Category Archives: Pomeranians

All the Wends of Saxo Grammaticus – Book XVI

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This tells of the German-inspired war by Boguslav/Bugislav of the Pomeranians against Cnut of Denmark, Waldemar’s son in which war the Rugians (freshly defeated by the Danes) under their duke Jarimar, found themselves on the front lines and fought on the Danish side. This is from the Jensen-Fisher translation though I corrected their English in those instances where its usage was just too atrocious.

Chapter 3

5. On hearing of this answer, Frederick, since he was unable to start a campaign, projected his wrath on the scornful king; he could only take revenge for Cnut’s disdain with his feelings instead of the sword. Even so he did not lose hope of possessing Denmark, since he thought that a revolt caused by domestic evils might be anticipated there, and trusted that a people split by civil war could be attacked with less risk to his own troops. Observing nevertheless that, after he had been seeking such an opportunity for some time, Fate still denied him it, in an endeavour to induce him to make war on the Danes, he started giving numerous presents and lavish promises to Bugislav, prince of the Wends; this man had lately inherited the country from his brother, Kazimar, who had died without issue.

Chapter 4

1. Bugislav yielded to his promptings with greater readiness than wisdom and, since he had not the audacity to propose war on Denmark plainly and openly, dredging up reasons for a quarrel, initially began to behave in a belligerent manner towards his uncle, Jarimar, lord of Rugen, putting his awe of the emperor’s warriors before the most intimate bonds of kinship.  As soon as Cnut had been informed by Jarimar of this issue, he had ambassadors sent to Bugislav to enquire the cause for such sudden ill-usage of his relative. The Wendish prince swore that he had suffered no wrong from the king or the Danes, but was retaliating for an outrage dealt him by Jarimar; he earnestly requested that the dispute between them both should be referred through envoys from each party to a judicial enquiry held by the king, after the two sides had meanwhile laid down their weapons, and he demanded also that Cnut should be the architect of their mutual peace, for he wanted to affect a convincing candour with these counterfeit words of goodwill.

2. So, as the king had no apprehension of a treacherous plot a day and locality were appointed for the pleading of the case. After he had brought together a large group of the nobility on the island of Samsø, so that they could settle this business and also correct certain faults in the civil law, he there received the representatives of both parties. Their dispute was given a formal hearing, during which a number of charges were thrown at Jarimar with more eloquence than veracity, but the absence of the principals prevented any decision being made; Bugislav’s envoys then swore a voluntary oath affirming that their lord was prepared to appear himself as one of the participants in the present case as soon as Cnut should decree it. Thus the ambassadors, no less than the one who had them, bent their wiles to delude the king.

3. Cnut, valuing their guarantees with more comPlacencJ than caution, quickly dismissed the council and withdrew to jutland, since all the bravest individuals among the Scanians and Zealanders were grumbling about their too-quiet life in peacetime and complaining that amidst all this repose they were now running into slothfulness; their wills were being sapped through long indulgence in pleasures, whereas under King Valdemar it had been their custom to spin out almost the entire year in a wide variety of activities and different types of military service. The sinews of military vigour, they said, are dulled and enfeebled by ease, whereas employment tautens and invigorates them. For this reason a corporate decision was made to launch a pirating expedition against the Estlanders with a view to sharpening the edge of their valour.

4. Meanwhile Bugislav, at the emperor’s instigation, not only provided himself with local troops from his native country, but also borrowed soldiers from a wide area around; beyond that he assembled against Rugen a fleet of 500 vessels crammed with large quantities of war equipment. Believing that no hostile strength could oppose these forces, he ordered an envoy [also] named Bugislav to go to Frederick and announce that his master had recruited a mighty army to attack Denmark; so large was it that he knew for certain Cnut would lose all courage to resist and capitulate to the Holy Roman power in the shortest possible time. Delighted by his undertaking, the emperor praised Bugislav and heaped imperial gifts on his ambassador.

5. Jarimar, thunderstruck by this sudden, unforeseen rumour of war, sent a report to Absalon, who was then residing in Zealand, about the huge and imminent danger that was threatening the people of Rugen. The archbishop immediately stirred himself with all the haste that was needed to forestall an assault on his allies; he sent letters everywhere across Zealand giving instructions that every man of an age to wield arms must rally to the fleet. Associating smaller with larger craft, transport vessels with raiders, he even further allowed the habit of commandeering ships to [both] ordinary folk and nobles without distinction. A similar injunction was issued to islands encircling Zealand. However, orders were delivered to the people of Funen and Scania to arrive at the appointed harbor within six days; otherwise they need not bother themselves, for the preparations could brook no longer delay than that. These men who had been told to join the expedition were so ardent and anxious to obey that with astonishing keenness they vied with one another to meet the time set for them, or even to precede it.

6. Nevertheless, although Cnut had received the message in Jutland, his remoteness coupled with the tight schedule for the rendezvous did not allow him to be a partner in Absalon’s project. Only six ships were sent over from Funen, fourteen from Scania, since the rest had been hindered by their slowness. Their remarkably small numbers might have appeared a cause for blame, had they not been able to plead the excuse of living so far away. Absalon’s fleet had entered the appointed bay on the eve of the feast of Pentecost.  In order not to lose time or energy they made it their business to sail to Hiddensee island the same day. There they were met by messengers from Rugen, who informed them that it would be necessary to wait till they could be certain at what point on their soil the enemy invasion was aimed. They had heard that Bugislav had landed on the island of Koos, which lay alongside Rugen. Yet though he was now almost on the verge of striking at hostile country, this prince did not restrain himself from flouting temperance and indulged in extensive bouts of drinking. In fact his soldiers were both nourished and vitiated by giving themselves up to feasting, with such excess that it seemed as if they had come to attend a banquet rather than a war.

7. Nevertheless, when Absalon had yielded to the advice of these envoys, they returned the following day with information that Bugislav was about to disembark his troops opposite the island of Strela; so, even though dusk was approaching, after seizing his banner, the archbishop made for the shore as swiftly as possible m a small boat. Then by means of a herald he summoned a meeting of the captains and gave out as brief a message as possible to his warriors; taking great pains with his exhortation he filled them with enthusiasm by mentioning that in his dreams he had seen figures picturing a definite victory. The sole response of his followers was that they were thirsting for battle; and if they encountered it, they said, they had no doubt they would win. Their passionate spirits were derived from a long familiarity with success and also from an inbred gallantry in their Danish blood, so that they deserved to be able to depend on the prediction which was their rallying cry.

8. Because he was nervous of the undetermined route through straits whose depth was unknown, Absalon awaited the dawn and then, as he was on the point of setting sail, was held back for a time by the anchor, which had stuck too deeply in the mud. The result was that all the others left him behind in their boundless fervour to forge ahead. Nevertheless he did not consider it unseemly to be outstripped by his forces, since he saw this as attributable to his calling to arms more than to his belatedness. My own view is that he was happy, and rightly so, to see that his men preferred to engage in this justifiable haste sooner than share his enforced delay. Once freed from the restriction, Absalon made up for his unprofitable tardiness with such rapid rowing that he almost overtook the leading vessels, and compensated for the accidental loss of time by his eagerness for the fight.

9. While this communal race was in midcareer, they were met by a ship dispatched from Rugen to tell them that they must pursue a more relaxed course, for because Bugislav was still occupying the island of Koos, the focus of his attack remained speculative. Jarimar too, surrounded by his own native militia, was waiting for the foe to move off. For these reasons the archbishop gave up his concern for speed and turned inshore to Drigge. There a report came that their adversaries had gone home, but the descent of a chance fog had led the message-bearers to make a mistake. Our people were asked to sail to the port of Darsin, where, the envoys promised, they would be shielded by the Rugian army and would meet Jarimar, who wished to discuss the situation with them. But when they sailed to that locality, neither the prince nor any of his escorts could be found; therefore, because he was a fluent speaker of the Wendish tongue, they decided to send Niels of Falster to jarimar in order to investigate the enemy’s withdrawal.

Chapter 5

1. On his departure Absalon took a rowing-boat to the shore so that he might devote his time to God’s worship, but a communication was suddenly received through one of Jarimar’s servants informing that the Pomeranian fleet was drawing so close that, if there had not been a thick curtain of mist, it would have been visible in the near distance. Calling back those who were celebrating mass, he resolved to dedicate his offering to the Lord not with prayers but weapons and, eagerly alerting the fleet, guided it out into the open sea to confront its opponents. What kind of sacrifice could we imagine more pleasing to lhe Almighty than the slaughter of blackguards?

2. Even so, the Pomeranians’ plan was not so much an unheralded raid on enemy territory as to sail about hither and thither so as to play cat and mouse with the Rugian cavalry, who were anxious to defend their coastline. On sighting the Danish fleet, they believed that Borivoj,* accompanied by the West Wends, had arrived to bring them aid, for the murky atmosphere would not allow them to discern the number and cut of our vessels. Nor did it enter their heads that Danes, whose geographical position was so far removed from the Wends’ homeland, could have voyaged to that region in such a narrow space of time, since their sentinels, much too unconcerned, were performing their watch duties with far less conscientiousness than they should.

[*note: The only recorded son of Prince Pribislav of the Abotrites, whom he succeeded in 1178; he was by then married to Hernry the Lion’s daughter, Mechthild].

3. Hence Bugislav, thinking that the Rugian fleet was being directed against him, wished to encircle it with a hundred and fifty of his light warships; the remainder of his fleet he stationed as if in line of battle with anchors cast; between these and the mainland he moved the food transports, which were somewhat more impressive-looking than the raiding vessels; that was because he wanted to simulate the appearance of an armed multitude with a display of useless hulls. This facade caused Sune to imagine Bugislav had been lent German reinforcements. However, as the mist eventually thinned, Absalon, seeing merely small enemy boats passing him, said laughingly that not all of them would return home safely by any means.

4. So, having stiffened the resolve of his comrades with strong encouragements, Absalon advanced against the enemy fleet, sailing at the forefront, just as he was foremost in authority. He was warned by Sune, who supposed their adversaries to be strengthened by German confederates, not to attack with over-precipitate haste, but to slacken the pace of rowing and instruct the soldiers to arm themselves; but Absalon answered that there must not be the slightest delay, since their foe was now hemmed into a corner where it could neither join battle without hazard, nor take flight unscathed. There was therefore nothing to stop him giving himself a speedy victory. Yet when Sune renewed his cautions, Absalon’s warriors began to encase their bodies in armour while several continued at the oars. Their preparations remained unnoticed by their opponents through the help of the fog, which was still dense and persistent. When, however, the young Danish manhood came to close quarters, unable to endure silence any more than waiting they raised their standards and did not restrain themselves from singing loudly to give expression to their vehement passion for combat. Absalon’s banner, which was never normally unfurled without putting his foes to flight, revealed the Danes’ presence to the Wends and simultaneously instilled in them a reluctance to engage.

5. They then weighed anchor in the highest state of alarm, and began frenziedly to urge on their fleet, so that the distance they had sailed over a long stretch of time they now retraced in a small matter of hours. Countless Wends who had been held back from escape by the bulkiness of their vessels or the slow raising of their anchors chose to plunge into the depths and end their lives amid the waves instead of among weapons. You might have viewed their ships full, then empty, almost at the same moment. Yet those who had jumped overboard could still not be saved by swimming, since the currents from the abysses below caught fast hold of their submerged bodies. How powerful must we reckon the strength of their terror, which, when they had absorbed excessive quantities of it, made them even unable to spare their own lives! Such a huge influx of men tried to flee for safety aboard eighteen of the vessels that these split and brought destruction to their shiploads. Few of them had any inclination to stay for the enemy. Indeed one man’s panic was so absurd that, in reacting strongly against his comrades’ example, he chose to fashion a halter in the rigging and hang himself rather than submit to death at his adversanes; hands. A good many Danes were at first astonished, but afterwards scoffed at his act; then seduced by the attraction of loot, they began to show greater laxity in closing with their foes.

6. As he went by, Absalon cautioned them not to pursue plunder in preference to hounding their opponents; with a mere seven vessels he never stopped chasing citrually an entire navy of fugitives, truly full of that assurance with which he had so many times succeeded in viewing the backs of his foes. As they dispersed, the Pomeranians did not weight up the slender number so much as the valor of their pursuers. The horde who manned a flotilla of something like one hundred ships, having no confidence that they could escape by sea, took to the land and there wandered weaponless and stupefied through wild, uninhabited bush. Jarimar’s ardent passion to protect his country made him, too, more eager for enemy blood than for spoils.

7. By rowing at a furious rate those of high rank among the enemy, aboard thirty-five ships, managed to elude Absalon’s clutches. Nonetheless, when they perceived that only seven vessels were pressing hard on their heels, they judged their flight not just dismal, but even a cause for shame, and so they twice made some effort to steady their pace, as though meaning to put up a fight. In response, although his friends begged him to wait for the rest of the fleet to arrive, Absalon in no way allowed his oarsmen to relax their energies, but continued to advance unwaveringly, swearing that he must take more advantage of his enemies’ agitation than the support of his brothers-in-arms. Realizing his determination, the Wends were totally drained of courage and put their consternation before disgrace, with the result that they started to clear their vessels of freight and made them swifter for getting away by pitching their arms and their horses into the deep sea. Then, striking the waves more sharply, they persisted in their hasty retreat until they took refuge in the River Peene. Absalon did not hang back in the slightest, but tailed them ceaselessly to that point before returning in the evening to his associates, who had been devoting themselves to plunder. Nonetheless he could not bear even to share in these spoils, considering it handsome enough if he himself gained abundant renown, his soldiers copious booty. So it was that, out of 500 ships, thirty-five made their escape, eighteen were destroyed, while the rest yielded to the authority of Danish power.

8. That day, therefore, when the enemy navy was blinded by Absalon’s brilliance and was compelled either to make its getaway or suffer annihilation, brought an end to innumerable terrors and maritime perils, cleared the harbours of Zealand and the Baltic Sea of deadly pirate attacks, caused the savage ferocity of the barbarians to bow beneath the yoke and rendered our motherland mistress of the Wends, even though she was scarcely in possession of her own independence. A rare and effective kind of victory indeed, when it succeeded in utterly overthrowing the enemy’s total strength! Yet whereas for the Wends it entailed a welter of bloodshed, it cost the Danes nothing. Only four men from Rugen were lost, but whether from the allies’ or their foes’ missiles is not certain.

9. The next day eighteen Scanian ships arrived on the scene, but Absalon, judging the crews by their willingness to come rather than their lateness, gave instructions that they should take a portion of the plunder along with the victors. Wishing to ascertain what the plans the Wends had in mind, he devised an ingenious scheme for spying: on the pretext that there had existed a good, long-standing association between them, he arranged for Bugislav, by means of ambassadors, to be charged with treachery, and demanded that he anticipate an outrageous affront to the king by a firm endeavour to appease him. In response Bugislav reconciled himself to pretending that no heavy disaster had been inflicted on him, to the extent that, praising his adviser’s kindness, he promised to follow his guidance. However, the ordinary Wendish people had had so much fear instilled into their hearts by their earlier flight that, on sighting the envoys’ ship, they did not blush to run away yet again.

10. Later Absalon, believing it would be a fine thing to send a distinguished messenger who would forestall any hearsay about his achievements, arranged to send home Tage, who came from an illustrious Funen family, with Bugislav’s tent, which had fallen to him as his share; not only would he inform the king of the archbishop’s triumph, but would back his statements with the notable prize he bore. Absalon also employed Tage to urge his sovereign to mount an expedition which must precede harvest-time and thus prevent the Wendish powers from furnishing themselves with fresh troops. After collecting together an assembly of Jutlanders at Viborg, Cnut told Tage to do his duty and relate an appropriate account of Absalon’s successful action; in this way he could also utilize the news-bringer as the motivator of his campaign. By carrying out this design he developed in everyone’s mind a very strong incentive to launch a fleet.

11. As soon as the emperor received a report of this decisive setback and learnt that the exploit had been achieved under Absalon’s sole leadership, he cast out of his thoughts all hope of possessing Denmark together with any confidence that he might assail it; thus he rejected his own forces as inadequate because he had accomplished so little by resorting to another’s.* Absalon afterwards heard from his knights who were currently performing military service in Constantinople that the fame of his victory, travelling with unbelievable speed, had been noised abroad even in that city.

Chapter 6

1. The garnering of new crops assisted the enemy’s dwindling food stocks, for a delay in the king’s departure gave them a very welcome respite, during which they were able to provide corn for their townships.  Galvanized by rumours of the is Danish expedition, the people of Wolgast filled the deeper reaches of the River Peene with piles of rocks, so as to deny ships access to their city walls. But Absalon, keen to clear these sections of the river bed, did not hesitate to plunge his body into the waters in order to induce the young men to join him; by freeing as much of the stream from boulders as was sufficient to allow the fleet through, he brought it back to a navigable state, despite the fact that the townsfolk had been hurling missiles from their war machines with such precision that their shots raked those same stretches of the river with some accuracy. Even so, Absalon and his helpers removed the obstruction to make a passage and contrived an easy approach for his comrades to move up and besiege the city.

2. Though the siege had begun, a forest of stakes below the waterline, planted to form a pallisade in front of the town, did not allow our vessels to pull in very close. The young Danes, eager to display their bravery and overcome this hindrance to an assault, once the ships had cleared the deep stretches did not hold back from descending into the water on foot and striding forward through the shallows. On their side the citizens started to fling spears down at the Danes not far beneath them, as well as using their ballistas to assail the ships, which lay at a greater distance; certainly you could imagine it would have been preferable for our men to evade rather than endure the brunt of those well-aimed volleys. The danger was critical, and it was a problem to avoid it as massive stones rained down on the crowding vessels, so that the Danes reckoned their relief lay either in flight, or crouching, or wary movements, rather than trusting to their armour to give any help in neutralizing the impacts.

3. Making his way amidships, Absalon managed through continual ducking to evade the hard rocks slung by the catapults. A barbarian had chanced to emerge from the fortifications recognized him from the emblem on his shield and pointed so that the shooters could aim at him. Asked by someone if he had noticed how the barbarian singled him out, the archbishop answered that the man felt a deep concern for him, simultaneously making fun of his enemy and the one who had warned him. In my opinion this willingness to joke about his perilous situation while encompassed by threats to his life bore the mark of a fearless mind. So much did pressure of circumstances give an absolutely sure proof of his unflinching courage.

4. As the storming of the city had now ground to a halt, a new plan of attack was devised, Esbern’s invention: they arranged to have an unusually large vessel crammed with all manner of combustible materials, to be driven solely by the propulsion of the wind towards the walls, which were well suited to be set on fire. However, the boat struck a stake concealed beneath the surface and without any detriment to the townspeople burst into flames, destroying itself and its contents. So, the hope of inflicting an immense defeat was ruined by this paltry, wooden handicap and in a brief moment of good fortune our enemies’ lives were shielded from impending doom.

5. Bugislav had been concocting schemes to avenge his own discreditable failures and pretended to be aspiring to a truce; consequently, having sent envoys to request a dialogue with Absalon, he came to the place appointed for their negotiations, attended by a large body of horsemen. When the archbishop arrived at the rendezvous with two ships, Bugislav begged him to step ashore on the grounds that a tent was better fitted to hold talks in than a vessel. As Absalon was about to comply and was preparing to disembark, a man named Erling, who came from a distinguished Norwegian line, detained him with a story of a horrifying dream he had had and forecast that his companion would undoubtedly experience treachery if he entrusted his life to the foe. Absalon honoured his words as if they were a miraculous sign sent to him from heaven; and when Bugislav called to him, he replied that it was not appropriate for the greater to seek out the lesser, since, he maintained, a primate ranked higher than a general. So, by taunting the enemy with his powerlessness, he deprived him of an occasion for duplicity. After pleading that there was rather restricted room on a vessel, the Wend revealed his deceit by an abrupt departure. One who at other times had been in the habit of stepping onto Absalon’s vessel quite willingly, now, disturbed by a wicked conscience, shuddered at the thought of going aboard as though into an abode where one might meet death. Absalon was overjoyed that he had chosen to stake his life on a dream instead of entrusting it to an adversary, and went off to rejoin his fleet.

6. Our troops, deciding that a general devastation of land should come before a single town’s destruction, had adopted a policy of laying waste the province; but while they were stuck fast in the narrow channel leading to the other side of the bridge, the townsfolk attacked them with a swarm of fast, light craft. Once these had been beaten off through the efforts of bowmen dispatched by Absalon and Cnut, they repaired to firm soil, from which it would be easier for them to molest our fleet; from there they hurled shouts no less than javelins at our men, and began to abuse them with voluminous insults about their cowardice, just as if they had vanquished them already. Observing this, the remaining townspeople laid hands on the rowing-boats that were moored everywhere, and, having abandoned their defence of the city walls, made for the opposite bank with the idea of looting the shelters which the Danes had quitted. When our soldiers left these behind, they set fire to them, and the smoke rising from the flames made it impossible for the Wends to discern the king’s cavalry, who were waiting on land for our ships to pass by. As soon as the enemy, unprepared and terrified, found themselves charged by these knights, some fled to their skiffs, while others fell beneath the sword on the shore or met their end in the river water. Swimmers were shot dead by our archers, those in boats were capsized and reaped a well-earned punishment for their mockery of the Danes. In this fashion the people of Wolgast, who a little earlier had lorded it over our men with spurious jibes, now bewailed the wretched fates of the fellow-citizens who had been slaughtered before their eyes.

7. Immediately the inhabitants of Osna heard tell of these acdvities, they speedily went about burning the houses situated outside the town, so that the enemy might not use them to set their municipal walls ablaze. So, they voluntarily robbed themselves of homes to win solid protection for their city, and by becoming poorer in dwellings they gained greater safety behind their ramparts. The countryside was left to the king and his pillager’s. At Cnut’s decision, Absalon instructed to assault and take the territories round Julin and the strongholds on the River Swina; there the archbishop sent his brother, Esbern, ahead to Swinemunde; commanding the naval squadron assigned to him, he had orders to capture those fortresses, if Fate permitted, or to block their garrisons’ escape, until such time as ABsalon himself came back from Julin. When Esbern arrived he discovered their gates wide open, the defenders doubtless being on the run after a covert withdrawal before their fires could reach them. Both forts were set on fire. Absalon learnt of this after he had himself demolished Julin and all its appurtenances not only by descrying the smoke afar off but also from the verification supplied by his reappearing comrades; he then made his way back to Cnut, glad that his brother’s labours had relieved him of a major area of concern.

8. As the king became aware that it would be hard for the Danes to capture any villages which harboured a store of useful sities and they were merely burning down empty houses, he resolved to make his return, and whereas he had now been attacking homes containing no resources, when harvest-time was over he could ransack granaries packed with supplies. No less weary with the struggle involved in subjugating towns than he was tired of setdng fire to deserted buildings, he proceeded to the River Swina with a view to leading his expedition away; he instructed that all the remaining burnt-out fortresses should be razed to the ground and, to ensure that all their defences were dismantled, even had the stones prized up from the foundations and cast into the sea, though his men could scarcely bear to touch them with their hands because they were still hot from the recent flames. As soon as this labour came to an end, so did the campaign.

Chapter 7

1. After Cnut had spent the autumn at home, he levied twelve thousand troops from Rugen, with whom he marched across the province of Tribsees, which was subject to his control. Afterwards, traversing the sunken marsh of Circipen in emulation of his father^s military exploit, he arrived at the stronghold of Lubchin. When he had passed this by, having set his sights on Demmin, he came upon a settlement which contained a surplus of liquor, for the barbarians there were feasting in utter composure, totally unconcerned about any arrival and assault by the enemy. We could imagine, then, the lack of restraint these people would indulge in during peacetime, seeing how they did not refrain from sapping their strength with the allurements of drunkenness even when the foe was on their doorstep!

2. Owing to the waste of time involved in such a long trek, the king shrank from his intention of assailing Demmin, with the result that № Danish band at this point turned back towards the ships and with the object of snatching loot and spreading flames everywhere. Though Cnut was satisfied to have kept only thirty companions with him, when he learnt through the report of a retainer village which was guarded by a large troop of barbarians he sent off Absalon, who then happened to be riding beneath his sovereign’s standard, to being assistance to their comrades, escorted by half the attendant cavalry. Assuming command, the archbishop ordered this soldiers to march in loose order to disguise their fewness, so that they could present the image of a great throng with a column of haphazard appearance. On top of that he was concerned to launch a sally with more than usual abandon, to the end that their opponents might believe a larger squad of militia were following on behind them.

2. When he had observed the companies of natives, who had deserted their village and encamped in the forest, Absalon saw that their force far outnumbered that of the Danes; since for this reason he wished it to appear that reinforcements were joining his comrades, he instructed several of his men to depart stealthily from their fellows, with orders to make their return immediately, without concealment, and he took care that this procedure was repeated a number of times. So it was believed that he was little by little receiving additional support; but as he had insufficient followers there to carry away their booty, he erected a huge bonfire and burnt all the treasures they had amassed from the village, thereby consigning to the flames everything he could not put to use, even though the people tending the blaze handled the destruction of so much wealth with aching hearts. This act accomplished, Absalon returned to the king.

4. Having spent the night close to Lubchin and demolished what remained of the settlements, Cnut made the Rugians lay a causeway over the marsh which he had traversed with laborious effort; once he had retraced his path across it with next to no difficulty, he embarked and sailed to the port next to the River Peene. Although he was harassed by a persistent, savage tempest, Cnut rejected overtures for peace made by ambassadors on Bugislav’s behalf, yet, since his provisions were now running out, he was forced to call off his campaign.

Chapter 8

1. After passing the winter months in Denmark, Cnut returned by way of the River Swina with a large expeditionary force and devastated Groswin. Here jarimar was proposing to inform the king of an enemy raid which he had detected from the sound of their trumpet-call, but Absalon forbade him to do this before their adversaries had actually come into view; the Rugian prince said he was beset by a double evil, for if some unlooked-for peril lit upon his allies and he remained silent, he could be condemned for negligence, whereas if he gave notice of it too early, he could be criticized for his timidity; a premature announcement appeared shameful, one that was too long delayed, remiss.

2. Since his troops had not yet had their fill of plundering this province, Cnut whet their appetites with tales of Pomeranian riches, which by all accounts were remarkable and unimpaired. No one considered it a hardship to embark on such a distant military operation, even though it was predicted that they would have to endure grim conditions with shortage of food and trudging across solitary wastes, since a burning passion for booty lightened their dread of dangers. Rumour had it that the population were unwarlike and that strongholds and weapons were rare in that part of the world. And because our soldiers’ plans usually fell out according to their wishes, their hearts were fired with zeal to push on, nor did all their favourable experiences and triumphs in the past presage any disappointment for them in their current ambitions. Nonetheless, as they journeyed on, provisions became insufficient and both horses and foot soldiers, laden with supplies, found their strength failing as the daily grind took its toll. These adversities made them retrace their steps and eventually sail back to Julin.

