lord Lethwin, the sub prior, in the refectory.
Brother Turgar, a child ten years of age, remarkable for the beauty of his face and person, who followed the latter into the refectory, on seeing the old man put to death, most urgently entreated that he, too, might be put to death, and killed together with him. The younger earl Sidroc, however being moved with compassion for the child, stripped him of his cowl, and throwing over him a long Danish tunic without sleeves, ordered him everywhere to keep close to him, and in this way, out of all, both old and young, who were left in the monastery, he was the only one saved, for, through the favour and protection of the said earl, during the whole period of his stay, he went in and out among the Danes as though he had been one of them.
Chapter 4, Reign of Ethelbald
Chapter 4, Destruction of Croyland Abbey
Destruction of Croyland Abbey
Chapter 4, Alfred the Great
Chapter 4, Fresh Troubles with the Danes
Chapter 4, Treaty between him and Guthrun
Categories: Book 2