3. Here Cnut thought up a scheme for attacking Kammin by stealth, since he preferred to make a covert rather than an open assault on it; led by men well acquainted with the area, he set out quickly on an exceedingly difficult itinerary through unknown, remote forests. Whereas the rest went astray, the Zealanders and Scanians, with Alexander, son of Absalon’s sister, carrying the standard and with Rugians as their guides, pursued a short, direct route as far as Kammin, which they would have captured, had they not lit fires and put the inhabitants on the alert. Bugislav, who then chanced to be staying in that town, reckoned he should rush out with his squadrons and charge our small troop; but Esbern, who had a shrewd knowledge and relevant experience of such matters, prevailed on the Danes to give ground deliberately in order to draw their opponents right away from the town, whereupon Bugislav for some time pressed hard on our soldiers’ backs; finally, realizing it was a trap, he called his disorderly rout back into line, reviling such a disgraceful exodus from the city with bitter curses.

4. As soon as he perceived this, Esbern abandoned his pretence of flight and wheeled his standards round to face the foe, thereby causing Bugislav to tumble from his mount and, panic-stricken, to run for his life back inside the ramparts; not trusting to protect himself with arms or the swiftness of his steed, he thought to seek safety by speed of foot. Alexander, arriving at the gates with his banner, found no one to impede his progress, for our adversaries, trembling with fear of the foe, did not even have the nerve to defend the threshold of their city from harm. Satisfied with this meritorious achievement the young Danes chose to withdraw gradually to their own ranks, for an appraisement of their meagre numbers overcame their temerity and stopped them from forcing themselves upon the city any further.

5. When the king with the rest of his troops followed hard upon this advance by the young men, he dismounted close to the walls in order to make a fairly thoughtful inspection of the stronghold to see whether it could be stormed. As he resumed his saddle and encompassed the fortifications with his squadrons, certain priests of a religious order, with feet bare to signify the grief of their crushed and defected spirits, arrived in ceremonial procession carrying their ecclesiastical emblems; after reminding Cnut of his father’s piety, on bended knees they entreated him to spare their churches, begging him not to set fire to sacred and secular dwellings indiscriminately, nor to unleash such ferocity on his enemies as to destroy the buildings of their communal worship, for in committing so foul a deed he would blemish all his own and his ancestors’ virtues. They added that Bugislav, too, requested friendly assurance and protection to allow him safe conduct to the king. Cnut replied that it was not his purpose to attack God, but men, and that in his intention to wage a just war he was averse to sacrilege. When they pointed out that were he to burn down that part of the municipality which was situated outside the walls of Kammin he would include in the general conflagration the churches which lay adjacent to people’s homes, their appeals assuaged his anger and he thought it better to let his enemies’ abodes remain unscathed sooner than do violence to divine and human precincts alike. Jubilant because he had delivered the town to them in response to their prayers, they affirmed their gratitude for his benevolence and departed in glad exultation, which they expressed in a chorus of hymn-singing.

6. Once he had secured the safe conduct he had requested, Bugislav sought out Absalon and asked if he and Jarimar would come to meet him the following day, since he wished to employ the same men he had found amicable in so many talks as intermediaries for making peace with the king. Absalon suspected that his words were not truly dependable but meant to deceive, and so he refused to intervene to prevent the province being ravaged by fire, in case they should seem to have travelled so far under false pretences. Bugislav claimed that he owned no property himself outside the town walls, and implored Absalon to spare at least the holy edifices, including for their sake the buildings nearby. This favour was no sooner pleaded for than promised. The remainder of the day till dusk was then spent in the voracious wreckage of of villages. Under pressure from the dangers that environed him, Bugislav kept his word to return at a stated time and, with Absalon and jarimar giving him their hands, was conducted to the king, to whom he guaranteed to render a huge sum of money as a fine; however, he was not able to obtain terms of peace without accepting his princedom, which hitherto he had exercised through inheritance, by right of fief from the king’s hand, thus exchanging freedom for servitude; in his allegiance he must also match the tribute paid to Cnut by the people of Rugen. After confirming this agreement with the pledge of hostages, he bade farewell and returned with the same companions who had escorted him into the monarch’s presence.

7. To ensure that Bugislav did not depart without being shown due respect, Absalon entertained him and his friends to a banquet; but in his overenthusiastic consumption of drink he became so helpless and fuddled that he was thought to be scarcely in his right mind. Drunkenness made him so forgetful of his lost sovereignty that instead of bewailing his subjection he proclaimed joy in his liberty. Since he had become paralysed through imbibing too much liquor, he was carried ashore and placed in a tent, at whose door Absalon ordered forty armed men to stand guard and spend the night keeping watch over him. It was the Danes’ custom to observe such scrupulousness in protecting their guests that they took as much care to attend to their safety as they did to their own. Later Bugislav, indebted to Absalon for his kindness, returned the thanks he owed for these services by directing Wendish sympathies towards the Danes. In the morning, once he had driven off sleep and clapped eyes on the sentinels, he praised Danish honesty with all his heart and bestowed on our people the most justified commendations, claiming that he felt more delight when he realized Absalon s decency than resentment over the loss of his country.

8. He was conveyed to the spot where his soldiers awaited him, and the next day, bringing with him the foremost Wendish noblemen, humbly threw himself on his knees at the king’s feet, with his wife and children at his side; he besought Cnut’s pardon for the long-standing rebellion and, after surrendering some hostages and promising more, he was not ashamed to accept as a dependant the governance which his father and grandfather had held with supreme power; what was his by inherited right he would now possess through another’s generous dispensation.

9. Moved with pity for the prince, who had been brought to such a pitch of extremity, the king judged that he had now dealt Bugislav a heavy enough punishment and felt it preferable to grant him control over his realm rather than establish its use by the Danish crown; finally he raised the prostrate Bugislav to his feet. Cnut was no less affected by regard for his kinship with Bugislav’s sons through his mother. In this way jurisdiction over Wendish affairs, which had been denied Valdemar despite his continual efforts, was now assigned to Cnut with very little trouble, since his successful military venture had surpassed his father’s in its happy results. At that moment a massive swirl of cloud burst asunder, and shattering thunder crashes struck absolute terror into both races. Experts in divination reckoned that this was an omen auguring the downfall of the Wendish kingdom.

10. Bugislav’s mind, preoccupied with the assurances he had given of his steadfastness, displayed until the very last day of his life an unshakable trustworthiness and a consciousness of the generosity he had received; so true was this that when he had been attacked by his last illness and was passing away on his bed, he summoned his friends and bound them by an oath to conduct his wife and children to the king, make him responsible for sharing the realm between the fatherless boys, and defend Cnut’s decision as if it were stipulated in their parents’ will; he swore that he had no reservations about Danish reliability, seeing that he had many a time been given exceptional proofs of it, for this noble man recalled the great benefits the people ofRugen had gained by their preservation affirm friendship with the Danes.

[This also is the end of the Gesta Danorum]

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February 12, 2018

The Wends of Knýtlinga Saga

Published Post author

We previously spent some time on the religious aspects of the Knýtlinga Saga but that work contains plenty more regarding Wends.  Here are the other sections discussing Slavs, Wends or places that clearly are (or possibly could be) Slavic (mostly in the Palsson/Edwards translation).  We also include mentions of the Cours (Kurs) – a Baltic tribe of Kurland (and later of the Kurische Haff).  Notes in red with Danish monarchs names bolded to provide an easier chronology.


(We do not discuss everything that could be related to Slavs though.  Thus, we do not discuss Vidgaut the trader who is described as a Semgallian in the Knýtlinga Saga and whose story of conversion in Denmark seems very similar to that of Witscacus (Herbord) or Wirtscachus (Ebo) of the Life of Otto – who was described there as a “citizen of Szczecin” – though we did not discuss him there given the secular nature of the tale.)

Section 1
Dealings with Germany

“After his father’s death, Harald Gormsson was made king in Denmark.  He was a strong ruler, and a great leader in war, having conquered Holstein in Saxony.  He also possessed an extensive earldom in Wendland, where he founded Jomsburg and stationed a large military force to which he gave both pay and certain rights.  They governed the land under his authority and spent the summer on viking expeditions, but wintered quietly at home.  They were known as the Jomsvikings.”

[note: Harald Gormsson (circa 935 – 985/986) aka Harald Bluetooth, son of Gorm the Old, was a King of Denmark and Norway and likely the first Christian ruler of the country; also, speaking of the Jomsvikings, there is one mention of Palnatoki in the Knýtlinga Saga – not in the context of Slavs – for more see the Jomsvikinga Saga]

Section 5
Fighting and Family Matters

“…King Svein married Gunnhild, daughter of King Burizlav of the Wends, and their sons were Knut and Harald.  Later, King Svein married Sigrid the Ambitious [the Haughty – see Heimskringla – “world circle” (compare krąg or kręgle)], daughter of Skoglar-Tosti and mother of King Olaf of Sweden.  Her previous marriage had been to King Eirik the Victorious of Sweden.  King Svein and Sigrid had a daughter, Astrid, who married Earl Ulf, son of Thorgils Strut-Leg, and their sons were named Svein and Bjorn.  A daughter of King Svein Forkbeard, Gyda, married Earl Hakon Hakonarson, and their son was Earl Hakon whom Olaf the Saint took prisoner in Sauesund…”


Although the armour covers Svein’s forked-beard, you can still admire the rest of his handsome features

[note: This refers to Svein Forkbeard (960–1014) who was the son of Harald Bluetooth; Gunnhild is likely Świętosława, the daughter of Mieszko I (and sister of Boleslaw of Poland); the name is hypothetical – solely based on an inscription of Santslaue being described as the sister of King Knut the Great and the assumption that that sister was named after her mother.  In other words, she may well have been a Wendish princess but her name may have been Gunnhild – note that, after the death of Dobrawa, Mieszko I remarried – taking as wife the German princess Oda so a German name would not have been surprising in his family.]

Section 6
Campaigns Abroad

“King Svein was a great man of war and the strongest of the rulers.  He plundered widely both to the east in the Baltic and south in Saxony.   Eventually he led his troops west into England and plundered far and wide, fighting many battles.  King Aethelred, Edgar’s son ruled there at the time…”

Section 11
Earl Ulf’s Escape

“As usual, Earl Ulf was among the foremost of King Knut’s men and pursued the fleeing enemy [the English] further than anyone else.  Then he found himself in this forest, so dense that though he tried all night, he could discover no way out until daylight came.  Then on some open ground before him he saw a full-grown youngster herding a flock of sheep.  The earl approached him and asked his name.”

“‘I’m called Godwin [son of the “farmer” Wulfnot aka Wulfnoth the thegn of Wessex – and also a traitor],’ he answered.  ‘Are you one of King Knut’s men?'”


Wulfnoth and Godwin

[Godwin then helped Ulf reach his ships]

“… The earl then set Godwin on the high seat beside him, and treated him as equal with himself or his own son  To cut a long story short, the earl gave Godwin his own sister Gyda in marriage, and as a result of his brother-in-law Ulf’s friendship and backing, Godwin was awarded an earldom by King Knut.”

“These were the children of Godwin and Gyda: King Harald of England, Earl Tosti nicknamed Treespear, Earl Morkar, Earl Waltheof, and Earl Svein.  Many great men from England, Denmark, Sweden and east from Russia are descended from them, including the royal house of Denmark.”

“Earl Godwin’s son, King Harald, and a daughter, Gyda, who married King Valdemar of Novgorod, and their son, King Harald, had two daughters of whom more will be said later.”

[note: Earl or Jarl Ulf is Ulf Thorgilsson the father of Svein II. About the family of Godwin, Earl of Wessex see below]

Section 17
Knut Goes to Rome

“… Later when war broke out between King Olaf [Haraldsson of Norway] and King Knut, Knut and Earl Hakon went to Norway with an invincible army.  This took place towards the end of King Olaf’s reign. They conquered the whole kingdom and King Knut appointed his nephew Hakon to rule over Norway, while he himself went back to Denmark.  King Olaf fled abroad, traveling east to Russia but two years later he came back to Norway and fought a great battle at Stiklestad against his landed men, who had proved disloyal to him and had set up in opposition.  As everyone knows, he was killed there, and lies, a saint, in his shrine at Trondheim…”


Knut the Great – great warrior but a bit one dimensional

[note: After a short reign of Harald II (1014-1018), his brother, Knut the Great (circa 995 – 1035) took the Danish (and English and Norwegian) throne.]

Section 22

“Svein Ulfsson was given the title of earl by King Magnus [so this is after 1042], and with it the effective rule over the Danish kingdom, when they met at the Goeta River, when Svein agreed on oath to the peace settlement.  Then King Magnus went back north to Norway and Svein crossed over to Denmark.  That same autumn the Danes made Svein Ulfsson their king, after which he laid the whole country under his rule and became king of it.  King Magnus learned of this and in the following spring sailed for Denmark with a great army.  He fought a battle that summer at Jomsburg in Wendland and won the victory, burning down the stronghold and many other settlements across the land.  In the autumn King Magnus fought another battle on the day before Michaelmas at the Konge River a little to the north of Hedeby on Lyrskov Heath, where he was fighting against the Wends.  King Magnus won the victory there aided by the sanctity and miraculous intervention of his father Olaf, an innumerable host of the heathen.  According to some Svein Ulfsson fought beside King Magnus in that battle as their agreement still held.  This is what Thorleik the Fair said in the poem he wrote about Svein Ulfson:”

“‘The princely gold-dispenser
dispatched the enemy,
in the clash of weapons
few Wends got away:
the carrion-birds croaked
on the necks of the corpses
strewn in their hundreds
on the heath north of Hedeby…

[then that same autumn the saga relays that Svein and Magnus fought one another]

“…In the spring Harald Sigurdson, who was related to Svein by marriage, travelled to Sweden from Russia in the east.  Harald’s wife, Ellisif, was the daughter of King Jaroslav of Novgorod, and her mother Ingigerd was the daughter of Olaf the Swede, Svein Ulffson’s uncle.  Svein and Harald joined forces and gathered an army, then crossed to Denmark where they ravaged the whole land and laid it completely under their rule.”

“When King Magnus heard of this he went to face them with an army from Norway…”


Harefoot & Harthaknut

[note: After the death of Knut the Great, his son, Harald Harefoot (circa 1015 – 1040) took over and after him, his brother Knut III or Harthaknut (circa 1018 – 1042) was King of Denmark.  However, after the untimely death of that King (alcohol poisoning/stroke or just poisoning), it was the son of Olaf II Haraldsson – Knut the Great’s competitor – who became the next king of Denmark – that was Magnús Óláfsson or Magnus the Good (circa 1024 – 1047).]

Section 23
King Svein’s Children

“…Torgisl, son of King Svein, travelled east to Russia where he had distinguished kin on his mother’s side, and was brought up and made king there so that he never came back to Denmark.  King Svein’s son Sigurd was killed in Wendland.”

[note: Sweyn or Svein II Estridsson (circa 1019 – circa 1074/1076), son of Jar Ulf]

Section 26

“…King Svein’s son, Knut [IV, the Saint], had been busy on viking expeditions in the Baltic with a large force of men and a fine fleet of shops, and it was on these expeditions to the Baltic that according to Karl Manason’s poem, Knut defeated ten kings.”

Section 29
Law and Order

“King Knut was a strict and powerful ruler, who punished evildoers with great severity,  During the reign of Harald Whetstone, however, there had been little in the way of punishment for outrages committed wither by the Danes themselves, or by vikings plundering in Denmark, such as Courlanders and others from the Baltic region.  After Knut came to power he defended the land fiercely and drove all the heathen not only from his land but from the very seas: so that because of Knut’s authority and strength of arms, no viking would dare lay off the coast of Denmark…”


Sena Kursa or Kurzeme or Kursa – excuse the crease

[note: after a short reign of his bastard brother Harald II Whetstone (circa 1040 – 1080) the throne came to King Knut IV the Holy (circa 1042 – 1086)]

Section 30
King Knut’s Brothers

“…Thorgisl Sveinsson was adopted as king east in Russia, as was written earlier, and never made claim to the throne of Denmark…”

Section 35

“One summer, Egil got ready to travel abroad with his band of fighting men.  He had eighteen ships and sailed for Wendland where he began looting as soon as he reached land.  The Wends gathered a huge army with which they confronted Egil and fought a great battle with heavy loss of life on both sides.  Brave and resolute, Egil stood forward and fought like a true warrior.”

“The fighting took place aboard the ships, and Egil’s lay closets to the one carrying the leader of the Wends.  When the battle was fiercest and none could really tell which way it would swing, Egil leapt from his ship onto the Wendish vessel, struck at the enemy chieftain dealing him his deathblow, and then vaulted backwards onto his own ship.  The Wends were routed sand Egil won a great victory and a great deal of plunder, but he was so exhausted he was barely conscious.  Then, aboard his ship, he sat up and asked for a drink.”

[note: at which point he drank blood because all the barrels had been broken in the fighting and all the drink they brought with them had been spilled as a result.  This caused him to earn his name but also caused issues with the blasphemy of blood drinking; since he also looted fellow Danes and other Christians, Knut IV eventually had him executed]

Section 42
Preparations For War

[note: this happens while the Danes and Norwegians are assembling for war against England; presumably Knut did not want to be attacked by the Wends while away fighting in England – though his subjects were not so patient]

“…King Knut had not yet arrived but he sent officers to the troops to inspect the levy and tell the men they would not have long to wait for him.”

“Seven night passed without the king’s arrival and the tops were far from happy about his failure to come.  But there was a reason why he failed to turn up at he appointed time: people had come to warn him that the Wends had mobilized their troops and meant to attack Denmark in the summer in revenge for the war Blood-Egil had waged against them The king sat and thought about this and decided to send messengers to the Wends with an offer of peace, and a warning not to attack his kingdom as it would be far beyond their capabilities to make war on him.”

“‘Many would suffer injury and grief for it.’ he said, ‘I want us to arrange a truce between our two countries so that neither will attack the other.'”

“The messengers set out to meet the Wends and the king said he would wait seven days for them as he did not wish to leave the country until he knew for sure that this war had been prevented.  The week passed and the messengers failed to return.  The Danes grew tired of waiting for they were all crowded together and found this hard to bear,  They considered it poor management to keep such a great army in one place for no good purpose, and the chieftains made long speeches about the problem.  In the need they decided to send messengers to the king sand asked his brother Olaf to undertake this mission, but he was reluctant and said tha the king would wish to come and go as it suited him.”

[note: Eventually the Danes, delegate Olaf, the king’s brother to go to King Knut IV.  Olaf goes reluctantly and gets imprisoned by his brother the king.  Eventually the king arrives but the Danes had already disbanded leaving the Norwegians the only ones there)].

Section 43
The Troops

[Knut IV then arrived; seeing that the Danes had already left, he thanked the Norwegians for staying true but ordered them to sail back to Norway as he had to deal with the Danes. He sailed back to Zealand]

“…He had a large force of men with him, and then the messengers he had sent to Wendland returned with the news that the Wends would be glad to keep peace and agreement with him.  Their reason for having troops offshore was that they thought he was not to be trusted, and had heard he meant to lead the huge army he had mustered against Wendland.  They had wanted to be ready to defend their country should it be attacked, but now they sent fine gifts and friendly words to Knut, who was delighted with the news.”


Where are they know? – Knut the Holy

[note: Knut IV would eventually be killed in Odense cathedral during a farmers’ rebellion.  Incidentally, one of the leaders of that rebellion – Earl Asbjorn – is, according to the Knytlingasaga, said to have been eaten by rats (presumably for the crime of regicide) who attacked him, a la Popiel (and others), in a village inn (?) he was staying in, pursued him outside onto his ship and eventually got him on the open sea]

Section 70
Earl Eirik

“Eirik Sveinsson was still Earl of Zealand, in charge of the lands his brother King Knut had entrusted him.  Earl Eirik was a strong and popular chieftain, always having with him a large company of retainers.  He sailed on viking expeditions to the Baltic fighting against the heathen, but allowed all Christians and merchants to go in peace wherever they might wish.  For this reason he was renowned and popular throughout the Baltic and everyone of importance knew his name.  He journeyed all the way east to Russia, visiting the homes of chieftains and other great men all of whom welcomed him with friendship and respect , and he received fine gifts from powerful leaders.  In the words of Markus Skeggjason in his Lay of Eirik:

East in Russia the virtuous
adviser visisted
land-guardians lavish
to their lord, hating meanness.
Praised for his peacefulness
by the people, he won
their hearts in the eastlands,
all men honoured his excellence.

Earl Eirik got ready to leave Russia early in spring and as soon as the ice broke he launched his ships, sparing no expense in the preparations.  Early in summer he sailed home from the east to his lands in Denmark.  In the words of Markus:

The waster of the Wends
furnished well
his splendid ships, sailed
in summer from Russia,
heaved them into the hollow wave,
held out agains the storm, he,
the bane of traitor, bold,
beached his vessel in Denmark.

Section 73
King Eirik’s Rule

“King Eirik turned out to be a strong and impressive ruler, and the most popular of kings,  He imposed harsh punishments on bad conduct, exterminated vikings and villains, had thieves and robbers put to death or else mutilated their hands of feet or inflicted other severe punishments, so that no evil-doer in the land could prosper.  He was a fair judge and observed the laws of God strictly, as Markus says:

The Wend-slayer wiped out
the wolves, subdued looters,
hacked off thieves’ hands
and punished bad habits:
none could say he was ever swayed,
sitting in judgment;
Gold’s law was the victorious one’s
guide for his own good.

King Eirik was a man of intelligence, a fine scholar and fluent in many languages, an eloquent speaker with a remarkable memory, as Markus says:

Wealthy, warm-hearted,
unblemished the warrior,
mighty in memory
and matters of the mind:
he had courage, each kind
of accomplishment; from his youth
he;d a talent for tongues,
he towered above most kings.

[note: After Olaf I Hunger of Denmark (circa 1050 – 1095) who was mentioned above, the throne fell to yet another son of Sweyn II Estridsson – Eric I the Good (circa 1060 – 1103) who was a notorious philanderer and quite a “strapping fellow”]

Section 75
Emperor Heinrek

“At that time, the Emperor in Saxony was Heinrek, son of Heinrek the Black, a powerful ruler and great warrior.  When he heard that kIng Eirik had gone abroad, he gathered a large army from his empire and led it into Wendland where he plundered the province long ruled by the Kings of Denmark.  He conquered the entire province and all the inhabitants granted him their allegiance.  At that time the whole population of Wendland was heathen.”

“The emperor appointed many chieftains to govern the province he had laid under his rule, the most powerful being a man called Bjorn.”


Being an emperor was a bit of a balancing act – comfortable footwear helped

“‘Sir’, said Bjorn to the emperor, ‘considering the great havoc we’ve created in this province of the Kings of Denmark, we’re going to be in great need of your troops and your trusty aid, so I’d like to ask for the hand in marriage of your sister, Lady Bothild, for it seems my position here isn’t altogether safe owing to the Danes.  you know about my family bacgrkiund and my capabilities.'”

“The emperor said he would grant him this and other such honours he might seek, provided he was ready to devote himself and all his strength to maintaining a grip on this great honour  they had won, and to defend this province against the Danes or anyone else who might claim it…”

“… After the Emperor Heinrek had conquered the province of the Kings of Denmark in Wendland he appointed his brother-in-law Bjorn to rule there, then returned home to Saxony, while Bjorn settled down with his troops in the Danish Kings’ province in wend land intending to hold it against the Danes.”

“That was the time when King Eirik came back north from Rome, shortly after the Wends had broken their allegiance to him, and later it will be told how that disloyalty turned out for them.  As Markus says:

The Wends wanted their way,
that wickedness hurt them:

from the south came the story
of those snakes in the grass.

[note: this is Emperor Henry IV (circa 1050 – 1106)].

Section 76
War in Wendland

“After King Eirik returned home to his kingdom and heard about the ate of war committed in his province in Wendland by the emperor, he held meetings attended by noblemen and farmers to discuss matters.  At one of the assemblies at which he spoke he had this to say.”

“‘Everyone knows,’ he said, ‘about the southerners’ aggression against the province of Wendland which our kinsmen, the Kings of Denmark have ruled for so long.  Now Iwant all my men to know that we shall either force back the aggressor or die ourselves.'”

“Then he sent a call to arms throughout the Danish empire, mustering a great army, and after assembling a fleet of warships he sailed with his troops to Wendland, as Markus says:

The king sailed ingot he storm,
the sea shook gunwales,
hammered hoarfrosted
prows off the Wends’ homesteads.”

“When the Wendish chieftains appointed by the emperor to take charge of the defenses heard that the Danish army was ready to fight them, they gathered troops and prepared for battle.  King Eirik was told that they had assembled there and that the Wends meant to prevent him from entering his province.  At that, he got ready for battle, put his troops ashore and formed up his large, well-equipped army.  His troops were drawn up in a wedge-shaped column so that the van functioned was a pointed breastplate, with a wall of shields protecting it at the sides.  As Markus says:

The bestower of gifts surrounded
his soldiers with shields
overlapping: the leader shaped
a wedge as they collided.”

“King Eirik had his standard carried forward and then the battle began.  He was towards the forefront of the column, helmed and wearing a coat of mail, fighting heroically, in the words of Markus:

The battle built round him
and the bearers of the standard:
iron-clad and helmed, the free-
handed one hastened to war.”

“Later the Wends took flight, hiding themselves away in various forts and castles, but the Danes sought them out and fought and killed many of them, as Markus says:

The host of the heathen
held there forts: the marchers
sped there, sprinted
to the slaughter: standards
blew in the breeze about the bold
Eirik in battle, the brands
beat out the song, spearmen
slept in warm piles.
Soaked in blood that sprayed
over the shield-wall. slaughtered
they lath, a multitude, mangy
a mailcoat smashed,
as the young warrior waded
into war, weapons clashing,
his force and his fame
enhanced in the fighting.

“Once King Eirik had made such a fierce onslaught upon those of the heathens who had retired to the castles and fortresses, they saw that their best hope would be to surrender, to place themselves in King Eirik’s hands and expose themselves to his authority, as Markus says:

The company of heathen sought
escape from the old castle;
those defenders of the fortress
were forced to surrender.


A digitally enhanced picture of the strapping philanderer

“The slaughter was on such a scale that no one knew how many had been killed.  The emperor’s brother-in-law Bjorn had died there with most of his men.  King Eirik seized a great deal of money as war booty but would take none of it for himself, and divided it all amongst his troops. He had settlements all over the country burnt to the ground, and though the heathen fled away in terror, many were subjected to severe punishment, particularly those who had broken their allegiance to King Eirik, as Markus says:

The hearts of the heathen
were heavy in Wendish homelands:
flames blazed about their forces
as King Eirik set fire
to their homes and their houses,
and their halls sank in ruin,
Night fell, and the flames
seemed to finger high heaven.”

“So it came about, as Markus says, that in this warfare and unrest many lost their lives by fire and sword, but some who had the opportunity escaped.  These men sought urgently to meet King Eirik, who imposed heavy fines on them. claiming as his own inherited possession that part of Wendland the Danish Kings had controlled since King Svein Forkbeard [see Section 6 above] had conquered it.  As Markus says:

Upraised was King Eirik;
they ran. the ruthless Wends,
promised him payment,
deprived of victory:
the king laid claim,
the commons obeyed him:
much loved, he ruled lands
that once lay under Svein.

“After that, King Eirik appointed men to take charge of the defences in Wendland, and they held that province under his rule.  Then the king went to his ships and sailed victoriously back to Denmark from Wendland, calling in first at Oeland, as Markus says:

He set his ships
against the surf-beaten shore,
the rain-swept strand
he surrounded with ranged
spear-points and shields,
he plundered their shores,
isolated the Isle-Danes
with war-crimsoned arms.

“Later, King Eirik settled down quietly in his kingdom, enjoying the fame this expedition brought him.”

Section 78
King Eirik’s Son

“King Eirik had taken captive, as the spoils of war, the Lady Bothild, sister of the Emperor Heinrek, who had given her in marriage to Bjorn in Wendland as we said earlier.  The king took the lady Bothild home with him to Denmark and had a son by her called after King Knut, the king’s brother.  At an early age he appeared both handsome and talented.  When the boy was still quite young, King Eirik had a word with the Lady Bothild…”

[note: this was prince Knut Lavard (1096 – 1131); Lady Bothild is Boedil (Bodil) Turgotsdotter (? – 1103) – her father was Ulv Galiciefarer or Earl Ulf discussed above]

Section 88
Lord Knut Marries

“At that time the king east in Novgorod was Harald, son of King Valdimar, son of Jaroslav, son of Valdimar who was foster father to King Olaf Tryggvason.  King Harald’s mother was Gyda, daughter of King Harald Godwinson of England.  King Harald was married to Kristin, daughter of King Ingi Steinkelsson of Sweden and sister to Queen Margret who at that time was married to King Nikulas of Denmark.  The daughter of King Harald of Novgorod and his wife Kristin were Malmfrid, who married King Sigurd the Crusader of Norway, and Engilborg.”

“After Vidgaut had stayed over winter on the friendliest of terms with the duke, Lord Knut asks him to go on a mission east to Novgorod and ask on his behalf for the hand of Engilborg, King Harald’s daughter…”


Meanwhile in Novgorod

“…When Vidgaut was ready, he set sail with his companions and nothing is said of his travels until he came east to Novgorod, met King Harald, and got himself into the king’s good graces by offering him gifts…”

“…The duke thanked him for his labours, then made preparations for the wedding, while at the appointed time King Harald sent his daughter from Novgorod in the east with a  splendid retinue.  When she arrived in Denmark, the duke welcomed her warmly ,as did everyone else, and celebrated their wedding in grand style.  They had a number of children, who will be mentioned later.”

Section 89
Magnus Nikulasson

“…Magnus Nikulasson married Rikiza, daughter of King Burizlav of the Wends, and their sons were Knut and Nikulas.  Magnus always had a large following with him and spent most of his time at the court of his father King Nikulas, but sometimes each of them stayed at his own place.  He was a strong man and matured altogether early: they called him Magnus the Strong.”


King Niels was an impeccable dresser

[note: King Nikulas is Niels of Denmark (circa 1065 – 1134) who also killed Knut Lavard; His son was Magnus (Nikulasson) I of Sweden; his wife, the daughter of King Burizlav, is Richeza of Poland or Rikissa Burislevsdotter (1116 – 1156) who was the daughter of Boleslaw III Wrymouth (1086 – 1138). This was a political marriage arranged between King Nikulas aka Niels and Boleslaw III and aimed at the Pomeranians of Wartislaw (of the Life of Otto fame).  The “Knut and Nikulas” refers to Knut V Magnussen and Niels his brother]

Section 93
Lord Knut’s Children

“… When the holy Lord Knut fell, his wife Engilborg was pregnant, and that winter, while she was staying with her father King Harald east in Russia, she gave birth to a baby boy, and called him Valdimar.  He was born seven days after the death of his father the holy Lord Knut.  At an early age he was big and handsome, and better than others at most things.  He spent his childhood east in Russia with his mother’s family, and was soon very popular with most people.”

[note: King Harald refers to Mstislav I of Kiev – see below]

Section 99
Eirik the Unforgotten

“After the death of King Nikulas, Eirik Eirksson was made king over the whole of Denmark, in accordance with the will and approval of the people.  He was a strong ruler, and punished severely all those with whom he thought he had a score to settle: most of all, he was so ruthless towards those who had been on friendly terms with King Nikulas and his son Magnus, they thought they could scarcely live under his rule, and many considered that it would be a log time before they forgot his ruthlessness, so he was called Eirik the Unforgotten.  He married Queen Malmfrid, daughter of King Harald, son of Valdimar, son of Jaroslav of Novgorod in the east: Malmfrid was sister to Engilborg who had married Eirik’s brother, Lord Knut, and previously she had been the wife of King Sigurd the Crusader of Norway.”

[note: This is Erik II Emune (circa 1090 – 1137) was the son of Erik the Good; his wife was actually Malmfred of Kiev who was the daughter of Mstislav of Kiev (but who reigned in Novgorod the Great from 1088–93) and Kristina Ingesdotter of Sweden.  Mstislav is referred to as Harald after his grandfather.  Specifically, Mstislav was the son of Vladimir II Monomakh and Gyda Haraldsdatter of Wessex.  Vladimir II (or “Valdimar” as above) was the son of Vsevolod I whose father was  Yaroslav the Wise.  Therefore, it seems that the “Jaroslav” above refers to “Valdimar”‘s grandfather.  Gyda was the daughter of Harold II Godwinson (his father being Godwin, Earl of Wessex who is discussed above)] 

Section 101
King Eirik in Wendland

[For this section, see here]

Section 104
King Eirik the Wise

“At that time there were many people in Denmark descended from kings, and most of them were little more than boys.  They all thought they stood close to the throne, but the nobles failed to agree, some wanting to give their support and others speaking against it, as always happens when people are at odds over something.”

“By that time Valdimar, son of Lord Knut, had arrived in Denmark.  He was eight years old when his uncle Eirik the Unforgotten was killed.”

“The son of Eirik the Unforgotten was called Svein, and Knut was the name of the son of Magnus Nikulason the Strong: Knut’s mother was Rikiza, daughter of Burizlav, king of the Wends.  Olaf was the name of the son of Harald Kesja, and his mother was Ragnhild, daughter of King Magnus Bare-legs of Norway.”


Svein’s infamous “Wag of the Finger” at the Bloodfeast of Roskilde

“These were all promising young men, but because King Nikulas and Eirik the Unforgotten had been so unpopular, people were reluctant to serve their offspring, and it was the stated wish of most men to make Valdimar Knutsson king owing to his father’s popularity.  But because he was so young, it was agreed wiuththe consent of his mother and various friends that Eirik the Lamb should be made king.  He was to take charge of the kingdom and look after it until Valdimar was old enough to take over.  Eirik Lamb was an intelligent man and well-liked by the  Danes, who called him Eirik the Wise.”

[note: After the abdication of Eric III Lamb in 1146 a civil war erupted with multiple claimants to the throne and Valdimar emerged victorious.  The Knut above refers to Knut V (1129 – 1157 – killed at the “Bloodfeast of Roskilde” by Svein’s men).  Svein refers to Svein III Grathe (circa 1125 – 1157).  Valdimar Knutsson or Valdemar I (the Great) of Denmark (1131 – 1182) was the son of Knut Lavard. Valdimar survived Svein’s Bloodfeast of Roskilde and then killed Svein at the Battle of Grathe Heath – more on that civil war below]

Section 108

“About this time Jerusalem was captured by the infidel and messages came from Pope Eugenius that men should take up the cross for a journey to Jerusalem to battle agains the infidel.  On that Crusade the Emperor Konrad died.”

“When the news of this reached Denmark, both kings wanted to join the Crusade… both kings went to Dubbin, King Knut arriving first at Wismar harbor, then King Svein, the men of Fy, the Zealanders, the Hallanders and the men of Skaane.  Men came from Germany too, wishing to fight against the infidel for the sake of God.”

“…Following the winter he spent on Zealand, as we said before, King Svein levied troops in the spring and led them to Jutland against King Knut, accompanied by Valdimar.  King Knut was in Hedeby at the time, and when he heard about King Svein he gathered forces in Jutland.  They met in battle at Viborg, and King Svein and Valdimar gained the victory, while King Knut fled, first to Aalborg, then north to Kungaelv in Norway, and finally to up to Lodose.  In Goetaland he met his stepfather Sorkvir Karlsson who had married Rikiza, King Knut’s mother, and asked him for troops.  King Sorkvir offered him a province in Sweden enough to maintain his style of living, while he himself would take over King Knut’s province in Denmark, but King Knut would not hear of it.”

“Next, King Knut travelled east to Russia and back again, then south to Rostock to his maternal uncles but they were afraid that he wanted to take their country from them and refused to let him stay…”

[note: it’s not clear who these maternal uncles would have been; presumably the siblings of “Rikiza” or sons of Boleslaw III who divided his country up; Rostock was not part of Poland albeit the then various Polish princes made claims on Pomerania which had become a Polish fiefdom under Boleslaw III and which, technically, was supposed to continue as such subject to the rule of the Duke of Cracow.  Rostock, in the land of the Obodrites, though was just a port of landing as it was too far West for any Pomeranian claims] 

“…King Knut returned again to Saxony and stayed there for a short while, then travelled to Friesland where he presented each man with half an ortog in weight from the tribune they were supposed to pay the King of Denmark, so that they would support him against King Svein.  They agreed to do so, and built a large stronghold by the River Mildin which they called Mildinborg.”

“When King Svein heard about this he gathered forces at once and set out for Hedeby.  He had a fleet, and had his ships portaged from Slette to Hollingsted in Friesland.  A great battle had to be fought there before he was able to win Mildinborg, with slaughter on such a scale that men walked across the River Milden on human bodies without wetting their feet.  King Svein won the victory and yet again King Knut fled sough to Saxony to Duke Heinrek in Brunswick, where he stayed a while.”

Section 109
A Peace Settlement

“…they reached agreement, on the understanding that Valdimar would be free of obligations to King Svein were Svein to break the terms of the settlement.  This peace-meeting was held at Viborg.”

“After that, King Svein gave his half-sister Suffia, daughter of King Valadar of Poland, in marriage to Valdemar.  He also gave Valdimar a third of his possessions, for the sake of friendship and harmony.”


Sofia of Minsk – current status. (Note the perfect teeth)

[note: this is Sophia of Minsk – she was the daughter of Richeza of Poland.  Richeza was first married to Magnus the Strong and gave birth to Knut V.  Magnus and his father were killed in battles against Eric II Emune (who was half brother to Knut Lavard – who was murdered by Niklas and Magnus) and his helpers from the Holy Roman Empire.   Thereafter, Richiza apparently returned to Poland (seemingly leaving her sons in Denmark).  Boleslaw III was still alive and arranged another marriage with Volodar Glebovich [?] of Minsk [or of Novgorod?].  From this marriage she had a daughter (Sophia of Minsk) and two sons.  She again returned to Poland in 1145 (leaving the sons behind but taking the daughter).  In 1148 Richeza married the recently widowed Sverker I of Sweden.  Sophia went with her to Sweden and was raised at the Swedish court.    Later she married Valdimar I (of Absalon/Arkona fame).  However, she was really Knut V’s half-sister – not Svein’s.  Also she was the daughter of Volodar of Minsk [?] not Valadar of Poland]  

“Valdimar had an illegitimate son called Kristoforus: his mother was called Tofa.”

[note: in Danish ballads, Sophia is typically described as a beautiful shrew and is said to have murdered  Valdimar’s mistress – Tove (aka Tofa).  Kristoforus is Christopher, Duke of Schleswig.  As a point of interest, Volodar never remarried, stayed in Minsk (or Novgorod?) and apparently outlived the entire Danish/Swedish crew (except his daughter Sophia) dying around 1186 (Sophia died in 1198)]

Section 110

“King Svein raised a levy for an expedition abroad the winter following the agreement with King Knut and Valdimar, with the intention of attacking Sweden.  He sent word to King Knut and Valdimar for them to come with him but they refused, since Sorkvir King of the Swedes was married to Rikiza, the mother of King Knut and Suffia…”



“…Next morning King Svein fought the Wends at Kalvslunde where he won the victory and killed a great number of men.  All that year the agreement lasted between King Svein and King Knut.”

Section 111
King Valdimar

“…After King Svein had been in Saxony a short while, he got tired of it and went from there to Wendland, where he paid the Wends to ferry him over to Fyn.  When King Knut and Valdimar heard this, they immediately levied troops for an expedition and crossed to Fyn…”

[note: this, again, is Svein III Grathe]

Section 115

“…That same evening, six hundred Wendish ships were wrecked off the Jolu Isles.”

Section 119
Expeditions to Wendland

“After the battle [of Grathe Heath in 1157] King Valdimar became sole ruler of all Denmark, with the approval of the chief men of the kingdom.  He was the most popular of kings.  These things took place nine years after the death of King Eirik the Wise and one year after the killing of King Knut Magnusson.  About that time Ozur, Bishop of Roskilde, died and Absalon, Asbjorn Snare’s brother, was ordained bishop in his place.  Absalon was a remarkable cleric and a shrewd man, and later he was to become a great chieftain.”

“In the winter following the battle on Grath Heath, King Valdimar sent word throughout his kingdom that he meant to levy troops for an expedition abroad in the spring, to go to Wendland and, God willing, convert it to Christianity.  Many people of importance decided to join the king in this expedition: first of all there was Archbishop Askel, and Bishop Absalon of Roskilde, one of the greatest warriors ever to be born in Denmark, then there was King Valdimar’s [illegitimate by Tove] son Kristoforus, Gvenmar Ketilsson, Peter Stretch, Bishop Absalon’s brother Asbjorn Snare, and Ingimar.  This whole army came together in the lee of the island of Mon, south of Zealand.”

“They ran into a strong head wind and lay there at anchor until they had only seven days of provisions left for the entire army.  Then King Valdimar called his counsellors together ago consult them about what should be done, and Bishop Absalon gave this reply.”

“‘Yesterday there was sailing weather’ he said, ‘and the day before that it was quite good enough to set out but you lay at anchor and wouldn’t make a move.  If you want to sit quietly by when there’s sailing weather and make no move till things are perfect, you’re not fit for this kind of work and you might as well take your troops back home.'”

“The king was furious at these words of sharp criticism and said he was not turning back while he had anything to feed his troops with.  Next morning, the king ordered them to put out to sea, and they began rowing against a raging gale.  The king was aboard a fast sailing ship with Archbishop Askel but it broke up in the storm and King Valdimar flung himself with sword and banner aboard Ingimar’s ship, which people thought a remarkable feat.  All the men were rescued but the cargo was lost.”

“They sailed to Hiddensee where the king went aboard Bishop Absalon’s shop and lay down to sleep, but sent Gvenmar Ketilsson ashore in the evening to spy out the land.  He managed to capture the Wends’ lookout, then went back and met the king there n the fjord south of Hiddensee, where he told the king he had taken the Wends’ lookout-men captive.  Later they reached Wendland close to a large river and divided the troops for the landing; the king led a party on one side of the river, and Bishop Absalon on the other, but neither knew what the other was doing.  They burned down settlements over a wide area on both sides of the river and then went baclkto their ships, loading sixty of them with the booty they had taken in the raid.  After that, King Valdimar went home to his own country and stayed there the following winter.”

“In the spring, King Ingi of Norway sent a fine dragon-headed warship as a gift to King Valdimar. That summer King Valdimar sailed once more to Wendland and the dragon-ship was damaged.  They sailed up the Warnow River and fought against a Wendish leader called Mjuklat, whose son Fridleif had been taken prisoner by the Danes on an earlier expedition and stayed on with the king, and become a Christian.  The battle took place at a town called Urk, where King Valdimar gained victory and Mjuklat was killed after fleeing the battlefield.  The Danes took his head and impaled it on a certain tree near the town.”

[note: These wars were preceded by the Wendish Crusade of 1147.  Mjuklat or Miklo refers to the Obodrite duke Niklot who died in 1160 killed by Bernhad (of Ratzeburg?) at the Battle of Orle/Wurle (during the Obodrite war against both Danes and Germans).  Niklot tried to quit the German/Danish world (Mjuxit?) but, then as now, what one wants is not always what one gets.  His son (or one of three) was Pribislav (aka Fridleif?) who became the founder of the Mecklemburgian dynasty]

“King Valdimar went back to his ship and asked which of the chieftains was brave enough to ride to Brunswick and deliver a message from him to the Emperor Konrad’s son, Duke Heinrek – he was married to a daughter of King Henry of England and their sons were the Emperor Otto, the Count Palatine Henry, and William the Stout: their daughter was Gertrud.”

[note: “Duke Heinrek” actually refers to Henry the Lion whose spouse was Matilda of England, daughter of Henry II of England]


Henry the Lion – in an actual 12th century photograph

“Not many were keen to go on this journey, since there were few indeed who wanted to travel through Wendland, straight into the hands of their enemies.  Bishop Absalon, however, offered to undertake this mission for the king, and the king agreed.  The bishop travelled in a party of sixty men, taking Fridleif Mjuklatsson along with him as a guide.  They rode past the town where the head of Mjuklat was impaled, and when he saw it, Fridleif wept but said he could have expected things to turn out this way since his father would not serve the true God.  They came to Duke Heinrek, and he gave them a good welcome.  After they had stayed with him for a time and copleted their mission, they started back.  The duke offered troops to go with them but the bishop said that was unnecessary.  They rode off from Brunswick early in the morning, all wearing their armour, and pressed on till they came to an open plain, where they suspected that forces were being gathered in the neighborhood.  It was then that Fridleif spoke up and said this was where his father had been killed.”

“‘And if you’re caught’ he said, ‘you Danes will suffer the same treatment that you gave him.  The best thing now for every one of us is to sell his life as dearly as he can.'”

“The bishop thanked him for what he had said, adding that he had spoken like a man.  They rode singing through the settlements that day and showed no trace of fear.  When the local people saw them traveling they thought these must be the duke’s men riding so cheerful, and so the bishop’s party got back safe and sound to the ships, where the king sat reading the psalms happy to see the bishop and his men.”

Section 120
Ravaging in Wendland

“In the morning the king sailed east along the coast of Wendland to the River Svold, where the Wends lay with a large fleet but fled the moment they sighted the Danish sailed.  The king laid course to Byr, and sent his son Kristoforus to burn down a part of Wendland called Valong, but told him not to ride off until the whole army was aspire.  Kristoforus and his men were rather too keen to get on with the burning and when the Wends aboard those ships that had previously fled saw the flames, they began rowing at high speed hopping to take the Danes by surprise.  But then they saw King Valdimar coming up with some of his troops and raced off once again as fast as they could so that the Danes were unable to cause them any damage.”

“The Danes made for harbor and put up the awnings.  When the king’s ship had been covered, Archbishop Askel walked up to them. “

“‘You Danes are fast workers’ he said, ‘burying your men before they’re dead.'”

“The king asked him why he spoke like that.”

“‘I can see well be lying here for a long time amongst isles and offshore skerries’ he said, ‘before we can win a victory to equal the one we’ve just missed out of sheer hot-headedness.  Speed and sense are rare companions.'”

“Egged on by the archbishop, they went down to the ships, rowed across a river there, then charged ashore on horseback and burnt down everything in the district that lies behind Strele.  They spent the night there and next morning went to Valong, where they set the whole place ablaze.  After that they meant to go back home, but the following night the Rugeners came looking for them at Masnes, people who inhabit a place in Wendland called Rugen, a large and powerful province.  Their leader was called Domabur.  He talked about a settlement with the Danes, so the archbishop asked them to put themselves in King Valdimar’s hands and arrange to give him hostages.  Then Domabur offered the archbishop some advice.”

[note: as per Baltische Studien, Volume 1, Valong is probably the area around Schaprode on Ruegen (see Saxo’s Walungiam navigatum; see also reference to quartam mansionem in Wollungh que dicitur Szabroda); It’s not clear what Masnes refers to.  Saxo mentions an island off of Warnow called Masneta; Domabur was the leader of the Rani]

“‘You’re a young man’ he said, ‘ and you’ve only a vague notion of how things were done in the past.  Don’t ask us for hostages and don’t plunder our country: it’s better that you should go back home and keep peace with us till your own lands are as well-populated as ours are now.  A great deal of your land lies barren and empty.  Peace will suit you better than war.'”

“‘I’m sure King Valdimar will be keen to follow your advice’ replied the archbishop, ‘and it’s much to my own liking.  Now go home’ he said, ‘and tell the Rugeners that we won’t expect any hostages until they offer them.'”


Rugia oldest (?) map (early 16th century)

“After that, Domabur went home and King Valdimar brought his troops into a harbor in Rugen called Schaprode then marched them all ashore to a place called Arkona which had been taken by Eirik the Unforgotten, as was told earlier in this book.  There the Rugeners faced King Valdimar with a countless army of men, and fought a battle which Valdimar won, killing three hundred thousand of the Rugeners while the survivors fled for their lives.  Next the Danes went to Hiddensee.  While they were there, the Rugeners came and gave them four hostages, agreeing to accept all their conditions.  After this success, King Valdimar returned home to his kingdom.”

[note: Schaprode is Schaprode on the northwest side of Ruegen]

“On his next seafaring expedition, King Valdimar went to Strele.  There, Absalon rode inland and held a meeting with the farmers, telling them to go with the king to Wolgast and provide him with support.  The Rugeners did as he asked and went wight he king in large numbers, sailing to Kuaviz.  There the men of Wolgast came to meet them, handed over hostages, and pledged their allegiance.  After that the army went back home.”

[note: Strele presumably refers to somewhere around Stralsund; Kuaviz?]

“On his next seafaring expedition King Valdimar went to Gronsund, as the Rugeners wanted to break the agreement they had made with him earlier.  By then, they had submitted to Duke Heinrek of Brunswick and handed over hostages to him since he had laid claim to the whole of Wolgast and also plundered in Rugen.  When the Rugeners learnt that King Valdimar had arrived in Gronsund with the intention of attacking them, they went to meet him and surrendered themselves yet again into his power, after which King Valdimar returned home.”

“When Duke Heinrek heard about this, he accused the king of having taken hostages from Wolgast and attacked the inhabitants of Rugen, who were, he said, his own subjects.  He sent envoys to King Valdimar demanding compensation for the damage he had done his land, otherwise he threatened to take revenge and lead an army against Denmark.”


Ortelius map (late 16th century)

“While the envoys were on this journey the East Wends raised an unbeatable army and attacked that part of Wendland belonging to the duke, burning it and killing all the people in it.  Duke Heinrek blamed Bishop Absalon for this affair, though he was not responsible for it.  When the duke learned the truth about it, he immediately sent envoys north again to Denmark to see King Valdimar and seek reconciliation offering to join him on an expedition to Wend land, to which King Valdimar agreed since the men of Wolgast had once again broken their agreement with him.”

“Next spring, King Valdimar of Denmark and Duke Heinrek of Saxony levied an army and attacked Wendland.  The duke brought his troops to a place called Demmin and laid siege to a town there.  The native people gathered together to defend their land and one night their horsemen attacked the duke’s forces and killed two of his counts, one called Adalbrikt and the other Heinrek, as well as many other men of rank.  Four hundred and fifty of the duke’s men were killed and many wounded, while those who were able to get away fled.  The Wends hunted them down for a short distance, then came bad to the battlefield to rob the dead of their weapons and clothes.  When it began to grow light and the Germans saw what the Wends were up to, they rode back and fought and routed them.  Duke Heinrek took the town and killed an uncounted number of Wends.  In the next round of fighting King Valdimar led his troops to Wolgast and laid siege to the town, but the townsmen sued the King peace, surrendered themselves into his power and handed over hostages to him.  Next night they fled from the town without the king knowing.”


“When King Valdimar realised this, he put the town in charge of his men and went himself to a certain river crossed by a bridge known as Dunzar Bridge.  Next morning Duke Heinrel came from Grozvin and immediately joined King Valdimar aboard ship, amazed at the speed with which the king and his men could sail the distance.  On that occasion, everything was very friendly between them and King Valdimar proposed a marriage alliance with the duke on his son’s behalf which the duke agreed to, so they betrothed their children to one another though they were still in the cradle.  The boy, King Valdimar’s son, was called Knut, and the girl, Lady Gertrud.”

“In the morning, King Valdimar rowed to Stolpe, while Heinrek went to Demmin and leveled and burnt the whole town.  Next King Valdimar went back to the bridge, where Kassamar, who was then a lord in Wendland, came and handed over hostages to him and became his liege.  King Valdimar gave him tho thirds of Wolgast to defend and one third to the Rugeners.  Then the king went to Strele to consult with his troops, and gave the title of king to his son Knut, who was then a year old, with the approval of Bishop Absalon and other leaders.  After that, King Valdimar went back to Denmark.”

[note: Kassamar is Casimir (Kasimir) I (circa 1130 – 1180) of Pomerania-Demmin (son of Wartislaw of, as above, the Life of Otto fame and brother to Bogislaw I (circa 1130 – 1187) Duke of Pomerania); Demmin is the German town of Demmin – ironically, it may have been named after “dym”, i.e., smoke in the Polabian language; sadly, during World War II, it was also the site of a mass suicide by inhabitants right before the Red Army took the town; Stolpe is, probably, the Polish Słupsk]

“On his next seafaring expedition King Valdimar went first to Rugen, then to Valong which he set ablaze.  Once again Bishop Absalon and the Isle Danes were the swiftest travelers, so they and to wait seven days for the king at Hiddensee and then went back home.”

Section 121
Plundering in Wendland

[For this section, see here]

Section 122
Pagan Idols in Wendland

[For this section, see here]

Section 123
Fighting Against Wends and Cours

“During King Valdimar’s lifetime, eleven churches were built in Rugen, all consecrated by Bishop Absalon.  The see [that is the church “see”] is at a place called Usedom, and there are now one hundred and thirty churches in that diocese.  After Rugen became Christian King Valdimar went on no more military expeditions, but the money King Valdimar extracted from the Rugeners there caused dissension between the King of Denmark and Duke Heinrek, who claimed that Rugen was his territory and the money belonged to him.  So he ordered the East Wends to go plundering in Denmark.  When King Valdimar heard about this he told his son Kristoforus and Bishop Absalon to defend the country, but not wishing to make their stand within the kingdom itself, they ordered a levy of one ship from each district of Denmark for an expedition abroad.”

“When they were at sea in their warships, they heard that the Cours had taken their troops by sea and attacked Blekinge.  Though they were not sure that this was true, they decided something would have to be done, and the plan they adopted was that Kristoforus, Bishop Absalon and Asbjorn should set out in that direction and sail to Oeland, where they seized both goods and men.  When they got back to their ships, they head that the Cours were at Mon, so they set free the prisoners they had taken, headed straight for where the Cours were, and came on them at a harbor called Jarnloka.”

[note: this was in 1170 –  Jarnloka or jærnlukke or the harbor of “Iron Lock”? – a place on the island of Mon or Seeland?]

“When the Cours realized that troops were heading towards them they hauled their ships ashore and prepared to make a stand there.  They thought these were Swedes but an old man among the Cours said they were Danes.”

“‘And it’s not a good idea to wait,’ he said.”

“At that he rowed off in his ship, but the rest of the Cours stayed behind with nine ships.  Then Kristoforus and his companions came with all their men, and immediately began to attack: all the Cours were killed there and not even a single child escaped, while only two of the Danes were killed.  Then the Danes took their ships and goods and brought them home, having won a great victory.”

Section 124
More Trouble With the Wends

“Around midsummer this year, the relics of Lord Knut the Saint [see above] were transported from Ringsted and once again there were sublime indications of his saintliness.  Then King Knut, son of King Valdimar, was formally anointed king at the suggestion of his father and with the approval of the people of Denmark.  He was then only a few years old.”

“At the same time, an agreement was made between King Valdimar and Magnus of Norway; and Erling the Squint, father of King Magnus, arrived in Denmark to meet King Valdimar at Randers, where they discussed many matters concerning the affairs of the Kings of both Norway and Denmark.”

“King Valdimar thought he had a claim to the province of Oslofjord in Norway, since at the time Valdimar had given support to Erling and Magnus from his own kingdom for the conquest of Norway, there had been a private agreement that Valdimar should acquire the east part of Oslofjord.  But there was a close relationship between King Magnus and King Valdimar, King Valdimar’s mother was Engilborg, daughter of King Harald Valdimarsson, as was aid earlier, and her sister was Malmfrid, wife of King Sugurd the Crusader, their daughter being Kristin, the mother of King Magnus Erlingsson: the dealings between King Valdimar and the Norwegians are described in the Lives of the Kings of Norway.  On this occasion when Erloing came to Denmark to see King Valdimar, the king gave Erling an earldom and all the domains in Norway to which the thought he had a claim, so they parted in agreement and friendship, which they preserved with goodwill for the rest of their lives.”


“In the autumn King Valdimar raised a levy for an expedition overseers, and sailed to Jomsburg and Kammin, lying to the east of Wendland.  The king wanted to be out at sea but got himself into a narrow channel.  Then the Danes said they had been caught in a trap, and that this was one of Bishop Absalon’s clever schemes, and it was all his fault that they were stuck in a situation from which they could not escape.”

[note: Jomsburg is on the island of Wolin; Kammin may be Kamień Pomorski near Szczecin.  Kammin is named after a large stone lying in the water (it’s still there).  Now, why there is another Kammin on the River Lippe is another story

“‘Now there are troops hemming us in ashore,’ they complained to Absalon, ‘and a force of ships to seaward, and it’s happening just at the time we expected it to.  All you’re concerned about is your own ambition and reputation, and you always think you can get away with things. You may be a great fighting man and champion, but there’s no good reason why you should expect everything to be achieved by you, and nothing by anyone else, even though that’s the way things have been for quite some time.'”

“‘Since I’ve got you into an embarrassing situation,’ said Absalon very quietly, ‘it’s an embarrassment I’ll save you from, but I don’t want to hear any more of this.  We’re supposed to have the hearts of men, not women.  That’s why we mustn’t fear the future, nor complain if that future doesn’t seem too bright.  My men and I will go first, and then you must follow my advice. If you see that we can escape from the channel, act fast and charge ashore with your horses, then form up and attack the troops there, and we’ll see what happens.'”

“They did as the bishop suggested.  The Wends had a huge army there, both ashore and aboard ship, but before the Wendish fleet expected it the bishop rowed out towards them shouting the war-cry, at which all the ships there turned tail not daring to fight him.  Those on horseback rode ashore to the town, confronted the Wends and attacked them, while Bishop Absalon, having had no trouble with the ships, came up to reinforce them.  The Wends soon began to suffer heavy casualties, six thousand of them being killed by the Danes while the others either ran or, in many cases, were taken prisoner and brought down to the ships.”

“In the morning a messenger rode to them from inland and said that he wanted to negotiate a peace for the natives, but he was trying them out with lies and treachery.  Bishop Absalon had him taken and the truth forced out of him.  He was held by the bishop for four days and then his son redeemed him with one hundred marks of silver.  After that, the Danes sailed home.”

“Bishop Absalon travelled north to Oresund and seven days before the Feast of All Hallows he stopped at Hyljuminni with six ships, three of them beached and three lying in estuary.  Early in the morning while the bishop was singing Matins nine Wendish ships, all very large, came up and immediately began to attack them, but were chased off after a short skirmish.  The Danes captured one of their ships, but eight of them got away.  After that the bishop continued his journey home, arriving there seven days later.”


The Spalatin Chronicle shows how it was done (refers to earlier events but principle is the same)

“The following summer there was yet another levy for an overseas expedition.  The troops were to assemble at Gronsund, where Archbishop Askel came with the men of Skaane, Bishop Absalon with the Zealanders, and Kristoforus with his own force.  Then they went to Bramnes, burning everything around, where a certain Count Hyrning, a great fighting man, came to confront them with a strong force and do battle with them.  However, he soon had to run, many of his men being killed and others taken prisoner.  Afterwards, the Danes went to the ships and met King Valdimar at Gedeso, and told him what they had done.  The Jutes were envious, saying the Zealanders got all the money and they got nothing.  Next, the king went with his troops to Strele, riding up to Tribuzis and towards Tripiden, setting everything ablaze, taking the town and killing the inhabitants.  After they had taken plunder there they went back home.”

[note: Tribuzis is Tribsees on the Trebel whereas the location of Tripiden (or Trippipen) is not clear and we won’t even guess as to Gedeso or Bramnes (Brunes?)); 

125 Absalon becomes archbishop

“…When that winter came to an end, King Valdimar raised yet another levy for an expedition overseas, and sailed to Wendland, up to Svinemuende as fas as Gorgasiam, burning everywhere.  Later he went to Szczecin and besieged the town for a long time, till th townspeople surrendered into the king’s power, and gave him money for reconciliation, and hostages, after which the king returned home to his kingdom, and things stayed quiet for a while…”

“…King Valdimar heard that during the period of reconciliation and peace with the Danes, the Wends had built two fortresses at Swinemuende.  This enraged King Valdimar and all the Danes, for their interpretation of it was that the Wends still planned to break the agreement.  Envoys went between King Valdimar and Duke Heinrek of Brunswick, and it was agreed that they should each raise a levy and go to Wendland, where they should meet together.  The duke went with his army to Demmin, while King Valdimar raised a levy yet once more from every part of Denmark and pillaged through Wolgast and Fuznon so that the whole population fled.  He burnt down three towns, Fuznon, Vinborg and Fuir.  Again, envoys went between King Valdimar and Duke Heinrek arranging that stye should meet at Grozvin: but though King Valdimar kept the appointment at the place where they had agreed to meet, the duke failed to appear.”

“Later, King Valdimar laid siege to a town called Gutznow, besieging it overnight and burning it the following night after which he went to his ships and departed in warlike fashion.  Then King Valdimar headed for Swinemuende and sailed out to sea, but the two fortresses built by the Wends had been completely demolished by the river in spate over the winter, so then the king sailed home.”

[note: Gutznow is probably Gützkow;  Swinemuende is, of course, Świnoujście; Grozvin (or Grozum) seems to be a region of Pomerania (compare Grozon, France!); Fuznon was probably on or a reference to Uznam or Usedom; the others we will not guess at] 

126 Another expedition to Wendland

“…When the winter was over, King Valdimar raised a levy throughout Denmark and the troops assembled at Gronsund: but King Valdimar would go no further himself, ordering the men to be obedient to his son Knut, and to Archbishop Absalon as his appointed commander, for he would not leave the country.”


“So they went to Wolgast and set everything ablaze there, then they went to Usedom and burnt everything, the town itself and all its buildings.  After that, Burizlav and a duke in East Wendland called Kassamar came to meet King Knut and Archbishop Absalon asking for mercy, handing over hostages from all their territories, and giving the king fifteen hundred marks and the archbishop five hundred in order that the settlement the Wends had made earlier with King Valdimar should stand, even though the Wends themselves had broken it.  They promised to keep the peace with all territories which the king did not wish them to plunder.  King Knut and the archbishop came back only nine days after they had left and met King Valdimar on Mon, telling him what had happened on their travels and delivering both money and hostages.  He was astonished at the speed of their journey, and thanked them for undertaking his expedition.”


[note: here “Burizlav” is probably Bogislaw I whereas Kassamar is his brother Casimir I; the “East” versus “West” Wends appears to refer to the division of Slavic Pomerania (in 1155) between the brothers with Bogislaw being the duke in the East (at Szczecin) and Casimir in the West (at Demmin).  The saga has this reversed seemingly although the split is correct below] 

Section 127
King Valdimar’s Death

“After that five years passed without a levy being raised, and during this peaceful interval the Wends built towns, castles and a good many forts on their country for the purpose of defense.  When Valdimar was told this he realised that the Wends would observe the present agreement not better than those that had gone before, so early in the spring he raised a levy for an expedition overseas, but when the troops assembled at Gronsund, King Valdimar was taken ill.  He spoke to his men, ordering them to carry on with ethe expedition as before and appointed his son King Knut and Archbishop Absalon commanders of the army, but they refused to leave him until they knew what turn his illness might take: so with the agreement of Archbishop Absalon, King Knut gave all the troops leave to return home.”

“King Valdimar died of this illness on the sixth of May.  His body was taken to Ringsted and there he was buried, deeply mourned by the people throughout the whole of Denmark.  He had by then been sole ruler of all Denmark for twenty-six years and had fought twenty-eight battles in heathen lands.  He had fought tin heathen men all his life, eager to defend God’s Christian faith.”

“King Valdimar and Queen Suffia had these children: King Knut and Valdimar the Old who later became King of Denmark and was one of the most renowned kings here in Northern Europe.  Olaf Thordarson stayed with him, acquieiring much learning from him, and had a great many remarkable stories from him to tell.  King Valdimar Knutsson’s daughter Engilborg married King Philip of France, father of King Louis of France, who conquered Damiette.  Another daughter of King Valdimar was Rikiza, who married Eirik Knutssson, King of the Swedes, their children were King Eirik of Sweden and Engilborg, who married Earl Birgir of Sweden, and whose children were valdimar, King of the Swedes, Eirik, and Rikiza who married kIng Hakon the Young of Norway.  King Valdimar’s third daughter married Wilhelm the Stout son of Duke Heinrek of Brunswick, brother of the Emperor Otto.  Duke Kristoforus was the son of King Valdimar and Tofa, as was said earlier.  He was illegitimate and died ten years before his father King Valdimar.”

[note: this is Knut VI Valdemarsøn] 

Section 128
King Knut Valdimarsson

“After the death of King Valdimar Knutsson, his son Knut assumed power over the whole of Denmark, and all the Danes gave him their allegiance.  When the Emperor Fridrek was told that King Valdimar had died, he dispatched envoys at once to King Knut asking him to become his liege and hold Denmark on his behalf.  King Knut consulted with Archbishop Absalon and other advisers on how he should answer this.  They recommended him to give a mild reply and say that although the emperor could easily give him so much power that he would become his liege, for Denmark’s sake he could not do this.  With this reply from King Knut the emperor’s envoys returned home.”


Knut VI was perpetually angry

“When these envoys were making their journey, Burizlav of Wendland sent his representative, Prida to the emperor with his greeting, promising that within not more than a year he would see to it that the King of Denmark became the emperor’s liege.  The emperor thanked him for his words: he embraced the envoy and gave him a fine horse, a coat of mail, a shield, helmet and full set of weapons, as well as excellent furs and clothing.  Then he gave him leave to return home and bade him tell the emperor’s dearest friend and liege Duke Burizlav to honour faithfully all the promises he had made him.”

“After that, Burizlav levied a great army meaning to go to Rugen and lay that region under his rule, but when the Rugeners heard this, Jarismar sent envoys to Archbishop Absalon telling him that the East Wends had mobilized a great army and were only waiting for the West Wends before attacking the Rugeners.  He asked the archbishop to support them if he wanted to retain his grip on their country: the archbishop told him to make a brave stand, and he would come and help them.”

[note: for more of the Pomeranian-Rugian squabbles, see, for example, here]

“Then the archbishop raised a levy and sailed to Wendland against Burizlav, who had five hundred ships but was still waiting for the West Wends.  When the archbishop confronted Burizlav a fierce battle took place with the outcome that Burizlav fled with fifty of his ships, but the archbishop and his men captured all the others.  Some of the crews aboard them got ashore and some were drowned abut most were slaughtered.  This battle took place in the spring, about Whitsuntide.  Afterwards the Danes divided up the plunder and went back home.”

[note: here Burizlav is correctly (if implicitly) associated with the East Wends]

Section 129
Wendland Subdued

 “That same summer, King Knut raised a levy from Denmark.  First he went to Rugen and ordered the people there to go with him to Wolgast.  Many of them joined King Knut and he next went to Wolgast where he plundered and burnt all around.  They besieged the town for some time.  Archbishop Absalon went ashore with his men and set ablaze two towns which had been built on the road into Swinemuende, then when he had destroyed them he went back to the king.”

“Next Burizlav arrived in the country, and sent men to the archbishop to arrange a meeting.  The archbishop was aboard his ships, but Burislaf planned to betray him at the meeting thinking that once he was dead all would be won.  He asked him to come ashore for a talk saying that he would guided but he archbishop’s foresight when making his agreement with King Knut, nut the archbishop would not go ashore, suspecting that Burizlav had some trick in mind, as was indeed the case, so there was no meeting.  Burizlav had saved his town, however, by having supplies carried into it while the discussions with the Danes were taking place.  On Saint Peter’s Day, King Knut made an assault on the town but fought without being able to capture it, so he took things easy there for six days, then went away as most of his provisions had been used up. Then Wends came in pursuit, killing nearly sixty Danes, and after that King Knut took all his troops back home.”


19th century (Gerson) version of the Christianization of Pomerania

“That autumn, King Knut raised a levy for an overseas expedition seven days before Michaelmas, and sailed to Rugen.  From there he took a large force to Tribuzis and from there up to Tripipen, where he plundered and burnt throughout the district.  He rode to their market town and burnt it, and all the forces of King Knut  assembled there, staying for three days, while their ships lay off Strele.  Next morning they went over to Tikarey with the idea of destroying Voztroza but the wind was in the wrong direction so they were unable to burn it down.”

[note: Voztroza nowadays has a very German name] 

Burislaf heard about this and set sail with two ships, wanting to make a settlement with King Knut, though it was treachery he had in mind, but as King Knut was short of provisions to feed his army he went back home to Denmark.”

“In the spring, King Knut raised a levy in Denmark for an overseas expedition, this time in the company of Archbishop Absalon, Bishop Asbjorn, and many other leading men.  They had  a large army and sailed to Wolgast where they burnt their way up both banks of the river as far as Kammin, setting the whole country ablaze.  King Burizlav had narrow escape, leaping from his horse’s back over a fence and so getting into the town just as King Knut and Archbishop Absalon came riding up.  Burizlav beckoned them over, asking for a truce and a chance to talk to them, but they told him that if he wanted message delivered to them, he should send envoys.  When his envoys came to Bishop Asbjorn they asked him to plead with the king and the archbishop on his behalf, to allow him to leave the town and talk to them.  The envoys said they wanted to have an honest talk, adding that they were more trustworthy that him.  Burizlav‘s message was that he was eager to keep his word, and asked them to arrange a meeting between himself and the king, a meeting that he would attend in three days time.  King Knut said he would agree to the appointment with him, but that meanwhile he planned to devastate the area as he had always intended, including the farms near the town.  Burizlaf told the king he must burn whatever he wished, but said he still wanted to meeting with the king, and asked him to spare their farms and minsters.”

“Then women came from the farms and fell at the king’s feet, begging him not to burn their farms, and the king granted their wish.  After that the king went to burn inland, and spent the night setting fire to everything, after which, in the morning, he went back to the ships.  Then Burizlav came to King Knut and the archbishop asking them for mercy, handing over as hostages to the king the sons of the best men in the land, and gave the king three hundred marks and the bishop eight hundred.  With that, King Knut assumed power and protection over the whole of Wendland, and then went back home to Denmark.”

Section 130
The Death of Burizlav

“In the spring before Easter, Burizlav came to see King Knut at Roskilde and stayed with him o e very best of terms over Easter, acting as the king’s sword-bearer.  When he left to return home, King Knut presented him with fine gifts and they parted friends.”

“In Lent of the following year Burizlav grew ill, and sent word to his counsellors to consult with them, saying that if he recovered from his illness he would like to see King Knut, but if his fate was to be otherwise, he wanted King Knut to dispose of the country’s affairs in accordance wi the king’s wishes: also, he asked the king, for God’s sake, to grant his children friendship, and divide everything between them as he desired, for he saw that his brother Jarizmar had always benefitted from his loyalty to King Knut.”


Can you say Caminho Pomerano in Portuguese?

“During Lent, Burizlav died of his illness.  Then Burizlav‘s envoys went to see King Knut telling him that Burizlav was dead, and delivering the messages he had left for King Knut asking the king to help his sons and divide everything between them as he wished.  A meeting was arranged between them at Vordingborg which Nikulas and Heinrek, the sons of Burizlav, attended and King Knut divided the land between them and appointed men to watch over them.”

[note: this is unclear; if Burizlav refers to Bogislaw I (death on March 18, 1187), then his sons’ names were Casimir II and Bogislaw II]

“In consultation with Archbishop Absalon, King Knut had now appointed overseers and controllers all over Wendland, and the whole country was now in their power.  In all the battles they had fought against the Wends since the death of King Valdimar Knutsson, Archnbishop ABsalon had acted as commander and as counsellor to King Knut, and had he not been there they would not have gained such victories, for he came close to being the greatest ever campaigner and warrior here in the north.”

“So ends the history of the Kings of the Danes.”

Copyright ©2016 All Rights Reserved

June 24, 2016

From the Pomeranian Diplomatic Codex

Published Post author

There are (at least) two pieces of interest to those interested in Slavic religion in the Pomeranian Diplomatic Codex (edited by Hasselbach & Kosegarten).  The first is a description of the activities of Berno of Amelungsborn, the first Bishop of Schwerin, (aka the Apostle of the Obotrites) who took part with Pribislav (the subdued Obodrite leader) in Bishop Absalon’s 1168 campaign against the Rani on Arkona.  The second is a brief entry in Absalon’s own will document describing a donation of Rani idols to a certain lady.


Diploma Frederici imperatoris
(regarding 1170, written about 1200)

“Notum esse volumus…, qualiter quidam pauper spiritu monachus nomine Berno… gentem paganorum transalbinam, sub principe tenebrarum in tenebris infidelitatis et idolatrie inclusam, primus predicator nostris temporibus aggressus est, … ipsos baptisans, ydola comminuens, ecclesias fundans … postremo quia gens Ruynarum, ydolatrie spurcitia deo et hominibus inuisa, verba predicationis flecti noluit, idem… fructum … inuenit nam ad hoc principes et omnem populum animavit, ut ydolatriam zelo christiani nominis armis ad fidem cogeret, et ita cum tyronibus Christi, quasi ipse signifer effectus, maximo ydolo eorum Szuentevit destructo, in die beati Viti martiris inuitos ad baptismus coegit.”


“… We wish it to be known… , how a certain monk, weak in the faith, by the name of the Berno …  became the first person in our time to set out to convert, the Transalbinian pagan peoples who [until now] have lived under the prince of darkness in the darkness of unbelief and idolatry enclosed… [how he] baptized them, crushed [their] idols and founded churches … At last, as the nation of the Rugians would not be swayed [practicing] idolatrous corruption, hateful to God and man would not be swayed by the words of the same preaching … [fruit?] … and so [for this task] he finds the princes and all the people aroused since idolatry compels all those zealous Christians to their faith and arms, and so with the recruits of Christ, as if he [Berno] were the standard bearer, their greatest idol Szuentevit destroyed, he forces them in the day of Saint Vitus the martyr, to baptism.”

Testamentum Absolonis archiepiscopi
(circa 1200)


“To the Lady Margaret, [I leave] two Rani [Rugian] cup idols.”



So who was this lady Margaret and where are these idolatrous cups now?


Copyright ©2016 All Rights Reserved

May 9, 2016

King Burisleif & His Daughters in Jomsvikinga Saga

Published Post author

One of the more interesting references to the Slavic Wends appears in the early 13th century Icelandic work “The Saga of the Jomsvikings” (Jomsvikinga Saga).  There we find out about the close relations between the Wends and the Viking pirates of Jomsborg.  Jomsborg is – probably – Wolin; also known as Vineta (Wineta) for its Wends.  We shall have more to say about Vineta later.  However, for now let us show what the writers of this saga had to say about the Wendish King Burisleif and his daughters.  They are not the main characters (as the title suggests that honor falls to the Viking pirates) but the fact that the mythical (?) founder of Jomsborg – Palnatoki – chose to establish that fortress on the coast of Wendland means that the Wends come up in the story.


We come in peace

Note that the name Burisleif is unusual.  Most likely, it is a “Scandinavization” of Boleslav but this is not certain.  “Sleif” probably does refer to “Slav” but, as we discussed, “bury” is a Slavic word (as well as the prefix of Burebista – the leader of the uprising against Romans who rebelled in the East at the same time as Ariovistus did in the West) and, indeed, also the name of the Lugii Buri.  On the other hand the names of the daughters of King Burisleif: Astrid, Gunnhild and, possibly, Geira are Norse “Scandinavizations”.  That said, the three daughters of Burisleif are certainly reminiscent of the three daughters of the Czech founder Krok (Libuse, Tetka, Kazi).

The question of whether Burisleif really was a Wendish King remains unresolved.  Some believe he was a Polabian King, others suggest a purely mythical figure, yet others think him to be a composite of the Polish rulers Mieszko and Boleslaw.  It is interesting that one of the Jomsvikings’ leaders – Sigvaldi – comes from Zealand (Seeland or Sjaland) in Denmark which is the most likely candidate for the quasi-mythical province of Selentia the reference to which – as being conquered by Boleslaw the Brave – is found in the Gallus Anonymous Chronicle.


As regards the storyline, the Wends first appear after Palnatoki, the fearsome marauder, leaves the North Sea and decides to build a new fortress in Wendland.  So let us begin that story (in this we follow the Lee Hollander translation from the Icelandic – the Norse version is from the 1824 Carl Christian Rafn edition).

 Book 12

The Founding of Jomsborg

“Then they all return to their ships and felt to rowing, and got away; nor did they stop till they were back home in Wales. But king Svein and his men continued with the funeral feast, and he was galled with the turn events had taken.”

“The summer after, Alof, Palnatoki’s wife, felt ill and died. And then he was content no longer to stay in Wales, and he set Bjorn the Welchman to rule the land for him.  He himself left with thirty ships and took to harrying in Scotland and Ireland [i.e., to piracy on the sea and robbery on land].  And this course he pursued for three years, acquiring great wealth and fame [or notoriety].  The fourth summer, Palnatoki sailed east to Wendland with forty ships.”


“A king ruled there at that time whose name was Burisleif.  He learned of Palnatoki’s approach and was ill pleased to have him harry there because he was well-nigh always victorious and add more fame then any other man.  So the king sent messengers inviting him to the court and offering him friendship.  And to his invitation he added the offer of a district in is land called Jom, if Palnatoki would rule and settle there and defend the King’s land.”

“Palnatoki accepted this offer and settled there with his all his men.  And soon he had a great and strong fortification made.  A part of it jetted out to see, and in that part that was the harbor, begin off to accommodate 300 warships, so that the ships could be locked within the fortification. With a great skill a gate was designed with the stone arch above it and before it on iron particles which could be locked from inside the harbor.  And on top of the stone arch that was a great stronghold, and within the stronghold were catapults. The whole fort was cold Jomsborg.”

Then Palnatoki established laws for Jomsborg, with the assistance of wise men, to the need that the renown of the men of Jomsborg should spread most widely and their power should wax greatly.  The first of their laws…”

[We hear that Palnatoki lays down the rather spartan laws for the Jomsvikings.  Book 13 then introduces Sigvaldi, the son of Harold, the earl of Zealand (Seeland).  It tells how Sigvaldi (with his brother Thorkel) set out to join the Jomsvikings and, after robbing the lands of Veseti, the ruler of Bornholm, did in fact manage to do so (though half the brothers’ crew was rejected).  In the meantime, Veseti raided Harold and Harold raided Veseti.]

[The Danish King Svein was initially frustrated by the feuding parties but, to avoid an all out war, he eventually interceded at the Iseyrar assembly (Thing on Seeland – but what of the name of this “thing”?; remember ysaya lado ylely ya ya?) in Book 14.  We note that the sons of Veseti were Bui and Sigurd Cape.  Whether Palnatoki, Veseti and Bui are Norse names we leave to the reader to ponder.]




[By Book 15, Bui and Sigurd also join the Jomsvikings (with two thirds of their crews) as does Veseti’s grandson Vagn (who was twelve at the time – though by nine he had already killed three men) whose men overcame Sigvaldi’s men in proving their prowess.]

Book 16

Of Palnatoki’s death and Sigvaldi’s Ambition

“This continued for three years, until Vagn was fifteen years old.  Then Palnatki took sick.  He sent messengers to King Burisleif to come to him.  And when the king arrived Palnatki said: ‘I am thinking, Sir King, that this will be my last sickness.’  The king said: ‘In that case it is my advice that you choose some one in your stead to look after matter as you have done and that he be chieftain in the fort and that the company stay here as before.’  Palnatoki said that all in all Sigvaldi was the man best fitted to take command, ‘yet it seems to me that all of them fall somewhat short of what I have been.’  The king said: ‘Often your counsels have benefitted us, and now I shall follow your last one.  Let all laws stand as before in the fort.'”

“Sigvaldi was by no means loath, and in fact mightily pleased, to assume command.”

“Then Palnatoki gave his kinsman Vagn half of his earldom in Wales to govern under the guardianship of Bjorn the Welshman, and commended him to the special care of the company.  And shortly thereafter Palnatoki died, and that was felt by all to be a great loss.”

 “Sigvalid had administered the laws but a short while when breaches in the discipline began to occur.  Women stayed at Jomsborg two or three nights at a time; and men remained away longer from the fort than when Palnatoki lived.  Also there were mailings once in a while and even some killings.”

“King Burisleif had three daughters.  The oldest was called Astrid and she was both exceedingly beautiful and exceedingly wise.  Another was called Gunnhild, and the third was Geira – she who later married King Olaf Tryggvason.  Sigvaldi came to King Burisleif and presented this proposition: he would remain no longer in the fort, unless he was given the king’s daughterAstrid in marriage.”


“‘It is my intention,’ said the king, ‘to marry her to someone of more princely rank than yours; yet I need you in the fort.  We shall take it all under advisement.'”

“He sought his daughter Astrid and asked her whether it suited her wishes to be married to Sigvaldi.  Astrid replied: ‘To say the truth, it would never be my choice to marry Sigvaldi.  Therefore, if he is to win my hand, he must relieve us of all the tribute this land has been paying the Danish king before he may enter the marriage bed with me.  There is a second condition too: he must lure King Svein here so that you will have him in your power.'”

“Then Burisleif made this clear to Sigvaldi, who was nevertheless bent on marrying Astrid.  The upshot was that he accepted the conditions, and they made a binding agreement about it.  He was to fulfill the conditions before the first days of Yule or the agreement would be null and void.”

Book 17

Sigvaldi Captures King Svein

[The book first tells how Sigvaldi, pretending to be sick, kidnaps King Svein of Denmark and brings him to Jomsborg where, nevertheless, the vikings throw a feast for the king]

“Afterwards, Sigvaldi told King Svein that he had asked, on his behalf for the hand of that daughter of King Burisleif whose name was Gunnhild and who was the most beautiful: ‘and to me he has betrothed her sister, Astrid.  Now I shall journey to him to carry through this business for you.'”

“The king asked him to do so.  Thereupon Sigvaldi set out with one hundred and twenty of his men and had a conference with King Burisleif.  Sigvaldi pointed out that now he had fulfilled the conditions for marrying Astrid.  And the king and he laid their plans together, whereupon Sigvaldi returned to Jomsborg.”

“King Svein asked how his suit was progressing.  Sigvaldi said that it depended altogether on King Svein himself: ‘whether you, Sir King, will remit all of King Burisleif‘s tribute to you – then he will give you the hand of his daughter.  Besides, it would be more fitting to your honor and his if the king whose daughter you marry does not have to pay you tribute.'”

“And so persuasive was Sigvaldi in his representations that the king was willing to accept this condition.  The day for the marriage feast was agreed ohm and both weddings were to be  in the same day.  King Sveinthen proceeded to the feast, followed by all the Jomsvikings, and it was so splendid that no one remembered a more glorious one ever celebrated in Wendland.”

“The first evening, both brides wore their head coverings low over their faces; but the morning after, both brides were gay and had their faces uncovered.  And now King Svein examined their countenances, for he had seen neither one before.  Sigvaldi had said that Gunnhild was the more beautiful; but it did not seem so to the king,a nd he realized that Sigvaldi had not told him the truth.  And now he grasped Sigvaldi’s designs.  However, he made the best of a bad bargain.  And when the feast came to an need the king sailed home with his bride, and had with him thirty ships and a great host of men and many valuable gifts.  Sigvaldi journeyed to Jomsborg with his bride, and the Jomsvikings with him.”


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November 15, 2015

On Tryglav in Brandenburg

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We have previously made reference to a Leibniz’ edition of Scriptores Rerum Brunsvicensium, a book that is a compilation of various documents of out of the Duchy of Brunswick.  There we discussed the mention in volume I of the same of the Polabian Gods Hammon, Swentebuek, Vitelubbe  and Radegast.  Well, Hammon, is a questionable one even though mentioned there.


In any event, the same compilation also mentions – in volume II – the Pomeranian three-headed God Tryglav as part of the Fragmentum genealogiae ducum Brunsvicensium et Luneburgensium (that is, the genealogical fragments regarding the dukes of Brunswick and Luneburg).  Here, however, he is mentioned as a God worshipped in Brandenburg.  We now include that other reference here with a translation, of course.


Huius temporibus fuit in Brandenburg rex Henricus, qui Slavice dicebatur Pribezlaus, qui Christianus factus, Idolum, quod in Brandenburgh fuit, cum tribus capitibus, quod Tryglav Slavice dicebatur, et pro Deo colebatur, et alia Idola destruxit, et idololatriam et ritum gentis sue detestans, cum filium non haberet, Adelbertum Marchionem, dictum Ursum, haeredem sui instituit principatus.

“At this time, there was in Brandenburg King Henry, whom the Slavs called Pribislav, who became a Christian and he destroyed the idol that had three heads and was worshipped as a God in Brandenburg and that the Slavs called Tryglav and other idols and idolatries and rites among his peoples that he detested; when he did not have a son, Albert called the Bear inherited [the March of  Brandenburg].”  

Pribislav was the last Slavic duke of the Hevelian Wends.  Henry was likely his baptismal name.  Without an heir he gave the Brandenburg area to his son-in-law in 1129.  That son-in-law’s father was Albert the Bear who subsequently took over the area after Pribislav/Henry died in 1150.


The same story appears in Tractatus de urbe Brandenburg and in the Brandenburg Chronicle.  These mention the three headed god but not his name.  Whether it be true that the Saxons too worshipped Tryglav, whether the Polish duke Iaszon/Jaczon/Jacze has anything to do with Jassa and who the Zucham were we leave to the readers.


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September 6, 2015

Pomeranian Gods Part III – Ottonis Vita Second Tour (Conclusion)

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With this post we conclude the Life of Otto (for part I see here, for part II see here).

Ebbo IX

[Temples at Gutzkow]

“The Apostle of Pomerania, after spending the following week in spreading the knowledge of the faith and in handing on baptismal grace in this town, appointed over its inhabitants the devout priest John. He then made for another town called Chozegow [Gutzkow], which contained temples of great beauty and marvellous design, in the building of which the citizens of this town had spent three hundred talents.”


Notice the chopper landing pad – recently installed for traveling priests of Triglav

“They offered our blessed father a very large sum of money if he would refrain from destroying them and would keep them whole and uninjured as an ornament to the place. This the man of God altogether refused to do, as he declared that he could by no means agree to preserve these sacrilegious buildings which after his departure would give rise to apostasy and be the cause of ruin to those who were weak. He said that he would not become responsible in the sight of God for this offense.”

Herbordus VII

[Temples at Gutzkow – Herbordus version]

“He then bade good bye to all the people (at Hologost), and having with much affection committed them to the Almighty God, he turned towards Gozgaugia [Gutzkow]. In this town was a temple of great size and beauty.  When the bishop spoke to its inhabitants concerning the Christian faith through an interpreter for the Duke had already left him on his own business they declared that they were prepared for anything if only their temple might remain intact, for it had been recently built at great expense, and they were very proud of it because it appeared to be an ornament to the whole town. They made attempts secretly and sent some men to try to soften the disposition of the bishop by gifts in the hope that the building might be preserved. Finally they asked that it might be altered and used as a church.”


Otto did not see the value of keeping primitive pagan temples around

“But the bishop consistently maintained that it was unfitting that a building that had been erected and called by the name of a demon, and that had been profaned by indecent rites, should be transferred to the service of God: ‘For what concord has Christ with Belial?’* or ‘what hath the temple of God in common with an idol temple?’  He spake also a parable unto them,  ‘Do you sow your wheat on top of brambles and thorns?  I think not.  If then you root up the thorns and thistles from your fields in order that, when good seed has been sown, they may bring forth the wished-for crops, so is it right that this root of idolatry be utterly destroyed from among you in order that from the good seed of the gospel your hearts may bear fruit unto eternal life.’  With these and other similar words he continued day after day, in season and out of season, to entreat, denounce and accuse, till at length he so far influenced the minds of the pagans that they themselves with their own hands demolished the images and broke up this accursed building, concerning which the discussion had arisen.

* note: this does not mean that Slavs worshipped Belial (whether or not that is the same deity as Baal) – Otto’s exclamation is a quote from 2 Corinthians 6:15. 

Ebbo X

[The Guetzkow Gods Turn the Other Cheek]

“At the very time that he was destroying these shrines of marvellous workmanship in the town of Chozegow [Guetzkow] certain honourable messengers from Duke Adalbert arrived, who carefully examined his condition, and at the same time there came messengers from his own farms at Muecheln and Schidingen, who brought him the supplies that had been promised. When they perceived the grace of God and saw that the Church there was growing and becoming strong they were filled with great joy and with the consolation of the Holy Spirit.  And indeed it was a joyous sight when images of great size and marvellously sculptured, covered too with most beautiful designs, which many yoke of oxen could hardly move, had their hands and feet cut off, their eyes dug out and their nostrils mutilated, and were drawn down to a certain bridge to be burnt with fire, while the supporters of the idols stood by and with loud ejaculations exclaimed that help should be given to their gods and that the wicked subverters of their country should be cast down from the bridge and drowned.  Others who were of wise counsel protested that if these were indeed gods they should be able to defend themselves; inasmuch as they kept silence and could not even move out of their place except when drawn, it was clear that they altogether lacked feeling and actual life.


Disappointed with the locals’ constant excuses, Otto decided to take matters into his own hands

The idol priests, however, endeavoured to stir up discord in order to secure their own gain. For, as we read in the prophet Daniel, dishes of food and drink of every kind and in great abundance were placed in front of these large projecting images, all of which the priests and their friends declared were consumed by the gods, though they had themselves secretly entered and taken them away.”

Ebbo XI

[The Attack of the Giant Flies and How They Fled to Rugia]

“But we must not omit to relate the miracle which was manifested while these shrines were being destroyed.  For, all of a sudden, whilst many people were standing by, flies of unusual size, such as were never before seen in that land, rushed from the ruins of the idols in such vast numbers that they darkened the whole of the district round the city and seemed to obscure the daylight by a hideous darkness, and, as by their fierce onslaught they distressed the eyes and lips of all, they caused to those who saw them no small horror.  When, however, they were driven away by violent slaps of the hand, they kept coming on with no less insistence, till at length as the believers sung aloud the praises of God and carried round the standard of the Cross, a detestable monster fled out of the open doors and with utmost speed made for the country of the barbarians who are called Ruthenians [he means Rugians].”


The giant flies were powerless to stop the ardent faith of Otto and his acolytes

“In the opinion of all who were wise this portent clearly presaged the expulsion of the devils, of which Beelzebub, that is the man of flies, was chief, for these devils could not endure the grace of Christ which was brought by these new teachers, and when they were denied any resting place in these parts, they went to the Ruthenians [Rugians] who were still ensnared in pagan error.”

Ebbo XII

[Of Mizlaus, the Chief of Guetzkow]

When then the idol shrine had been destroyed and the people had been gathered into the bosom of Mother Church by the washing of regeneration, the holy preacher began to build a new church for Christ.  There came to its dedication the chief of this place called Mizlaus, who, at the conference that was held at Pentecost in Uznoim [Uznam], had with other chiefs received the grace of baptism, and to them the good bishop spoke through his interpreter Adalbert, who afterwards became a bishop.”

[there follows an account of Otto freeing Christian captives and Mizlaus trying to negotiate for one particularly valuable Danish hostage; then Otto prevents the invasion of Pomerania by the Poles of Boleslav III and mediates their peace treaty; after that it’s back to the business at hand]

Ebbo XV 

[Onto Stettin/Szczecin]

“The apostle of the Pomeranians, who wisely considered that the will of God was hereby revealed, but who judged the Ucranians [people on the River Ukra/Uker] unworthy to hear the word of salvation, directed his journey to the people of Szczecin/Stettin who, as we have already said, had apostatized from the faith, although many who were faithful to Christ and were his friends would have recalled him from this attempt.  For the idol priests had stirred up all the apostate people to seek with one accord his death.”


The idol priests were stirring up the apostates

He himself being eager for martyrdom and perceiving that none of his companions would venture to undertake this task, gathered together on a certain day his episcopal clothes, and placing them on his neck started on the journey alone, and seeing a boat that happened to be passing he paid his passage money and went on board with all speed.”


Otto just wanted to bring love

“When, in accordance with the divine will, Udalricus discovered what had happened, he immediately told his companions, who followed him with quick steps, the first being Adalbert the interpreter, who caught him up and compelled him to return, though he was unwilling and strove to resist. He groaned deeply, and bitterly deplored his capture, and said that he deserved now to have companions from amongst his attendants on this dangerous journey, whilst they, having regard to his great zeal, thought that it was wrong to recall him or to leave him unattended.”


Extraordinarily alert and singularly vigilant, the Szczecin sentries immediately spotted Otto’s group

“…Accordingly they embarked in a boat, and when they had come near to the town of Stettin/Szczecin those on the look out recognized the bishop and, having scanned him carefully, raised a great disturbance and cried out to the citizens that the former teacher of error had come, and that they ought to attack him with swords and clubs and treat him with indignity in order to vindicate the honour of their gods. When the servant of God had learned this through his interpreter, being fearless and armed with the ardour of his faith, he raised the standard of the cross, and having made himself ready by putting on his bishop’s dress contemplated going forth to meet them.  He first of all entered the church of the chief of the apostles, which he had built in front of the gate of this city, and offered to Christ the worship that was His due, and then awaited the onset of the barbarians and the completion of his life in Christ.  After a little while the people burst forth from the gates with a tumultuous noise, but when they beheld the servants of Christ singing the praises of God, they hesitated much and long and conferred amongst themselves as to what they should do, and at length, by God’s help, they were overcome with fear and retreated in confusion [and returned to the city] by the way by which they had come…”

Herbordus XIV

[Szczecinians Decide What to Do]

“And they began to be more kindly disposed and they said that reason rather than force was needed to decide whether these things should be accepted or rejected.  Then some who were wiser than the rest in reference to these matters secretly gathered together the priests, saying that it belonged to them to defend their own religion by suitable arguments.  Whilst they muttered these things among themselves they gradually departed one by one to their own homes. This happened on a Friday.”

Herbordus XVI

[And the Solution Is… Dvoeverie!] 

“The wicked priests, when in a certain year men and beasts suffered illness and death owing to the changes in the temperature, declared that this calamity was sent by the gods, and, with the consent of the people, they had broken down the bells and had begun to destroy the church of the blessed martyr Adalbert.  Whilst one of them was striking the altar with a mason’s hammer, he was suddenly struck by the Lord with languor and stupor, and as his hammer fell from his hand he too fell to the ground.”


The priest’s hammer failed in front of the altar of Saint Adalbert

“When, after a long space, he had recovered his breath, he addressed the people who were standing by as one whose character had been reformed by the blow that had befallen him, and said, ‘It is in vain, O citizens, that we strive; the God of the Christians is strong and cannot be driven away by us. My advice is that we keep Him, but at the same time that we do not part with our ancient gods and that we build an altar for our gods next to His altar, so that by worshipping them all alike we may secure that He and they are equally propitious to us.’  What were the people to do? Terrified, as they were, by the portent, they approved the advice given them and, having impiously built an altar next to the altar of the Lord, they served God and devils even as the ancient historian says, ‘The people of Samaria worshipped the gods of the nations, but none the less served the Lord.'”

[this passage is basically Ebbo I as above]

Ebbo XV

[On the Pyramids of Szczecin]

“As the Sunday dawned in the early morning after the service of the Mass had been completed, Otto, the servant of God, having put on his episcopal headdress and with the standard of the cross borne in front of him, went forth to the multitude of the people in order to preach to them. He took with him Udalricus, who wore a dalmatic, as a deacon, and Adalbert who served as a subdeacon and others to assist in preaching.”


The three aspects of Triglav departing in their pyramids by Otto’s command

“There were there some large pyramids surrounded by walls to a considerable height in pagan fashion. The good preacher ascended one of these pyramids with his companions, and through his interpreter Adalbert began to explain the way of truth to those who had gone wrong and to threaten them with eternal destruction if they did not turn from their apostasy.”

Ebbo XVI

[Wherein Otto Continues to Seek Martyrdom and, Again, Fails]

“As he was engaged in preaching the chief idol priest came running breathless and perspiring, and creeping in amongst the closely pressed crowd he struck the pyramid and with a great shout ordered the servant of God to be silent. He and his companions on the previous night had planned to effect the death of the bishop at the earliest dawn of Sunday, but by God’s providence he had been overcome with deep sleep and had been prevented from carrying out his purpose.  When he awoke, at the second hour of the day, and heard that the man of God was already preaching in an open assembly, he was extremely angry, and rushing thither ordered him to be silent. The servant of the Lord, however, continued stedfastly to carry out the work which he had begun. The idol priest endeavoured to restrain by his noisy and high-pitched shouts the gentle voice of Adalbert, the interpreter, and with a strong voice ordered the barbarians to transfix forthwith Christ’s preacher with the spears which, in accordance with the old custom of the Roman Quirites, they always carried.  When they were about to obey his commands and had raised their right hands aloft in order to strike him, influenced by divine power, they became stiff like stones, so that they could neither put down their spears nor open their mouths, but their hands remained suspended and immovable and seemed as though they were chained.”


The barbarians became instantly frozen

“When the unfortunate idol priest saw this, he was inflamed with anger and began to charge them with cowardice, and seizing a spear from one of them, he tried to transfix Christ’s servant. He too immediately became rigid, and overcome with shame turned to flee. When he was gone Otto made the sign of the cross and invoked a blessing upon the people, who, being forthwith released from their bonds, put down their right hands which held the arrows; whereupon the bishop gave thanks to God for this manifest miracle and entered the town with confidence; and when he saw that the central part of the church of St. Adalbert had been destroyed, he wept bitterly and, kneeling together with his companions, engaged in long and earnest prayer.  Meanwhile the barbarians, armed with swords and clubs, had gathered together and had surrounded the cloor of the church, seeking to kill God’s servants, but as a result of divine influence, they were suddenly overcome with trembling and turned to flee. Then the chief, Witscacus, who had once been delivered by Otto from his captivity with the Danes, intervened together with other friends of the bishop and begged him by any possible way to leave the city before he met his death by the treachery of the priests. The saintly bishop refused, saying, ‘It is for this purpose that I have come.'”

Herbordus XVIII

[Wherein Otto Continues to Seek Martyrdom and, Again, Fails – Herbordus Version]

“When all had become silent and most of them were eager to hear his discourse, one of the priests who was a man of Belial [again, author means Baal but this is obviously interpretatio Mesopotamica], and was passionate, fat and tall, rushed into the midst of the crowd, and brandishing his spear in his hand, advanced panting and gasping as far as the steps, and, raising his hand once and again, struck the top of the steps with preat violence. When a great clamour had arisen and o o strange words of abuse had been uttered, he demanded silence while he spoke, and his loud and raucous voice drowned the speech of the interpreter and of the bishop. Addressing the people he said, ‘O senseless, foolish and indolent people, why are ye deceived and bewitched?  Behold, your enemy and the enemy of your gods is here. For what do ye wait? Are they to suffer derision and injury for nothing?’  While all the people were advancing with spears in their hands, he said, ‘Let this day put an end to all his deception.’  Addressing them all, he spoke also to those individuals of whose evil disposition he was assured, calling them by their own names. Those who were inflamed with a spirit of madness and who were accustomed to act with rashness rather than with discretion, roused by the voice of the speaker, began to raise their spears, but while they were brandishing them in readiness to throw them, their limbs became rigid in the very act of throwing them, and, marvellous to relate, they were unable to throw their spears, to relax their right arms, or to move out of their places. They stood immovable, as images, a spectacle to the faithful and the pious. As many as were unbelieving and evil disposed and had fallen away from the Christian faith, and, continuing in their persistent folly in unbelief, had raised impious hands against God’s servant, stood suffering this punishment until the good had been strengthened in their faith, and in the case of the others by the punishment inflicted on their bodies the wickedness of their hearts had been corrected. The bishop, making use of the opportunity afforded by the miracle, said, ‘Ye see, my brothers, how great is the power of the Lord.  It is indeed, as I perceive, by divine power that you are held fast. Why do you not throw your spears?  Why not put down your right hands?  Why continue so long in one position?’ They however, whether through confusion or astonishment, made no reply. Then he continued, ‘Let your gods for whose religion ye contend help you if they can. Let this noisy priest of yours call upon the gods on your behalf, let him give you counsel or assistance. If he knows anything or can do anything, now is the time for action.’  The priest, however, stood amazed at the course which the events had taken and did not venture to mutter anything more. And when all were silent and held by a great fear, the bishop being moved with pity said, ‘thanks be to Thee, O Lord, Jesus Christ, who are wont to exercise Thy power and strength, when occasion arises, to terrify those who oppose and to protect Thy servants.  But, inasmuch as Thou art holy and compassionate, we pray that Thou wilt pardon the ignorance, or the temerity, of this people, and that with Thine accustomed pity Thou wilt restore to these the use of their bodies, of which by Thy restraining power they have been deprived.'”


Otto welcomed a chance at martyrdom: “It is for this purpose that I have come.”

“When he had said this and had made the sign of the cross towards them, his speech produced an immediate effect. The bishop added also, ‘If hitherto you have been unwilling to listen, prove now by touch and feeling how great is the compassion of our God and how true is the faith which we declare unto you.’  He argued at length and with great force concerning the judgment and compassion of God and the uncertainty of this present life and the continuance of things that are eternal, and he instructed the sinners in Zion who were afraid, and when they had been overcome by the saving medicine of his eloquence, he gave them his blessing and dismissed the assembly. Descending then from the steps he visited, with the faithful believers who were zealous on behalf of God’s house,  the Church of St. Adalbert and, having first offered a solemn prayer, he destroyed the altar of abomination and, having broken it into small pieces, cast it out. Having then performed a service of cleansing and reconciliation he caused the broken parts of the church to be restored at his own expense.”

Ebbo XVI

[Democracy In Action]

“After fourteen days a general Conference was announced, at which the priests and people might arrive at a definite decision either to take upon them the yoke of Christ or to abjure it altogether.  On the appointed day the bishop ascended the hill of Triglav in the middle of the town where was the Duke’s dwelling place, and entered his large house which was a convenient place for this Conference. The chiefs together with the priests were present, and when silence was made the man of God said, ” The day that was fixed for our meeting has now come, and I, who eagerly desire your salvation, wish to hear from your own mouths whether you have decided to serve my Lord Jesus Christ, who is the true light, or the devil, who is the prince of darkness.” One of the priests answered, ‘It was not right that this Conference should have been delayed so long, inasmuch as in former time and now and always it is our determination to worship the gods of our fathers; do not therefore labour to no purpose, for thy speech has no place amongst us.'”


Otto addressed the conference explaining that from now all will be well

“On hearing this the man of God said, ‘I perceive that Satan has destroyed your vision so that you cannot behold the true light. I am innocent of the blood of all of you, for I have not shunned to declare unto you the word of God in season and out of season.  But as you have cast away the yoke of my Lord Jesus Christ, I commit you to the power of Satan whom ye have chosen, so that, being delivered over with him to eternal destruction, you may possess that heritage where the worm clieth not and the fire is not quenched.’  Rising then from his place he took up his spiritual arms and placed his stole on his neck in order that he might bind them by his solemn curse.  When the chiefs saw this they were seized with timely fear, and prostrated themselves at his feet humbly, entreating him to suspend his curse, and to allow them a brief space of time in which to confer.  The good bishop at once agreed, and placing aside his stole he sat down. The chiefs then went out of the house, leaving the priests behind, and with one accord they abjured the uncleanness of their idolatry and accepted the faith of Christ.  First of all Witscacus, who was the man of chief rank amongst them, went in to the servant of God and delivered this opinion on behalf of them all. ‘Honourable father, I, together with the chiefs who rule this place, being inspired by God, have by a unanimous vote agreed that we banish to a distance from our lands these sacrilegious priests who have incited us to all evil, and that with ready mind we follow you as our leader and teacher on the way that leads to eternal salvation.'”


Exclusion from the pride was the lot of the local priest

“Then he turned to the priest who had spoken before and said, ‘Wretched and miserable man, what help did your gods render to me when I was closely fettered and guarded, and was already awaiting sentence of death, my companions having been cruelly strangled, and when I distinctly saw Otto, my lord and father, freeing me from my fetters and restoring me to the liberty for which I longed ? Is it not better for me to serve the living and true God who was my liberator, than to serve logs and stones which have neither life nor feeling? Go then with your companions whither you will, and beware that you appear no more in our territory, for inasmuch as our Lord Jesus Christ is King over us, there is no room for you and your idols in these parts.’ When they heard this all the idol priests rose up without delay and fled with haste, and none of them was afterwards seen in that place. The bishop thereupon rendered cordial thanks to God, and he and his companions began at once to destroy the idol temples.”

[elsewhere in the Vita it is told that Witscacus had been captured by the Danes and was able to escape after he saw Otto in a vision]


[The Nut at the Nut Tree] 

“There was a certain shrine situated at a distance to which the bishop had sent his faithful and beloved friend, the good priest Udalricus, in order that he might destroy it.  There were, however, a few persons who supported the worship of idols, and, when they saw him from the wall as he was coming thither, they tried to break his head by throwing stones and pieces of wood. By the help of God he avoided these and was uninjured, and returning to his father Otto he told him of their plots.  The man of God immediately raised the standard of the cross and binding on his episcopal headdress he proceeded without hesitation to undertake this perilous adventure.  The barbarians would not endure his presence and dispersed hither and thither, seeking to conceal themselves by flight.   When the shrine had been destroyed, and the man of God was returning he found a very large nut tree which was consecrated to the idol together with a fountain the water of which flowed beneath.”  


The bishop ordered the tree to be immediately chopped down

“He at once ordered his companions to cut it down, whereupon the people of Szczecin/Stettin came out and earnestly begged that it should not be cut down because the indigent man who was its guardian obtained his poor subsistence from its fruit.  They declared also with an oat. that by a general edict they would for ever prohibit the sacrifices which had been there offered to demons. The good teacher, influenced by the justice of their reasonings, acceded to this request.  While they were engaged in mutual discussion the barbarian who was the guardian of the tree suddenly came up and, approaching secretly from behind, struck a violent blow with an axe at the sacred head of the bishop. By divine providence he missed his aim and struck the axe with such force into the wooden floor of the bridge on which the bishop was standing that the difficulty of drawing it out again caused delay to the assailant.”

Ebbo XIX

[The Magnanimity of Otto]

“When the interpeter, Adalbert, saw this he was struck by so great a fear that he quickly snatched the axe from the hands of the barbarian and ran off. The others, overcome by unaccustomed horror, attacked the sacrilegious man and threatened him with death. The pious Otto, however, interfered to prevent the murderer from suffering any harm and procured for him, unworthy as he was, life and safety…”

Ebbo XX

[More Idol Priests and More Snares]

“When the inhabitants of Stettin/Szczecin had been confirmed in the faith and teaching of the Lord and the man of God was arranging to return to Uznoim/Uznam, the citizens of the town came to him and begged that by his intervention he would put an end to the dispute which at the instigation of the devil had broken out between them and the Duke Wortizlaus.  Whereupon he said, ‘I will do as you wish, but I desire that you should send messengers of honourable rank with me to bring back to you the terms of peace and, if the Duke has any just cause of complaint, to explain the points that may be raised.’  The people of Szczecin/Stettin immediately appointed messengers to accompany their good pastor, who also served as a guard to the bishop on the journey.  For two idol priests had laid snares in order to secure the death of the man of God, and had sent on secretly eighty-four soldiers to find and kill him on his return journey and to bring back to them his head fixed on a post.  But against the Lord is there no wisdom, no fortitude, no counsel.  For the holy Otto, being protected by divine providence, came forth unharmed, whilst the unbelievers fell into the snare and pit which they had prepared.”


The idol priests felt that “you don’t just turn it off”

“For in the absence of the good bishop the chief idol priest called together his friends and with exceeding joy bade them keep this day as a festival day for their gods, and he said, ” Our god whom that old deceiver has attempted to destroy has appeared to me, and has clearly announced that Otto’s head is to be cut off today, and sent to me today.” When he had given vent to this wild utterence with laughing voice, his neck was suddenly shattered by the devil and his head was bent back crosswise, in a horrible and pitiable manner, and his brain coming out of its place was dashed against the wall with a cruel impact. When his friends saw this they were struck with amazement and inquired of him the cause of this strange calamity. He cried out with a dreadful voice and at length exclaimed, ” It is because I have tried to ensnare the servant of God, and to separate you from the way of truth, that I have been terribly afflicted by God.” Having said this he expired and the place was thereupon filled with so dreadful an odour that as he was dying no one could stand there on account of the unbearable smell.  And as it is written, ‘When a pestilent man is punished the wise man will become wiser,’ so all the people, when they heard of his death, were more and more encouraged to persevere in the faith.  There was, however, one other idol priest who was not overcome with remorse, but began an altercation with the man of God and declared that his teaching would soon be done away with in those parts.  He endeavoured also to draw away from the true path all whom he could influence, and as a result he also perished soon afterwards by the judgment of God. For whilst for some urgent reason he was crossing the sea in a boat, he left the boat for a short time in order to retire to a neighbouring wood.  By divine providence it came about that some of his companions, armed with righteous zeal, followed him secretly, and when they had caught him in a cruel snare they hung him up in a closely wooded place. So his grief and his iniquity descended on his own head.   When then the eighty-four soldiers who, as we have said, had been sent on by that wicked idol priest had seen the man of God as he was sailing, they burst forth from their hiding place and demanded of him in a loud voice whither he was going.  The messengers from Szczecin/Stettin asked in return why they made this inquiry, but the others, recognizing the voices of their own friends and citizens, stopped and said that they had been unaware of their presence there.  They replied, ” The Lord’s bishop is going to put a stop to the discord that has long existed between us and the Duke, and for this reason we will not suffer any harm to molest him on his journey, but are prepared to suffer death on his behalf. If therefore you desire to consult your own interests, return as quickly as possible by the way by which you came.”

Herbordus XXIV

[Wicked Priests, Their Assassins and the Sea Battle with Otto]   

“The wicked priests, however, who were inspired by devils, as they could not act openly, tried to injure God’s servant by craft.  They accordingly brought together a great number of assassins, and invested the route by which he was leaving at the narrowest part where the ship would pass, having foretold, as though by divination, the death of the bishop to his friends, who were unaware of what was being done.  When they came to the spot the enemy seized their arms, laid hold on those who were climbing the ropes and attacked those who were sailing the boat, desiring above everything the bishop’s blood.”


Ignoring his own safety, Otto rushed to protect his companions

“But the people of Szczecin/Stettin and our men who were with the bishop seized their arms and jumped from the boat, and standing some on the land and some in the water bravely repelled force by force. When the fight had gone on for some time, those who had taken part in the ambuscade began to be recognized by the people of Szczecin/Stettin and fled in confusion from the scene of their crime.”

Ebbo XXI

[Otto Returns to Wolin]

“Thus, by divine providence, was the wicked design of the idol priest frustrated, whilst the servant of God drew near to the town of Julin [Wolin] which had formerly been initiated by him into the sacraments of the faith.”

Herbordus XXV

[Otto Returns to Wolin – Herbordus Version]

“When, by the help of God, the bishop arrived at Julin [Wolin] he met there with no opposition. For the people bore with patience all his remonstrances in reference to their apostasy, and other offences, and were ready to purge and improve their unworthy and evil actions and to amend their conduct in accordance with his teaching.”


[On the Rugians’ War on Pomerania]

“[T]he Ruthenians [Rugians], who were still bound in heathen error, when they heard of the conversion of the people of Stettin/Szczecinwere exceedingly angry because they had renounced their idols and submitted to the Christian law without reference to, or consultation with them, and they feared not to make war upon them.  When they had brought together their large army they occupied the river banks and stationed there one line of their men, who were equipped with noise-producing arms and who, with meaningless clamour, sought to find out where their God was and if he was able to succour those who called upon him.  The others, however, carried in front of them the standard of the Lord’s cross and put their opponents to flight at their first onslaught. On the following day they came back like dogs and again threatened war upon the Christians, but they were overcome in the same way and thrown into confusion and again turned to flight. On the third day, having been well nigh exterminated, they exclaimed that the God of the Christians was unconquerable, and that if He would spare them they would never again attempt any rash action. The Christians forbore and they speedily dispersed and returned one by one with great fear and confusion to their own homes. But the bishop, who thought it right to return good for evil, desired to teach the Christian laws to these Ruthenians, who had not feared to harass by war a newly converted people. They, however, hardened themselves against him and on several occasions declared by their messengers that if any of his companions should presume to approach the borders of Ruthenia (Rugia), for the sake of preaching the gospel, their heads would be cut off forthwith and they should be exposed to be torn by wild beasts.”


[On the Rugians & the Danish Archbishop – Herbordus Version]

“This people (the Ruthenians [Rugians]), although on many occasions they were invited by different preachers to accept the faith, were never willing to do so as a body, but, whilst some believed, others did not believe. For the most part they lived according to pagan rites, and by choking like thorns the seeds of faith they did not suffer them to develop. Ruthenia is adjacent to the country of the Danes, and ought to be subject to the Danish archbishop. But when a people is engaged in spreading the catholic faith it is unnecessary for priests to quarrel over parish boundaries. As their hatred gradually increased the Ruthenians began to offer open opposition to the people of Stettin/Szczecin. First of all they kept their ships from their own shores, and later on by a unanimous decision they resolved that they should be regarded as enemies, and, as they had heard that Bishop Otto was to come to them for the purpose of preaching, they commanded him that he should never approach their territory. For, they said that he would find  with them nothing but bitter punishment and certain death. When Otto received this message he silently rejoiced and prepared himself for martyrdom, and he thought out and arranged everything and debated anxiously with himself whether he ought to go alone or accompanied by others to this feast.  Now there were at Julin [Wolin] amongst the followers of the bishop some good and prudent men from Stettin/Szczecin who knew the several districts and the customs of this race.  The bishop questioned these for some time, as he desired to learn whether they would be willing to conduct him thither.  They, however, told him much concerning the origin of the Ruthenian race, the fierceness of their dispositions, the instability of their faith, and their bestial conversation: they told him also that they ought to be subject to the Danish archbishop.  The bishop trusted that their conversion, if it could be secured, would be pleasing to the archbishop, and at the same time he considered that it was fitting that he should obtain his licence and permission before going to preach in his jurisdiction. Accordingly he sent from where he was the venerable priest Iwanus and some other messengers in a boat with letters and gifts to ask for his permission to preach.”


Furious at the Pomeranians’ conversion, the Rugians immediately put to sea to straighten things out

“The archbishop received them with the greatest joy and respect and treated them with the utmost kindness, asking them many questions concerning the position, the teaching and the work of the blessed Otto.  He was a good and honest man and loved to hear of things that were good: he was also learned and devout, though externally he possessed the rustic manners of the Slavonians [this is a Dane].  For it was the case with all the men of that country that, whilst living in prosperity and wealth, they seemed harsh, uncultivated and rustic. Their towns and camps had no walls or towers and were defended with woodwork and ditches. The churches too and the houses of the chief men were humble and poorly designed. The men’s pursuits were hunting, fishing, or the tending of cattle, and their whole wealth consisted of these last, for there was but little cultivation of the fields. In regard to food and dress they were by no means luxurious or elegant. Even our middle-class people were ostentatious when compared with them, and the priest Iwanus appeared to be a more important person than the archbishop himself.  And as he was a man of good speech and answered all inquiries in a careful  manner, he pleased the archbishop much, and he could not hear enough concerning Otto. For he had been known to him by report for many years and he was now glad and proud that he had present with him the worthy and distinguished messengers of the bishop, whose great and noble deeds he had heard spoken of in all directions.  Regarding the message sent to him he said that he could make no reply till, after a certain delay, he had consulted the chiefs and principal men amongst the Danes.  Iwanus and the messengers, thinking that this would occupy a long time, asked that they might be sent away, as they feared that the bishop might be distressed at their delay.  He very kindly agreed and he sent to the bishop letters, gifts and a fairly large boat filled with butter as a sign of affection and friendship, and said that he would consult with the chiefs as quickly as possible, and send a reply by his own messengers to his statement.  Whether he spoke falsely or candidly we did not discover, for, whilst we were spending several days awaiting his messengers, additional messengers from the district of Alamania and from the house at Bamberg arrived, who desired the return of the bishop [Otto] for great and urgent reasons.”

[Of course, it was the Danes that, in the end converted the people of Rugia.  For more on that see here]

Herbordus XXXI

[On the Rugians’ War on Pomerania – Herbordus Version]

“On many occasions the Ruthenians [Rugians] had reviled the men of Stettin/Szczecin and had assailed their territory with armed ships.  After they had been once again repulsed and would not abandon their attacks, the men of Stettin/Szczecin began with one accord to arm themselves and to meet those who came against them with united forces.  Why say more?  The Ruthenians were scattered with so great a slaughter and so many of them were taken away as slaves that those who were able to escape made no further attack upon the victors.  The men of Stettin/Szczecin, elated by this victory, rendered honour to the Lord Jesus Christ and to His servant Otto.  They no longer feared the Ruthenians, but having taken them as captives they forced upon them a humiliating and unworthy compact.”

Shaettner Rickover & Borg Corporation – Copyright ©2015, All Rights Reserved

July 31, 2015

Pomeranian Gods Part II – Ottonis Vita Second Tour (Intro)

Published Post author

We have discussed Pomeranian Gods and the first mission (in 1124) of Otto of Bamberg here.  As previously indicated, the Pomeranians relapsed into paganism relatively quickly after his departure.  Consequently, as the idol priests were scheming their perfidies anew and trouble brewed on the horizon, Otto was needed once more.

Here is the story of a super force of Christian Crusaders determined to stamp out Slavic Gods once and for all.  Here is the story of Gerovit and Triglav.  Here is Otto’s 1128 Second Tour in the Lands of Pomerania.  As these passages are long, we present these as a two part series (i.e., the Life of Otto will have three parts).  Here is Part 2 of 3.

(It comes from Book III of the  Life of Otto.  The First Tour was previously described in Book II).

Ebbo I

[It’s Baaaaack! (And Pagan-er Than Ever!)]

“After our holy father Otto had come again in peace to his own place, on the completion of his first apostleship to the Pomeranian people, two of the best known towns, Julin [Wolin] and Stettin/Szczecin, moved by the envy of the devil, returned to their former sordid idolatry under the following circumstances.”

Ebbo I

[On the Lapse of Julin] 

“Julin, which had been founded by Julius Caesar and called after him, and in which his spear was kept, fixed on a column of great size in order to preserve his memory, was accustomed to hold a festival in honour of a certain idol at the beginning of the year, which was accompanied by dancing.”


The moment Otto left, the High Priest of Triglav ordered mandatory dancing rites to resume

[Vita Pruef. (II. 6) states that Otto offered fifty talents of silver for this lance in order to prevent the inhabitants from continuing to worship it.]

“When the town had been cleansed by the word of faith and the washing of baptism, and the people, moved by the holy bishop, began to burn the larger and smaller idols that were
in the open air, certain persons carried off secretly some small images adorned with gold and silver, little knowing how they were bringing about the destruction of their town, even as the unhappy Achan, when the city of Jericho was overthrown, stole a bar of gold weighing fifty shekels and a scarlet robe and two hundred shekels of silver, and as a result witnessed the punishment inflicted by the divine anger, and the loss that befel the Jewish people.  For when the people of the province had assembled with their accustomed eagerness to celebrate the idol festival to which I have referred, and were playing and feasting together with great pomp,
these men brought forth to the people, who had been weakened by their vain pleasures, the idols that they had before carried off, and invited them to resume their pagan rites.”


Pagan rites resumed in no time

“By doing this they laid themselves open to divine reproof.  For when all the people were engaged in playing and dancing in heathen fashion the fire of God suddenly fell from heaven upon the apostate town and the whole town began to burn with such great violence that no one was able to rescue any of his property, but the people, in their desire to save their own lives, escaped by swift flight and with difficulty the raging conflagration.”


The wrath of Otto was terrible but God’s was terribler yet

“When at length the town had been destroyed by the vehemence of the fire, the inhabitants on their return found that the church of St. Adalbert, which had been built by Otto his apostle, and the middle of which had been constructed by joining boards together in consequence of the lack of stones, had been preserved from the heat of the flames.  Marvelous to relate, the sanctuary, which had been covered over in a cheaper manner, that is with reeds, and which had a linen cloth spread out  underneath in order to prevent worms from reaching the altar, had remained entirely untouched by the fire.  When the people beheld this great miracle they cried aloud and offered to God exultant praise, for they declared that beyond all doubt this was the true God, inasmuch as amidst this fierce fire, which had even injured the stones, He had been able to preserve uninjured the screen of reeds that had been spread over His own altar.”


God’s mercy was available to all though primarily to those who fled to the Christian church

“Accordingly the Christian priests were summoned, and the people openly repented and utterly abjured their idols, and having, as far as they were able, rebuilt their town, submitted with eager devotion to the yoke of Christ.  Thus the divine reproof wrought salvation in their land.”

Ebbo I

[On the Lapse of Szczecin/Stettin]

Szczecin/Stettin, their most extensive town, which was larger than Julin, included three hills in its circuit.  The middle one of these, which was also the highest, was dedicated to Triglav, the chief god of the pagans; its image had a triple head and its eyes and lips were covered with a golden diadem. The idol priests declared that their chief god had three heads because it had charge of three kingdoms, namely, heaven, earth and the lower regions, and that its face was covered with a diadem so that it might pretend not to see the faults of men, and might keep silence. When this most powerful town had been brought to the knowledge of the true God by the good bishop, the idol temples were destroyed by fire and two churches were built, one on the Triglav hill in honour of St. Adalbert [Wojciech], and the other outside the walls of the town in honour of St. Peter.”


Triglav “hill” – this one in Slovenia

“Thereafter the churches of Christ appropriated the sacrifices which were before offered with great pomp and cost to the priests and the idol shrines.  On this account the idol priests were distressed and, when they saw that the benefits resulting from their former celebrations were decreasing, they sought for an opportunity to bring the people back to the worship of idols in order to secure their own gain.  It happened, moreover, that a great mortality occurred in the town, and, when the priests were questioned by the people, they said that they had met with this calamity because they had put away their idols, and that all of them would die suddenly if they did not try to appease their ancient gods by sacrifices and the accustomed gifts. In consequence of this declaration a public assembly was forthwith held, the idol images were sought out and the profane, idolatrous observances and ceremonies were performed again by the people, and the middle portions of the Christian churches were destroyed. And when the people, in their madness, approached the sanctuary they did not dare to go farther, but thus addressed, with wild clamour the chief idol-priest, ‘Behold we have accomplished our part, it is for you, in virtue of your office, to attack and to profane the person of the German God:’ whereupon he seized an axe, but when he had brandished it aloft with his right hand, he suddenly stiffened and fell back and with a lamentable cry complained of pain. When the people ran to him and inquired of its cause he groaned deeply and said, ‘Alas, how great is the power and the strength of the German God; who can resist Him?  How have I been struck down who dared to touch His sacred dwelling.’  When the people asked with amazement what they should do, the priest said, ‘Build here a house for your god next to the dwelling of the German God, and worship Him and your gods alike, lest perchance in His anger He bring speedy and sudden destruction to this place.’  They acted in accordance with his suggestion and continued in their error until the return of the holy apostle Otto.”

[there follows the story of the miraculous return of Wirtschachus or Witscacus the prominent pirate raider]

Ebbo III

[Otto Returns & Havelberg]

“When God’s chosen bishop [i.e., Otto – in case that hasn’t been clear] heard that an enemy had sown tares on top of the good seed, he would not suffer the people of Stettin/Szczecin to serve the Lord and idols and thus to halt [i.e., be suspended] between the two sides.  Having sought the blessing of the apostolic Lord, Honorius, and that of his serene majesty Lotharius, he arranged to approach once more the territories of the barbarians, with the double object of bringing back to the bosom of the Church those that had apostatized and of subjecting to the yoke of the faith another people called Uznoim (Usedom) which had not yet heard the name of Christ…”

“His first resting place was in a building belonging to the Church of Bamberg which is called Growze…”

“During the rest of Easter week he remained in the district belonging to the Churches of Schidingen [Scheidugen] and Muchelen [Mucheln]  and was employed in collecting the necessary provisions for his journey, after which he drew near to Magdeburg, the well-known capital of Saxony, where he was honourably received by his beloved archbishop Noribert.”

“But inasmuch as honourable reputation ever tends to’ beget jealousy (in others) this archbishop, who perceived that Otto had come from so great a distance for the sake of preaching the gospel, and who was compelled by a sense of shame because, though he was placed in a town belonging to pagan peoples, he had made no attempt to preach to them, being moved by envy desired to detain the good teacher for a time. Otto, however, being fervent in spirit, could not be enticed from the carrying out of his good design, and having sought the archbishop’s blessing, set out the next day for the diocese of Habelberg, which had at that time been so completely ruined by the incursions of the heathen that there remained in it hardly any who bore the Christian name.”


Havelberg – the most wretched hive of scum and villainy on the Elbe

“On the very day of his arrival flags were placed around the town, which was engaged in celebrating a festival in honour of an idol called Gerovit. When the man of God perceived this, he was pricked to the heart on account of the great delusion of its people and refused to enter the walls of the town, but waited in front of the gate and, having summoned Wirikind, the ruler of the place, demanded of him why he permitted this idolatry to be practised.  He protested that the people had rebelled against their Archbishop Noribert because he had tried to subject them to hard servitude, and confessed that they could not be compelled to accept teaching from him, but were prepared to die rather than submit to such a burdensome servitude.  At the same time VVirikind besought the bishop that he would not refuse to explain to the people of the town their error, and said that they would listen much more eagerly to his advice than to the orders of the archbishop. Accordingly Otto stood on a lofty place in front of the gate and preached to all the people who had gathered together the saving word, and without difficulty persuaded them to abandon their sacrilegious festival.  Meanwhile they declared that if they were placed under another archbishop they would of their own free will gladly receive baptismal grace.”

Ebbo IV

[Moriz Barbarians – at Havelberg?]

“There was there a race of barbarians called Moriz.  When they had heard what the blessed bishop had to tell them, they sought of their own accord to be initiated by him into the sacraments of the faith. But he, being a prudent and wise man, directed them to go to their chief bishop Noribert, as he told them that it was unlawful for him to build on another man’s foundation, and that he had been summoned by the decree of the Pope, and by the letter of Wortizlaus the Duke of Pomerania to go to more distant races.  They, however, declared that they would not follow the Bishop of Magdeberg, inasmuch as he strove to inflict upon them a yoke of cruel servitude, but they promised that they would, with all humility, submit themselves to him, the pious servant of God, and would in all matters obey his commands. Seeing their devotion he replied very kindly that for the time being he would go to the races committed to his charge, but after the conversion of these to the faith, if they continued to desire it, with the authority and permission of the Pope and the approval of the archbishop Noribert he would readily pay them a visit.”

Ebbo V


[this describes the campaigns of the Lutici/Veleti agains the Pomeranians (and Lothar III of Germany)]

“When he came to the town of Timina he found that great preparations for war had been made and that an incursion of the inhabitants of Leuticia had occurred.  For the Leuticians, whose town together with its temple had been recently burnt by the renowned king Lotharius in his zeal for justice, were endeavouring to lay waste the town of Timina [Demmin] and to enslave its citizens. These were vigorously resisting and were seeking aid from the Duke Wortizlaus.”

“… As the servant of God drew near they found no arms in his train, but instead the standard of the cross, and presently they recognized Otto, who was well known to them by report, and, running eagerly towards him, begged him to enter within the walls of their town.”


The inhabitants quickly recognized Otto as he drew near

“He, however, refused to enter a town which had been defiled by idolatry, and remained in tents set up in front of the gate.  Meanwhile he summoned the chiefs of the people and with enticing words urged them to seek for the blessings of the Christian faith and of baptism.”

“… As soon as the light returned the Duke, with his armies, invaded the territories of the rebellious Leuticians and laid waste everything with fire and sword. Towards evening he  returned laden with many spoils, and conducted his beloved father Otto, with all due reverence, to Uznoim (Usedom), where he had a quiet interval in which to rest and preach.”

Herbordus II

[The Burning of Leuticia]

“About midday we saw that Leuticia was smoking in all directions. This showed that the army was engaged in spreading universal destruction.  Towards evening the Duke, who had accomplished his desire, returned, laden with much spoil, joyful and unharmed together with all his attendants. They divided the spoils whilst we were looking on, clothes, money, flocks and other articles of various kinds.  They also distributed amongst themselves the men whom they had captured.  There was weeping and lamentation and infinite grief when, in accordance with the method adopted for dividing them, a husband was separated from a wife and a wife from a husband, children from parents and parents from children, and were assigned to different masters.  Although all who were involved in this grief were pagans, the bishop, who was ever good and compassionate, pitied their condition and could not refrain from tears. The Duke, who was delighted with the success that he had obtained and with the arrival of the bishop, when he perceived what was his desire, gave order that some of the younger and weaker prisoners should be freed, and at the bishop’s suggestion he arranged that those who were grieved at being separated should remain together.


Otto convinced the victorious Wortislav to treat the Lutician POWs less harshly

And when he had heard the bishop he did many things and heard him gladly.  The bishop also ransomed many of the prisoners and, having seen that they were instructed and born again by baptism, he sent them away free. When then they had refreshed themselves by mutual conversation and had presented gifts to each other, the Duke departed to see to his own affairs.  Meanwhile we placed all our property on board the ships of Timina/Demmin and sailed on the River Pene/Peene/Piana for three days till we came to Uznoim/Uznam, the bishop going overland on foot with a few companions.”

“Without delay he proceeded to cut his Lord’s field with the ploughshare and to scatter the seed of faith; nor did he meet with any difficulty in his task, inasmuch as the teaching of salvation had already fallen like a refreshing shower upon that town, for the priests whom the good father had sent amongst this people to represent him had converted a great part of Uznoimia, and the remaining part was brought to the Lord by the bishop.”

Ebbo VII


“When then, after a short time had elapsed, all the chiefs in this town had been baptized, the bishop sent out the priests associated with him two and two to the other towns that lay before him, in order that they might announce to the people the conversion of the chiefs and his own approach. Two of these, namely Udalricus the holy priest of St. Egidius and Albwinus, who has been referred to before, the interpreter of the man of God, went to a very wealthy town called Hologost.  They were honourably received there by a matron, the wife of the prefect of the town, who washed their feet with the utmost devotion and humility and having placed a table before them refreshed them with lavish feasts, so that they marvelled and were amazed because in the kingdom of the devil they had met with so much humility and hospitality.  When at length their refreshment was completed, Albwinus addressed privately the matron and explained to her the reason for his coming, and told her how at the conference that had been held at Uznoim all the chief men had abandoned the defilement of idolatry and had been clothed with the grace of Christ.  When she heard this she was so frightened that she fell flat on the ground and remained for some time half dead.  When she had been revived with water Albwinus asked why she so dreaded the grace of God, when she ought the rather to rejoice that God had visited His people by sending to them so good a minister of the Word. She answered, ‘It was not for this reason that I shuddered, but my heart was distressed at the prospect of your death which is now imminent.  For the magistrates and all the people of this town have decreed that if you should appear here you should be killed without hesitation.  This house of mine, which was ever quiet and peaceful and showed hospitality to all strangers who came, must now be defiled with your blood.  In very truth, if one of the magistrates hears of your coming, my house will presently be surrounded and besieged, and, alas, unless I deliver you up, I and all those with me will be burnt.  Go then to the upper part of my house and hide, and I will send my servants with your equipment and horses to my farms which lie at a distance, and if any come to inquire I shall be able to shield you, as they will not find with me either your garments or your horses.'”


The matron and her prefect husband kept the magistrates away

“They expressed their gratitude for her forethought and did as they were instructed.  As soon as the servants had taken away their horses and their garments the enraged people burst in and searched everything and demanded with violence that the strangers who had entered should be put to death. To them the matron said, ‘I admit that they entered my house, and when they had sufficiently refreshed themselves they departed with all speed. I cannot tell you who they were, or whence they came, or whither they were going. Follow them and perchance you may catch them.’ They replied, ‘If they have gone it is useless for us to follow them, but let them go their way, and if they appear here again, let them know that they will inevitably meet with their death.’  Thus, in accordance with the will of God, the search for them ceased and God’s servants Udalricus and Albwinus hid on the roof of this matron, who was as it were a second Rahab.”


[A Case of a Tricky Priest]

“A certain idol priest was responsible for this search and tumult. When he heard the opinions expressed in regard to the new preaching, he adopted a crafty method of argument. Arraying himself in a robe taken from an idol shrine, and in some other spoils, he left the town secretly and made for a neighbouring wood where he terrified a peasant who was passing by by confronting him unexpectedly.”


Impressionable peasants were an all too easy target for the tricky priest

“When the peasant saw him arrayed in the vesture belonging to the idol he imagined that his chief god had suddenly appeared to him, and falling on his face, half dead with fright, he heard him say, ‘I am the god whom thou worshippest, be not afraid, but rise up quickly and go into the town and deliver my message to the magistrates and to all the people, and say that if they declare themselves disciples of that seducer who is staying with the Duke Wortizlaus at Uznoim, they shall speedily be delivered over to a most cruel death; moreover the town and its inhabitants shall perish.’  When the peasant had announced this with all speed to the citizens, they were united as one man in their endeavour to carry out the commands of their god.”

Herbordus IV

[A Tricky Priest – Herbordus Version]

“The report of what had been done soon spread throughout the whole province and divided asunder houses and villages; some persons declaring that it was good while others said that it was not good, but that their leaders had been led astray. The idol priests were a chief cause of the divisions that occurred, for they were distressed at what had been done, and realized that their own gains would cease if the worship of demons were to be abolished there. They tried therefore by every possible means to obstruct, and by means of visions, dreams, prodigies and various portents invented ingenious arguments.  A priest who served the idol in the town of Hologost [Wolgast], which it was announced the bishop proposed to visit next, entered a neighbouring wood at night and in a raised place alongside the path stood amongst dense foliage arrayed in his priestly garments, and in the very early morning he thus addressed a peasant who was going from the country to the market, ‘Alas, good man !'”


In some versions of this story there were three peasants and the priest may have been gay

“The peasant, who looked towards the spot from which he had heard the voice, seemed to see in the thicket in the uncertain light someone dressed in white, and was afraid. The priest then said, ‘Stand and hear what I say:  I am your god, I, who clothe the plains with grass and the woods with foliage, the produce of the fields and the trees, the offspring of the flocks and everything that is of use to man are in my power.  I give these to my worshippers and take them from those who despise me. Tell then the inhabitants of the town of Hologost that they accept no foreign god who cannot help them, and that they suffer not to live the messengers of another religion who, I predict, will come to them.’  When the demon who had made himself visible had spoken thus to the astonished peasant, the impostor withdrew to the denser parts of the wood. The peasant, stupefied as though he had heard the voice of a god, fell prone upon the ground and worshipped. He then went into the town and proceeded to tell what he had seen.”

“Why say more ? The people believed him, and moved by the novelty of the portent, they surrounded him time after time and compelled him to keep on repeating the same story. Finally the priest, who seemed as though he were entirely ignorant, arrived and at first pretended to be indignant with him for telling a lie; he then began to listen attentively and to urge him to speak only that which was true, and not to try to influence the people by inventing what was untrue.  He, as became a simple peasant, stretched forth his hands, lifted his eyes to heaven, and even promised that he would point out the very place in which the vision had appeared. Then the priest turned to the people and with a deceptive sigh exclaimed, ‘This is what I have been saying for a whole year. What have we to do with a foreign god?  What have we to do with the religion of the Christians? Our god is rightly disturbed and angered if, after all the benefits he has conferred, we turn in our folly and ingratitude to another god. But, lest he be angry with us and kill us, let us be angry with and kill those who are come hither to lead us astray.'”


The townies were easily convinced

“His speech pleased them all and they definitely decided that if Bishop Otto or any of his companions should enter the town he should forthwith be killed. They came also to the wicked resolve that if anyone should receive them into his house in case they entered by night or secretly, he should be liable to a similar sentence. In arranging this they used many insulting words and blasphemously derided our religion.”


[Temple of Gerovit at Wolgast]

“But, as we have already said, Divine providence helped to conceal its servants until on the following day Bishop Otto came, accompanied by the Duke, and brought them forth from their hiding place. But even on the very day on which the bishop came there occurred an attack upon God’s servants which was brought about through the envy of the devil. For when the day was drawing towards evening some of the bishop’s companions, who wanted to examine a shrine that existed in this town, proceeded to do so without due caution; whereupon some of the citizens, who thought that they wished to commit the shrine to the flames, assembled together and advanced to meet them with passionate gestures and a discordant clatter of arms.  Then the good priest Udalricus turned to his companions and said, ‘It is not without reason that these have assembled, but be assured that they are indeed bent on our destruction.’  When his companions heard this they went back and sought refuge in flight.  But one of them named Dietricus, who was in advance of them and had already approached the doors of the temple, not knowing where to turn, boldly entered the shrine itself and, seeing a golden shield fastened to the wall which had been dedicated to Gerovit their god of war, and which they considered it unlawful to touch, he seized the shield and went forth to meet them.”


What the locals thought they saw

“They, like ignorant peasants, thought that their god Gerovit was advancing to meet them, and retired stupefied with amazement and fell to the ground. When Dietricus perceived their folly he threw away the shield and fled, thanking God that He had thought fit to deliver His servants out of their hands.”

Herbordus IV

[Temple of Gerovit at Wolgast – Herbordus Version]

“On entering the town (of Hologost) the bishop received the faithful and strenuous support of the Duke and, having scattered the seed of the gospel, was able to soften little by little the hard hearts of the unbelievers by the soothing ointment of his preaching.  Meanwhile some of our companions made fun of Udalricus and Albwinus, who had emerged from their hiding place, and joining us had related the events which had caused them fear.  And, as though to display their contempt for them, they began to show themselves bold, and, leaving their companions, as the bishop prolonged his discourse, they wandered into an idol temple. Certain ill disposed men in whose hearts idolatry still flourished, said, ‘Behold, these men are examining how they may burn our temples.’  They gathered together then in an open place carrying arms and clubs and blocked the way by which we appeared likely to come out. Udalricus, who stood and watched them from a distance, said, ‘Do you not see that it is for some purpose that these have assembled? For they are behaving riotously and they are all armed.’ Then recalling his former danger, he said, ‘I would not tempt my God so often.’  Turning round then he began to return to the place where he had left the bishop; the others followed him with the exception of a certain priest named Theoderic who had advanced some distance in front of them, and was already touching the doors of the temple.  The pagans, who had assembled, when they saw that they had come back from the path on which they had started, did not dare to follow them, but rushed, all of them, to kill the priest.  When he saw this, having no way by which he might turn from them, notwithstanding his terror he entered the temple itself. There was there hanging on the wall a shield, of great size and of marvellous workmanship, covered with sheets of gold, which no human being might touch, because there was in it something sacroscant and which betokened their pagan religion, so that it would never be moved out of its place save only in time of war. For, as we afterwards found, it was dedicated to their god Gerovit, who in Latin is called Mars, and the people were confident of success in every battle in which it went before them.  The priest, who was a man of keen intelligence, as he fled hither and thither in the temple in fear of death, looking for a weapon, or a place in which to hide, seized the shield, and laying the thong on his neck and with his left hand passed through the straps, rushed from the door into the midst of the raging crowd.”  


And what really happened – even with his golden shield in tow, brother DIetricus hardly looked like Gerovit

“When the peasants beheld his strange armour some turned to flee, while others fell on the ground, as though they had been dead.  He threw away the shield and began to run towards the guest house to join his companions, and  ‘fear gave wings to his feet.’  When, gasping and pallid, he reached his own people the whole night was spent in the presence of all, and specially of the bishop and the Duke, in the pleasant task of telling of his fright and that of those who had been sent, and had been hidden for three days. Nevertheless the good father admonished his sons and disciples to act with caution in view of the stratagems of the secret Enemy.  He continued in this place disputing and persuading concerning the kingdom of God, until all the people had received the sacraments of the faith and had destroyed their temples and prepared the sanctuary of a church with an altar. When the bishop had consecrated this sanctuary he ordained John as their priest and exhorted them to go on with the building of the remainder of the church after he should have left them.”

[The next part of this series – Part III – will conclude passages from the Life of Otto (but not our list of sources on Pomeranian Gods!)


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July 26, 2015

On the Julian Origin of Wolin

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In our blog on Pomeranian Gods we cited the following text relating to the city of Wolin which comes, of course, from the Life of Otto the Bishop of Pomerania:

“Meanwhile Bernhard, the servant of God, inflamed with the desire of martyrdom, seized an axe and attempted to cut down an immense column which was dedicated to Julius Caesar, from whom the city of Julin took its name.”


Wolin or Julin

We will return to Otto and his second tour of Pomerania later but, for now, as a preview we note that this motif continues in the second tour (Book III actually) as well, where the following description is included:

Julin, which had been founded by Julius Caesar and called after him, and in which his spear was kept, fixed on a column of great size in order to preserve his memory, was accustomed to hold a festival in honour of a certain idol at the beginning of the year, which was accompanied by dancing.”


The shockingly pagan sight that revealed itself to Christians entering Julin

[The Pruefling monk’s version of the Life of Otto also states that Otto offered fifty talents of silver for this lance in order to prevent the inhabitants from continuing to worship it]

The Greater Poland Chronicles (GPCs) mention a background tale when discussing the legendary Lestko III (he came, as per the GPCs, after Lech, Krak and, of course, Lestko I and Lestko II):

“During the times of this Lestko [III], Julius Caesar when trying to bring the lands of the Slavs [Suavs?] under the Roman yoke, also invaded the lands of the Lechites.  The aforementioned Lestko, three times resisted him [Caesar] together with the bravest of the Lechites and in the three battles with the same wrought great slaughter among the armies of Julius Caesar.  He also defatted in battle the tyrant Crassus who led the Parthians and commanded that molten gold be poured into his mouth saying “You were thirsty for gold, and gold you shall drink.”  Julius Caesar while staying the area of Slavonia [Suavia?] connected this Lestko by marriage with his own sister Julia, giving him in dowry Bavaria.  This Julia, commanded by her husband had two mighty burgs [grads/grods/gorody] built – and one of them was named after her brother – that is Julius – now it is called Lubusz while the second she named Julin – which now is called Wolin.”

This story draws on many earlier references (e.g., Appian’s Illyrica where the Parthians are to have defeated Ceasar three times and also from Cicero’s Epistolae familiars) and contains (very skimpy) pieces of truth (e.g., Crassus had been Ceasar’s ally but was killed by the Persians – in some stories – using molten gold – rather than being a Parthian general).

A similar tale regarding Ceasar was told by Master Vincent Kadlubek (though here Lublin stands in the place of Wolin) who wrote that Lestek III/Leszek III was the ruler of the Getae (or Goths?) and the Parthians and then defeated Crassus and Julius Ceasar in three battles and that:

“Finally, Julius, desiring an alliance of blood [with Lech III], married his own sister Julia off to him.  She received as dowry from her brother [i.e.,. Ceasar] Bavaria and, as a wedding gift from her husband the province of Serbia [presumably of the Sorbs].  She founded two cities, one she commanded to be called – from her brother’s name – Julius, (now Lubusz) and one from her own name – Julia, now it is called Lublin.”

What to Make of This

We will return to Wolin/Julin and to to Otto later.  But, in the meantime what do we make of the above?

It is important to note that tales of towns being founded by Julius Caesar were quite common in Germany and in Britain.  It was a way for the locals to get themselves a connection to the ancient past for who, after all, would not feel ennobled by the notion of living in a city founded by Caesar himself!?  No doubt Kadlubek who travelled throughout Europe was aware of these stories.  Perhaps the writers of the GPCs were too or they simply copied Kadlubek’s ideas (the two texts, as can readily be seen above, are quite similar).

Be that as it may, the question remains how one ought to explain the report of the strange cult in the town of Julin?  Was the town actually known as Julin and the writers of the Life of Otto simply assumed that the town and hence too the “immense” column with the spear on the top (as per Book III) had to be connected to Caesar somehow?  Columns themselves were quite familiar a site in Magna Germania – e.g., the famous Irminsaeule of the Saxons that the Franks eventually brought down.  And, of course, there are reports of columns and statues from the Polabian Slavs themselves.  Certainly Caesar never journeyed far into Germania.

Blast From the Past

Or rather Julius Caesar did not.

But there was a caesar who travelled quite far into the lands of the barbarians.  We would not have known about this sojourn but for a single manuscript that was discovered in the early 16th century at the Murbach Abbey in Alsace.  The manuscript was in poor shape and, worse yet, it is now considered lost.

Thankfully, it was lost only after it was printed in 1520.  We refer, of course, to the work of Marcus Velleius Paterculus (circa 19 BC – circa AD 31).  Paterculus wrote his Historiae to cover most of then known history but completed it with the death of Octavian Augustus.  His History thus covers some of the most far out expeditions of the Romans against the Germani.

In particular, Velleius describes an expedition undertaken by Tiberius – the soon to be caesar – an expedition that reached far into Germany, past the river Lippe and, apparently, got as far as the Elbe/Laba.


This is the same Tiberius who earlier (15 BC-13 BC), as we know, together with his younger brother Drusus (who later fell of his horse west of the fraenkische Saale and was the father of Germanicus and the grandfather of Caligula), led the war against the Vindelici on Lake Constance, i.e., Lake Veneticus)].  After that campaign, Tiberius was sent to Pannonia (12 BC – 9 BC) and then was in Germany where, about 9 BC, he ordered over 40,000 Suevi and Sugambri moved to the left bank of the Rhein.  About 6 BC Tiberius retired to Rhodes apparently as a result of a falling out with Augustus and of marital difficulties.  Tiberius lived there for about 10 years only to return to duty in 4 AD.

It was then that Tiberius led a Roman army into Germany.  It was also then that his four Roman legions actually spent the winter in enemy territory (at Lippe).  They then pushed forwards towards the Elbe and defeated the Langobards and others with the help of a Roman fleet that apparently sailed up the Elbe to a rendezvous point with Tiberius.  He pushed up the river to receive the ambassadors of the Hermunduri and of the Semnones.  It seemed that all of Germania had finally been conquered by Rome. He was about to finish off the last remaining local power, i.e.,  that of Marobodus when a rebellion broke out in Pannonia which took Tiberius away from Germania between 6 AD – 9 AD.  During that time it took fifteen legions to crush the “Pannonians” (whoever they were).  As soon as that was done, news came of the defeat of Varus by a new German contingent under Arminius and Tiberius was needed in the West once more.


Roman winter camp somewhere deep in Germania

When the Gods finally called him to the highest office in the land, Tiberius was already 56 years old.  He became emperor upon Augustus’ death in AD 14.  However, then managed to reign for another 23 years before being succeeded by Caligula, Claudius and then Nero.  Tiberius even outlived the much younger Velleius.  [It was during Caesar Tiberius’ reign that a certain preacher from Bethlehem was (amongst others) crucified in Roman Palestine].

So to get back to Velleius Paterculus.

Importantly, unlike many of the other annalists and historiographers, Velleius actually served in the Roman army.  He was in Greece and Thrace and Asia.  He then served with Tiberius himself in Germany and in Pannonia between AD 4 and AD 12.  Thus, some of his reports including the one in question are eyewitness accounts.

So without further ado, here is Velleius Paterculus:

Velleius Paterculus’ History

104 On the same day Marcus Agrippa, to whom Julia had given birth after the death of Agrippa, was also adopted by Augustus; but, in the case of Nero, an addition was made to the formula of adoption in Caesar’s own words: ‘This I do for reasons of state.’  His country did not long detain at Rome the champion and the guardian of her empire, but forthwith dispatched him to Germany, where, three years before, an extensive war had broken out in the governorship of that illustrious man, Marcus Vinicius, your grandfather. Vinicius had carried on this war with success in some quarters, and in others had made a successful defence, and on this account there had been decreed to him the ornaments of a triumph with an honorary inscription recording his deeds.”

It was at this time that I became a soldier in the camp of Tiberius Caesar, after having previously filled the duties of the tribunate. For, immediately after the adoption of Tiberius, I was sent with him to Germany as prefect of the cavalry. Succeeding my father in that position, and for nine continuous years as prefect of cavalry or as commander of a legion I was a spectator of his superhuman achievements, and further assisted in them to the extent of my modest ability. I do not think that mortal man will be permitted to behold again a sight like that which I enjoyed, when, throughout the most populous parts of Italy and the full extent of the provinces of Gaul, the people as they beheld once more their old commander, who by virtue of his services had long been a Caesar before he was such in name, congratulated themselves in even heartier terms than they congratulated him.  Indeed, words cannot express the feelings of the soldiers at their meeting, and perhaps my account will scarcely be believed — the tears which sprang to their eyes in their joy at the sight of him, their eagerness, their strange transports in saluting him, their longing to touch his hand, and their inability to restrain such cries as “Is it really you that we see, commander?” “Have we received you safely back among us?” “I served with you, general, in Armenia!” “And I in Raetia!” “I received my decoration from you in Vindelicia!” “And I mine in Pannonia!” “And I in Germany!””

105  He at once entered Germany.  The Canninefates, the Attuarii, and Bructeri were subdued, the Cherusci (Arminius, a member of this race, was soon to become famous for the disaster inflicted upon us) were again subjugated, the Weser crossed, and the regions beyond it penetrated. Caesar claimed for himself every part of the war that was difficult or dangerous, placing Sentius Saturninus, who had already served as legate under his father in Germany, in charge of expeditions of a less dangerous character: a man many-sided in his virtues, a man of energy and action, and of foresight, alike able to endure the duties of a soldier as he was well trained in them, but who, likewise, when his labours left room for leisure, made a liberal and elegant use of it, but with this reservation, that one would call him sumptuous and jovial rather than extravagant or indolent. About the distinguished ability of this illustrious man and his famous consulship I have already spoken.  The prolonging of the campaign of that year into the month of December increased the benefits derived from the great victory. Caesar was drawn to the city by his filial affection, though the Alps were almost blocked by winter’s snows; but the defence of the empire brought him at the beginning of spring back to Germany, where he had on his departure pitched his winter camp at the source of the river Lippe, in the very heart of the country, the first Roman to winter there.”


There was no stopping them this time

106  Ye Heavens, how large a volume could be filled with the tale of our achievements in the following summer under the generalship of Tiberius Caesar! All Germany was traversed by our armies, races were conquered hitherto almost unknown, even by name; and the tribes of the Cauchi were again subjugated. All the flower of their youth, infinite in number though they were, huge of stature and protected by the ground they held, surrendered their arms, and, flanked by a gleaming line of our soldiers, fell with their generals upon their knees before the tribunal of the commander.  The power of the Langobardi was broken, a race surpassing even the Germans in savagery; and finally — and this is something which had never before been entertained even as a hope, much less actually attempted — a Roman army with its standards was led four hundred miles beyond the Rhine as far as the river Elbe, which flows past the territories of the Semnones and the Hermunduri.  And with this wonderful combination of careful planning and good fortune on the part of the general, and a close watch upon the seasons, the fleet which had skirted the windings of the sea coast sailed up the Elbe from a sea hitherto unheard of and unknown, and after proving victorious over many tribes effected a junction with Caesar and the army, bringing with it a great abundance of supplies of all kinds.”

107  Even in the midst of these great events I cannot refrain from inserting this little incident. We were encamped on the nearer bank of the aforesaid river, while on the farther bank glittered the arms of the enemies’ troops, who showed an inclination to flee at every movement and manoeuvre of our vessels, when one of the barbarians, advanced in years, tall of stature, of high rank, to judge by his dress, embarked in a canoe, made as is usual with them of a hollowed log, and guiding this strange craft he advanced alone to the middle of the stream and asked permission to land without harm to himself on the bank occupied by our troops, and to see Caesar. Permission was granted. Then he beached his canoe, and, after gazing upon Caesar for a long time in silence, exclaimed: “Our young men are insane, for though they worship you as divine when absent, when you are present they fear your armies instead of trusting to your protection. But I, by your kind permission, Caesar, have to‑day seen the gods of whom I merely used to hear; and in my life have never hoped for or experienced a happier day.” After asking for and receiving permission to touch Caesar’s hand, he again entered his canoe, and continued to gaze back upon him until he landed upon his own bank.  Victorious over all the nations and countries which he approached, his army safe and unimpaired, having been attacked but once, and that too through deceit on the part of the enemy with great loss on their side, Caesar led his legions back to winter quarters, and sought the city with this haste as in the previous year.”

108  Nothing remained to be conquered in Germany except the people of the Marcomanni…”


Bad Boys

Two Questions Remain 

First, the obvious.  If this really happened, could a story and a cult have survived until the 12th century?

Second, note the curious statement above that the Roman fleet joined with the army of Tiberius having sailed the Elbe “from a sea hitherto unheard of and unknown.”  If this was the North Sea then it certainly would have been a sea known to the Romans already.  And if it was some other sea, one that was till then truly unknown… well, then the river that was sailed up would not have been the Elbe (which empties into the North Sea).

Just sayin’.

For more on the Oder (but) as the Vistula – see here.

And here is the same text (courtesy of Duesseldorf’s Universitaets und Landesbibliothek) from the first printed edition (1520 – almost half a millennium ago!) of Marcus Velleius Paterculus.  Note that, as per the translators, the River Lippe is referred to here as Iuliae… So is it really the Lippe or is it some other river?  River Oder anyone?



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July 13, 2015

Pomeranian Gods Part I – Ottonis Vita First Tour

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Pomerania, now mostly in Poland was an independent Slavic entity throughout most of the middle ages.  It was yet another area that held out against Christianity and its “German” God for quite awhile.  In fact, of the Slavic areas only Arkona held out longer (and, as we pointed out, when it fell, it did so with the Pomeranian dukes being part of the Danish-led invasion force).


Pomerania was ruled by the Slavic Griffin House

Pomerania is a land that geographically starts around the town of Szczecin (the earlier Stettin) and continues east to the Bay of Gdansk.  In the early 12th century, to the West of it was the land of the Liutizi/Wilzi aka the Veleti (sometimes controlled by the Pomeranians, sometimes independent).  To the East the pagan Baltic Prussians.  To the south the Polish dukedom (dukedom because no Polish duke since Boleslaw III was strong enough to put on a crown at the time).  In fact, Pomerania was one of the first additions to the nascent Polish state having been added by Mieszko I sometime in the 960s.  However, it became independent sometime after the death of Boleslaw I in 1025.  Subsequent Polish rulers Mieszko II, Casimir I, Boleslaw II and Wladyslaw I could not reclaim Pomerania and it was not until Boleslaw III Wrymouth that the effort to reclaim Pomerania was renewed.

Between 1119-1122 a series of battles were fought between Boleslaw III and the Pomeranian duke Warcislaw I (of the Griffin dynasty, who, apparently had already been baptized whilst captive of the Saxons earlier in life).  The first such battle took place in 1119 at Naklo.  All of them resulted in great devastation of Pomeranian towns, altogether nasty bloodshed and, ultimately, Boleslaw’s victory and forced resettlement of thousands of Pomeranians into Poland.


Warcislaw at Naklo – only surviving footage

At the end Warcislaw became the Polish duke’s tributary.

Along with political control there came Christianization.  Although Pomerania had its own bishopric established at Kolobrzeg/Kolberg already in the year 1000 under the first Boleslaw, the German bishop and his assistants were driven out rather quickly and the country “lapsed” into old ways.  After Boleslaw’s victory, the Polish duke sent Bernard the Spaniard as a missionary to the Pomeranians.  Bernard was a man of his belief it seems and went around Pomeranian towns in shabby garments affecting an altogether unimpressive presence.  He was quickly dispatched out of Pomerania by a people that have been thereafter described as wealthy and materialistic (whether this was true or just became legend is unclear).

To better appeal to the Pomeranians, Boleslaw next sent Otto of Bamberg as his missionary.  Otto was bound to convert by whatever peaceful means necessary and, purposefully appearing richly dressed and well to do, did not shy from buying support for the new religion.  He had the support of Boleslaw and Warcislaw with the latter assigning an entourage of allegedly 500 warriors to protect the bishop in his mission.  The first apostolic mission which is described in this post took place in 1124.  It culminated with the conversions of the towns of Szczecin and Wolin (the latter was by then the smaller of the two).  Thereafter, Otto returned to Bamberg.

Due to the resistance of the local priests and the high tribute imposed on Pomerania by Boleslaw III, by 1127 the country was falling back to the faith of its ancestors necessitating a second trip by Otto in 1128.  We will cite passages relating to that mission in the next blog.

In any event, the Christianization of Pomerania was successful and by 1168 the Pomeranian dukes, as we wrote previously, Kazimir and Boguslaw (the sons of Warcislaw) were taking part in the Danish siege of Arkona.

Otto himself has since been known as the “Apostle of Pomerania” and with that distinction there came a plethora of “Lives” of Otto being written right after his death in 1139.  The following are the relevant ones:

  • a Life of Otto by Ebbo (written about 1151)
  • a dialogue regarding Otto written by one Herbordus (written about 1158)
  • a Life of Otto by a monk from the Pruefling monastery written after 1158)

Less relevant works include A short Life of Otto based on Ebo’s version, an anonymous Life of Otto and another Life of Otto written by Andreas, Abbot of Michelsberg.

The below versions come from the compilation of Charles Robinson.  He based that compilation  on Ebbo’s Books II and III.  The first book describes Otto’s youth and the monastery at Bamberg and so has been ignored by Robinson.  Book II describes the first (1124) mission to Pomerania and excerpts from it are presented here.  Book III, which will be the subject of another blogpost describes Otto’s second (1128) tour of Pomerania.  Robinson also includes pieces by Herbordus which, even if duplicative of Ebbo, add some more information.  Because Herbordus describes a lot of the native religious rituals we have relied on him more heavily here.  Occasionally, Latham  throws in a footnote about something appearing solely within the Pruefling monk account.

With that in mind, we proceed to the description of the adventures of Otto in the wacky lands of Pomerania supplementing it, where helpful, with observations on Otto’s route of travel.

Herbordus II. I.

[Of Pomerania]

“For Pommo in the Slavonic language is equivalent to near, or around, and Moriz is equivalent to sea. Hence the word Pomerizania denotes that which is situated near or round about the sea. This country, if we have regard to its situation both in the swamps and in the parts overflowed by the sea, and in the low-lying ground, can be described as triangular, inasmuch as on three sides three lines which join together at their extremities make three angles, one of which is more obtuse than the others; the line forming this angle stretches to Leuticia and towards Saxony and bends back again towards the north and the sea.”


Pomeranians were not yellow but they did like gold

“Accordingly Pomerania on its sea front is contiguous to Dacia and the small but populous island of Rugia, and above it on the north is Flavia (Livonia) and Prussia and Ruscia. In front, that is in the direction of the dry land, it faces at one point the adjacent territories of Hungary and Moravia. It has then Polonia as its neighbour for a long space as far as the confines of Leuticia and Saxony. The Pomeranian people being skilled fighters both by land and sea and being used to live by loot and spoils, and owing to their natural fierceness having never been conquered, were far removed from Christian faith and refinement. Their country is extremely fertile and furnishes an abundance of fish and of wild beasts and of all kinds of grains and spelt. No country abounds more in honey, and none is richer in pasture and grass. Its inhabitants neither possess nor desire wine, but their honeyed drinks and carefully prepared beer surpass even the wines of Falernum. Of these we shall speak later on, but we have now to explain, what is a matter of surprise to many, why these men who are so far removed from Eastern France and from the Church of Bamberg and in fact from almost the entire world, were unable to obtain from the nearer kingdoms or Churches baptism, or any preacher other than the Bishop of Bamberg. This fruit was granted to him by God for the increase of his happiness.”

Herbordus II. II

[Enter Boleslaw III of Poland]

“At the time when the Bishop of Bamberg was ruling the Church of that place, Bolezlaus [Boleslaw III], a vigorous and prudent man distinguished by his ancient and noble ancestry, was administering the dukedom of Polonia. By conducting himself with diligence and foresight he succeeded in recovering with a strong arm the territories on the borders of his own country, which in the time of his predecessors had been invaded and ravaged by enemies, together with the camps and towns which had been forcibly detached from his rule.”

Ebbo I

[Enter Bernardo of Espana, i.e., of Epic Fails]

“…there was a bishop named Bernhard, endued with marvelous sanctity and knowledge, who was a Spaniard by race, but had been chosen and consecrated as a bishop at Rome…”

“…When then he heard that Pomerania was still addicted to the errors of heathenism, being armed with holy zeal, he turned aside from his purpose in order to preach the Gospel there. His desire was that he might either unite its people by faith to the Catholic Church, or that he might obtain the glory of martyrdom and lay down his life on behalf of Christ. For he despised this present, life and was wont to treat his body with the utmost severity, being content with a little dry food, and drinking nothing but water.”

“He went accordingly to the Duke of Polonia and was received by him with honour as a servant of God. When he had explained to him the object of his journey the Duke said that he rejoiced to behold his ardent zeal, but the ferocity of this nation was so great that it would kill him rather than submit to the yoke of the faith. The bishop replied- with a firm voice that he had come for this purpose and that, if need should arise, he was prepared to receive unhesitatingly sentence of death for the love of Christ. The Duke, overjoyed at his response, gave him an interpreter and a guide as he desired, and prayed that God would give him success.”

“Though a bishop he was careful to retain both humility and poverty, for he knew that the kingdom of the Devil was destroyed by the humility, and not by the power of Christ, and that whoso shares his poverty with Christ has sufficient riches, and he entered the city of Julin [Wolin]  dressed in a despicable garment and with bare feet, and there strove with diligence to scatter the seeds of the catholic faith. The citizens, who despised him on account of his bodily appearance, for they knew not how to judge save by outward appearance, asked who he was or by whom he had been sent. He declared that he was the servant of the true God, the Maker of heaven and earth, and had been sent by Him in order that he might lead them from the error of idolatry into the way of truth.”


Bernard gave his all. But the Pomeranians just would no listen.

“They, however, replied with indignation, ” How can we believe that you are the messenger of the supreme God? Whereas He is full of glory and endowed with all wealth, you are despicable and are so poor that you cannot even provide shoes for your feet. We will not receive you nor listen to you. For the supreme God would never send to us so abject a messenger, but, if He really desired our conversion, He would visit us by sending a fit person who would worthily represent His power. If then you have any regard for your life, return as quickly as possible to the place from which you came and cease to do despite to the supreme God by pretending that you have been sent by Him, for it is only to relieve your poverty that you have come hither.” Bernhard, who became bolder and more steadfast as danger drew near, said, ” If you do not believe my words, believe my works. Set fire to some house that has collapsed through old age and is not of use to anyone, and throw me into the midst : if, when the house has been consumed by the flames, I shall come out from the fire uninjured, then know that I have been sent by Him to whose rule fire and every created thing is subject, and whom all the elements serve.” The priests and elders of the people, when they heard this, conferred together and said, “

“This is a foolish and desperate person who, constrained by excessive poverty, seeks death and goes of his own accord to meet it. We are beset by his villainy, which seeks to exact vengeance because he has been rejected by us, and to involve us in his own destruction. For if one house is set on fire, the destruction of the whole city must follow. We ought therefore to take care and not to listen to one who is of unsound mind; nor is it wise for us to kill a barefooted stranger. For our brothers, the Prussians, some years ago l killed one named Adalbert, who preached like this man, and as a result oppression and misfortune overtook them and all that they possessed was destroyed. If then we desire to consider our own interest, we shall do this man no injury but expel him from our territory and, having placed him on board a ship, make him cross the sea to some other land.””

“Meanwhile Bernhard, the servant of God, inflamed with the desire of martyrdom, seized an axe and attempted to cut down an immense column which was dedicated to Julius Caesar [!], from whom the city of Julin took its name. The pagans would not permit this, and rushing upon him with great anger struck him in cruel fashion and left him half dead. When they had departed a monk named Peter came running to Bernhard and gave him his hand, whereupon Bernhard arose, and, after regaining his strength, began again to declare the word of salvation to the people. But the priests drew him with insolence from amongst the people and placed him with his monk and interpreter on his own boat, saying, “If you have so great a desire to preach, preach to the fishes of the sea and the fowls of the air, and beware that you presume not to cross the boundary of our land, for there is not a single person who will receive you.””


Pomeranian Elite Guards escorting Bernard out of Wolin. Even in defeat, he is still praying for the Pomeranians’ souls (and his own ass).

“Bernhard in accordance with the gospel command shook off the dust of his feet against them and returned to the Duke of Polonia, and told him with tears what had befallen him. The Duke said to him, ” Did I not tell you before that the Pomeranians would by no means accept the faith; You should not therefore make trial of their snarling folly, for they are profane and unworthy of the word of salvation.” The bishop replied, “They are animals and are altogether ignorant of spiritual gifts, and so they judge a man only by his outward appearance. Me they rejected on the ground of my poverty, but if some influential preacher, whose honour and wealth .they would respect, were to go to them, I expect that they would of their own accord submit to the yoke of Christ.””

[Editorial Intermission

The stage was thus set for Otto; he would travel from Bamberg to Prague from where he would be escorted to the Polish capital of Gniezno and then sent off to Pomerania by Boleslaw III; crossing into Pomerania at the Notec/Netze at Ujscie/Uzda he would travel to Stargard where he would be met by Wortislaw who would give him his warriors and then depart; Otto then continued to Pyrzyce/Pyritz/Pyrissa/Piriscus, and then took a detour to Kamien/Gamin/ Kamin where he was again met by Warcisclaw (and, earlier, Warcislaw’s wife), arrived at Julin/Wolin, was kicked out and went to Szczecin/Stettin; here he was successful and then, after at side trip detour to Gartz and Lubin he was back in force at Julin/Wolin]


Otto’s path from Bamberg

Herbordus XIV

[Arrival at Pyrzyce] 

“As they at length drew near to the Duke’s [Wartislaw’s] camp called Pyrissa at the eleventh hour of the day, they saw from a distance that 4,000 men had come together there from every province : for that day was a festival of the pagans, and its celebration by this wild people with sport, debauchery and loud outcry astonished them. They did not think it therefore advantageous or wise as unexpected guests to approach that night a crowd of people excited by drink and sport, but remaining where they were passed a sleepless night, as they did not dare to have a fire in their camp, nor did they venture even to speak one to another. In the morning the bishop sent to the camp Paulicius and the messengers of the Duke Boleslav. These saluted the chief men in the name of the Dukes and announced that the bishop had been sent by the Dukes to declare to them the Christian faith and religion. With their authority they commanded and endeavoured to persuade the people to listen reverently and respectfully, and they further stated that the bishop was a man of rank and wealth in his own country and possessed resources sufficient to supply his needs in a foreign land, and that he sought nothing and needed nothing, but had come in order to promote their salvation and not for the sake of gain. They bade them to remember their pledged word and to be mindful of the divine vengeance and of the recent destruction that had come upon the land, lest they should a second time arouse the divine wrath. They pointed out that the whole world lived under Christian laws and that they could not by themselves withstand the whole world.”


Otto came in peace

“The people delayed long and made various excuses, and asked to be allowed time for consideration, saying that they ought not to undertake so important an affair suddenly or without consideration.  Paulicius and his fellow-messengers perceived that this was spoken designedly and they said, ” It is no time for lengthy consideration, what you are about to do, do quickly. Behold he is at hand. Last night the bishop would have come amongst you had he not heard that you were engaged in games and sport. On this account he delayed to come and pitched his tents on the plain, but it will be to your advantage not to distress him by a further contemptuous delay, lest the Dukes should consider that they themselves have thereby received an injury.”

“”Is he,” they said “so near?” to which the messengers replied, ” It is so.” ” Everything,” they said, “tends to hasten the end of our conference. Let us do then willingly and quickly what we are about to do, as our present circumstances demand, for the most high God appears to be surrounding and drawing us towards Him by His own power. We cannot refuse, let us therefore follow Him who would draw us towards life, lest by resisting His goodness we sink into death. Our gods, it appears, are not gods ; against Him we can avail nothing. It is therefore better that we should leave behind those who will not follow us and that with entire loyalty we should draw near to the true God who has never failed those who have hoped in Him.” After they had carefully re-examined and approved this proposal, which was at once so good and advantageous, they first of all held a secret gathering among themselves, and when, by unrestricted discussion with the messengers and Paulicius, they had gained further confidence, they went forth with them to the people, who had not dispersed according to custom or gone into the country, but, in accordance with God’s will, remained where they were, and who now assembled as for a festival. These they addressed with honeyed words and with alluring kindness. Why say more? It is marvellous to relate how quickly and readily that concourse of people, after hearing what was said, arrived at the same decision.”

Herbordus XVIII

[Otto’s Sermon at at Pyrzyce]

“But ye who have hitherto been pagans and not Christians, have not the sacrament of marriage, because ye have not been faithful to one woman. But those of you who have desired it have had more than one wife, a thing which henceforth will be for you unlawful; but one man ought to have one woman, and one woman one man. What is more than this is of the evil one. If any of you have had more than one wife before your baptism let him now choose the wife which pleases him best and let him send away the others and keep this one only, according to the Christian custom. I hear also that ye women are accustomed to kill your female infants.”


The Pomeranians were really taken by Otto’s charisma

“Words cannot express how great an abomination such conduct is. Consider whether the brute animals act thus towards their young. Let not this parricidal crime exist henceforth amongst you, for it cannot be forgiven without the most profound repentance. Nourish carefully your offspring whether male or female, for it is God’s will to create both the male and the female.”

Ebbo V

[Otto establishes a “Spiritual Plantation” at Kamien Pomorski] 

“On the nativity of St. John the Baptist he arrived at a large town called Gamin [Kamien] where the Duke lived. He remained here for a long time, that is for fourteen weeks, or more, and built churches with branches of trees, to supply the needs of the new spiritual plantation. Otto himself baptized the little children, whilst his fellow-workers baptized the men and the women who drew near to Christ in multitudes.  In the course of the instruction that was given at this place the women were asked whether they had killed their infants for in accordance with the cruel pagan custom, they had been wont to kill their girls and to save their boys and for this crime special penitence was enjoined. The men and women were washed separately in the sacred font, curtains being hung round the baptisteries, which were placed so far away from each other that no occasion for any kind of scandal could arise.”

Herbordus XIX

[Warcislaw’s Wife Comes Out]

“After that the Church in Pyrissa had been strengthened and instructed, we bade farewell with many tears and with much affection to this simple people, and with the ambassadors as our guides, we arrived at the town of Camina. There was here a duchess, who was the legitimate wife of the Duke, who, though living amongst pagans, was not unmindful of the Christian religion. She rejoiced greatly at the news of our arrival and, together with her whole household, received us eagerly, as she did not doubt that this would be equally agreeable to her husband and would promote both her and his salvation.”


Otto was happy to reclaim Warcislaw’s wife (for the Church)

“For during our stay at Pyrissa she had carefully learned by means of secret spies all that had taken place there, and she rejoiced with great exultation that this people had been enlightened.  She herself too began to fan the spark of her own faith that had hitherto smouldered, as it were, beneath dead ashes, by declaring it first of all modestly to the members of her own family and then to her confidential friends.”

Ebbo VI

[Kamien’s Unbeliever is Struck Down Like a Kamien] 

“…There was not wanting a miracle to confirm the truth of Otto’s preaching and this must here be related in due sequence. For there was in the same town of Gamin a certain woman of rank and wealth, who, being seduced by the persuasion of the Evil One, had despised the teaching of the most holy apostle and had put aside and refused to follow his instructions. To mention one of the instances in which she showed her contempt and disobedience;  whilst all were engaged in keeping the Lord’s Day, she herself went out into the fields to reap and, although the members of her family disapproved and objected, she remained unabashed, and went on with the work which she had begun. But the good Lord, who has deigned to promise to his preachers, He that hears you, hears Me, and he that despises you, despises Me,” l became by means of a manifest miracle, which was worked for the correction of the rest, the avenger and the punisher of this contempt.”


Eternal penance is the price of contempt

“For whilst she was intent upon her evil work and was upbraiding and threatening the members of her family for neglecting to help her, she suddenly fell back, and, expiring more quickly than can be described, struck with great horror those who were standing near. She was forthwith placed in a coffin by the members of her family, who lamented and bewailed her, and was carried all round the town, the funeral being conducted with loud outcries. Whilst this manifest judgment of God caused fear to all, they were more and more strengthened in the Christian belief and religion.”

Herbordus XXI

[Warcislaw Arrives at Kamien]

“While these things were being done at Camina and we and the people of the city, together with their most noble and Christian matron, were the possessors of spiritual joy, the arrival of the Duke of the country, Wortizlaus, with his attendants added not a little to our pleasure.


Duke Warcislaw of House Griffin (rendering is an approximation)

Without a moment’s delay he rushed with filial confidence to embrace the bishop, and said, ” Hail, holy father, be not angry because after my first brief greeting I have been so long without seeing you, for affairs of state which could not be avoided were the cause of my delay. But I am here now ready to obey and serve you in whatever way you desire, for we and all that we have are yours : use us as you will.” When he had said this he turned to the clergy and the other important men in our retinue and said,” With your permission, father, I will salute also these your fellow workers.” He then took and held their hands in turn and blessed them and kissed them affectionately, calling them his most dear sons and daughters; and he blessed God, the giver of all good things, that he had been thought worthy to receive in his house such agreeable guests. And because after this we had to go by boat from one town to another, he commanded his servants to lead our horses and beasts of burden to suitable pastures ; nor were they restored to us until everything had been accomplished and we were about to leave the country. When we received them back they were so changed in appearance that their owners could hardly recognize their own beasts, so fat had they become. The soldiers who had come with the Duke were forthwith instructed and baptized. Many, including the Duke himself, had been formerly Christians, but through association with unbelievers had abandoned their Christianity. By confession and penitence these were reunited to the Church, after promising that they would henceforth abjure all things inconsistent with the Christian name, and follow that which was conformable thereto.”

Herbordus XXII

[“This Deal is Getting Worse All the Time”]

“Moreover the Duke said, “I know that to have more than one wife, or to have concubines, is inconsistent with Christian holiness; ” and having forthwith touched the relics of the saints, as is the custom when Christians take an oath, in the presence of the people and the bishop he publicly renounced the twenty-four concubines which, in accordance with heathen custom, he had taken in addition to his lawful wife.”


Duke Warcislaw had earlier been a Christian but he had lapsed since – twenty four times

“Many of the others who had presumptuously committed the same offence, when they saw what the Duke had done, renounced polygamy and promised that they would follow the Duke’s example and cleave to one wife.”

Herbordus XXIII

[Kamien’s Unbeliever is Struck Down – Herbordus’ Version] 

“When all these arrangements had been duly made, and the people were coming together to the church day by day not only from the town but also from the country, and were keeping the Lord’s Day and other festivals, a certain widow who lived in the country not far from the city of Camina, who was rich and noble, had shown her contempt for the Christian religion and declared that she would worship the gods of her country and would not fall in with the new delusion and abandon the ancient tradition of her ancestors. She had a large family and was a lady of great influence, who ruled her house with vigour, and, a circumstance which was very significant in that country, she had been accustomed during the lifetime of her husband to have thirty horses with riders for the use of her escort. The strength and power of nobles and great men is usually estimated in accordance with the supply or number of their horses. “He is strong, powerful and rich,” people say, “for he has such or such a number of horses,” and when they hear the number of the horses they understand the number of soldiers that are available, for in that district no soldier is accustomed to have more than one horse. Moreover the horses of this country are large and strong and each individual soldier fights without a shield-bearer and carries his own pack and shield, performing his military tasks with great agility and energy. Only chiefs and important men have one or, at the most, two attendants.”

“It came to pass on a certain Lord’s Day in harvest time when the people from all parts were hastening to the church, that this matron neither came herself nor permitted her servants to come, but behaved in an unruly way; ” Go,” she said to her servants, ” reap my fields, for this will bring you more advantage than devoting yourselves to a new and unknown god whom this Otto, the Bishop of Bamberg, brings from his own country. What have we to do with him? Do not you see how much good and how great wealth our gods have given us? It is by their bounty that we have an abundance of wealth and honour; to abandon, therefore, their worship will bring us no small harm. Go then and reap our crops. In order that ye may be less afraid my carriage has been made ready and I will go into the fields with you and take part in reaping the crops.””


Don’t Mess with Otto or His Deity

“And when she had gone out into the fields she said, ” Do as you see me do.” She then turned back her sleeves, fastened up her robe and seized a reaping-hook in her right hand. She held some stalks in her left hand and appeared to be cutting them. But, marvellous to relate, as she was in the act of doing this and was leaning forward to reap, she became like a marble effigy and could neither lift herself up nor cast away the sickle or the stalks of corn from her hand, but stood there in silence like an image, saying nothing but gazing at those who kept gazing upon her.  But when her servants saw this they were greatly afraid, and they stood round her watching and waiting until she should recover. They begged her also to abandon her foolhardiness, telling her that the God of the Christians was mighty. She, however, made no response, and when they laid their hands upon her and tried to raise her up by force and to take away her sickle and stalks they were quite unable to do so. But she stood like an immovable mass fixed to the earth. And when this unhappy woman had caused astonishment and stupor to the spectators by the condition into which she had fallen, and her attendants were overcome with grief and distress and were proposing to leave her and depart, she suddenly collapsed and breathed forth her guilty soul into hell fire. As they lifted her into the carriage they said, ” What kind of sheaf is this that we carry back from the field on the Lord’s Day?”  This occurrence was widely reported and spread abroad, for the attendants forthwith rushed to the church and asked for baptism, and, overcome with astonishment, related what had happened. The faith of those who believed was strengthened by the miracle, whilst the unbelievers and those who had before blasphemed learned to believe as a result of the punishment that had befallen the woman. They began, moreover, carefully to observe the Lord’s Day and the other festivals, and to show greater reverence not only for the bishop and his companions, but for all that they taught.”

Ebbo VII

[Otto’s First Visit at Wolin/Julin]

“…For the inhabitants of the town, intoxicated with the chalice of God’s anger, when they heard of the arrival of the servants of God, at the dawn of the following day, armed themselves with clubs and stones and rushing upon them endeavoured to drive them from the town. They said that it was in vain that they had made their way into the resting-place provided by the Duke, expecting to find security there, inasmuch as those who were subverters of the country and of its ancient laws were declared by the ordinance of their gods to be outside the stipulation relating to the granting of peace. As a result of the intervention and the order of the Duke they with difficulty escaped with their lives, after receiving many injuries. They then spread their tents in front of the town and remained there for seven days, whilst the messengers of the two Dukes Bolezlaus and Wortizlaus kept inquiring day by day on their behalf whether the people of Julin had considered the question of making their submission to the Christian faith. They were, however, led astray by the evil counsel of their priests, and refused altogether to receive the herald of wholesome teaching, but drove him ignominiously away from their territory and forced him to go to Stettin.”

Herbordus XXIV

[Otto’s First Visit at Wolin/Julin – Herbordus’ Version]

“When nearly fifty days had been spent in this place (Camina), ambassadors were provided by the Duke, and two citizens from the place to act as guides, viz. Domizlaus and his sons who were men of reputation; and we travelled by boat to Julin through lakes and lagoons made by the sea. This city is large and strongly built, but its inhabitants were cruel and barbarous, and when they had come near to the city our guides stopped and began to be frightened and to murmur amongst themselves. When the bishop perceived it he said, “What is it that ye are saying one to another?” They said, “Father, we are afraid for you and your companions, for this people is fierce and unrestrained…”


Wolin Fortress loomed ahead as Otto’s party cautiously approached, their bosom filled with Faith

[and their fears prove correct]

“…There was at first a disturbance, which gradually became a tumult, as the people ran hither and thither looking at us again and again and telling the news concerning us to the others. At last the people, seized with a senseless rage, raised a great uproar and, armed with axes, swords and other weapons, burst into the Duke’s court, without showing any regard for it, and threatened us with instant death unless we fled from the court and the city with the utmost speed. Now there was in the court a very strong building made with beams and large , planks which the people called “stupa” or “pyrale,” into which had been carried from the boat the boxes of books, the pack-saddles, the bishop’s robes, the money and other valuables. Thither, in consequence of the furious attack made by the people, the bishop and his clergy had fled. But the people shouted and cried out and endeavoured to compel them to come forth. When they delayed it seemed for a moment as though the people would abandon their fury, but their madness blazed forth all the more and, making a rush, they attacked the “stupa” and overthrew it, dragging down and demolishing first the roof and then the beams.”


The Pomeranians were breaking in

“Whilst some were terrified and others cried for fear, the bishop, who hoped that he was called to receive the crown of martyrdom, stood undaunted with joyous spirit and cheerful countenance, eagerly desiring that he might be counted worthy to receive a blow or a wound in the name of Jesus. Paulicius and the ambassadors, when they saw that all the people were seized with madness and that to delay there any longer would make matters worse, leapt forth into the midst of the crowd and, raising a great cry, as though they were themselves mad, they stretched out their hands and demanded that silence should be made.”

“When the people had become somewhat quieter, they went on to say, ” What is this?” and directing attention to themselves, they continued, “Allow us who are here in the Duke’s court to depart in peace. Why are ye enraged against us ? Which of you have we injured?” They replied, ” We have come to kill the bishop who is a deceiver, and the other Christians who are with him and who speak evil of our gods. But if ye desire to save them, see, we grant a free passage, lead them quickly out of our city.””

Herbordus XXV

[Wolin Looks to Szczecin for Spiritual Guidance]

“We remained there on the other side of the marsh which surrounded the town for fifteen days, waiting to see if the people would come to a better state of mind. Meanwhile our companions went to and fro between us and them, and their head men came to us and excused themselves by laying the blame for the tumult upon the stupid and worthless section of the people. The bishop then conversed with them concerning the Christian faith and endeavoured indirectly to exhort and persuade them. He made mention also of the name and power of the Duke of Polonia and suggested that the insult offered to us would tend to his injury and that some evil might befall them in consequence, unless perchance their conversion should intervene.”


We’ll have the religion they’re having

“They said that they would take advice, and having gone back to their own people, they discussed these matters over and over again and at length arrived at a unanimous decision, namely that in regard to this proposal they would do whatever the inhabitants of Szczecin/Stettin did, for they said that this city was the oldest and most renowned in Pomerania and was the mother of cities and that it would not be right for them to permit the observance of a new religion unless this observance had first been confirmed by its authority.”

Herbordus XXVI

[Inauspicious Arrival at Szczecin]

“…We drew near to the city in the twilight and leaving our boats entered the court provided by the Duke. In the morning Paulicius and the headmen, who acted as ambassadors, declared that they had been sent by the Dukes with the bishop and explained that the object of their journey was to preach the gospel. At the same time they advised, promised and threatened. The people answered, “What have we to do with you?  We will not abandon the laws of our fathers, and are content with the religion that we possess. Amongst the Christians there are thieves and robbers, and those who (for their crimes) have been deprived of feet and eyes; all sorts of crimes and penalties are found amongst them and one Christian curses another Christian. Let such a religion be far from us!””

Herbordus XXX

[Otto’s Sermon at Szczecin – Talks About Breaking Stuff]

“…All these things constitute a strong indictment against you, but my representatives and your own, who are honourable and prudent men, have intervened on your behalf, and more especially the bishop himself who is staying with you and who is your evangelist and apostle. I have judged it right therefore to accede to their advice and petition, and have decided to lighten your burden of servitude and tribute so that ye may with greater readiness take upon you the yoke of Christ. The whole land of the Pomeranian peoples is to pay as a public tribute to the Duke of Polonia, whoever he may be, only 300 silver marks year by year. If war assail him they are to assist him in the following manner. Every nine heads of households shall equip for the war the tenth with arms and money and shall meanwhile carefully provide for his household. If ye keep this agreement and conform to the Christian religion, ye shall obtain peace from my outstretched hand, and the joy of eternal life, and on all occasions ye shall receive as friends and allies the protection and support of the people of Polonia.””

“An assembly was thereupon held at which these statements were read out in the presence of the people and the chiefs, who  eagerly took the oaths, rejoicing more than if as at Nacla [Naklo was the site of a battle where the Pomeranians had been defeated by Boleslaw III of Poland] they had been subdued by arms, and they submitted themselves to gospel teaching.”


Otto seized the pulpit and spoke of sin and repentance

“The bishop then seized the occasion and ascended a pulpit and said, ” It has now become my duty to speak to you. Rejoice in the Lord always, again I say rejoice: let your moderation, your faith, and your conversion be known unto all : let it be known to the whole world. For the whole world has been distressed on account of your unbelief. For, my beloved brethren, the whole world as far as this corner of your land recognizes the light of truth, and yet you desire to remain in darkness. Let it be your shame and regret that you have not hitherto recognized your Creator. As therefore you have been late in turning to Him, you should run with the greater eagerness and hasten to overtake those who have preceded you in the faith, and your desire should be that those who have mourned over your blindness should be able to rejoice over your illumination in Christ.”

“And first of all, being armed with the sign of the Cross, you must immediately renounce those who have deceived you, your gods who are deaf and dumb, your graven images and the unclean spirits that are in them: you must destroy the temples and break in pieces the images, so that when His enemies have been cast out by you, your Lord God, who is the living and true God, may condescend to dwell in your midst. For, unless you cast away all other gods, He cannot look upon you with favour. For He refuses and disdains any alliance with other gods and His temple has nothing in common with idols. But I know that you do not yet fully believe, I know that you fear the demons that inhabit your temples and graven images, and that therefore you will not dare to destroy them. Will you, however, permit me and my brother priests and clergy to attack the images and the temples with their pointed roofs and if you see that we are protected by the sign of the holy cross and remain uninjured, then, protected by the same victorious symbol, you may join with us in destroying the doors and walls with axes and hatchets and in overthrowing and burning them.””

Herbordus XXXI

[Otto Starts Breaking Stuff] 

“When they had heard and agreed to this suggestion, the bishop and the priests celebrated mass, and having received the communion, armed themselves with axes and hoes and proceeded to attack the temples, and after having cut clown and demolished everything they climbed the roofs and tore them down. Meanwhile, the inhabitants stood watching to see what their unhappy gods would do, and whether, or not, they would defend their own houses.”


Otto and his goons smashing Pomeranian idols

“But when they saw that no evil befel the destroyers, they said, ” If these gods, whose temples and sacred places are being torn down, possessed any divine power, they would surely defend themselves, but if they are unable to defend or help themselves, how can they defend or help us ? ” Saying this they made an attack and overthrew and destroyed everything, and they divided amongst themselves the wooden materials and carried them to their own houses to be used for cooking their bread and food. And as it was held to be right that he who seized most should have most, all the four temples which had pointed roofs (contince) were broken down and demolished with marvellous rapidity. In case any reader fail to understand the meaning or origin of the word contince it should be known that most words in the Slavonic language are connected with Latin ; we suppose therefore that the word contince was in ancient time derived from continere (to hold together).”

Herbordus XXXII

[Otto Takes on Triglav

“Now there were in the town of Stettin four temples, of which the principal one was built with marvellous care and skill. It had sculptures within and without and from the walls projected  images of men, birds and beasts, the appearance of which was so natural that they might have been thought to be living and breathing ; another thing especially remarkable was that owing to the care that had been taken by the painters over their work the colours of the images outside could not be dimmed or washed off either by snow or rain. Into this temple the people brought, in accordance with the ancient custom of their ancestors, the stores and arms of their enemies which they captured, and whatever spoils they took by land or by sea, as they were directed to do by the law relating to the giving of a tenth. They had placed here gold and silver bowls with which their nobles and great men were accustomed to predict events and to feast and drink, and which on festival days might be brought out as from a sanctuary. They had also preserved there for the honour and adornment of their gods horns of wild bulls covered with gold and interspersed with gems, some for use as drinking cups and others as musical instruments; swords also and knives and much valuable furniture which was rare and beautiful in appearance. All these things they decided should be given to the bishop and the priests when the temple had been destroyed. But he said, “Be it far from me that we should be enriched by you, for we have at home things like these and even better ; do you rather, who are the owners of them, distribute them for your own use and with the blessing of God.” And after sprinkling them all with water that had been blessed he made over them the sign of the holy cross and commanded that they should divide them among themselves.”


Triglav statue in Wolin (technically he was worshipped in Szczecin)

“Now there was a three-headed [Vita Priif. gives the number as two] image/idol which had its three heads on one body and was called Triglav. This with its three small heads adhering to part of the body was the only thing that he took; he carried it away with him as a trophy and afterwards sent it to Rome as a proof of the conversion of this people, so that the Apostolic Lord and the whole Church might see what results he had attained amongst this race by pulling up and planting, by building and destroying.”

“There were three other temples which were held in lower estimation and were less ornamented. Only seats and tables had been built round on the inside as the people were accustomed to hold councils and meetings there, for on certain days and hours they used to come to these temples either to drink or to play, or to transact serious business. There was also there a large and shady oak tree with a delightful fountain underneath, which the simple-minded people regarded as rendered sacred by the presence of a certain god, and treated with great veneration. After the destruction of the temples the people begged the bishop not to cut it down as he wished to do. They promised moreover that they would never again venerate in the name of religion either that tree or place, and said that it was only for the sake of its shade and its other attractions, which were not in themselves unlawful, that they desired to save it and they did not desire to be saved by it. When the bishop had received this promise he said, ” I agree concerning this tree, but there is a living creature from which you obtain oracles which must be taken away, as it is not lawful for Christians to practise augury or soothsaying.””

Herbordus XXXIII

[It’s Horses Again] 

“Now the people possessed a horse of great size which was plump, dark-coloured and very   spirited. It did no work throughout the year and was regarded as being so holy that no one was worthy to ride it. It had also as its attentive guardian one of the four priests who were attached to the temples. Whenever the people contemplated setting out on any expedition by land to attack their enemies, or in order to secure booty, they were accustomed to forecast the result in this way. Nine spears were placed on the ground separated from one another by the space of a cubit. When then the horse had been made ready and was bridled, the priest, who was in charge of it, led the horse three times backwards and forwards across the spears that were lying on the ground. If the horse crossed without knocking its feet or disturbing the spears, they regarded this as an omen of success and proceeded on their expedition without anxiety, but if the result were otherwise they remained inactive. ”


Horse augury in progress

[For the horse auguries at Arkona see here]

“Although some of the people vehemently objected, nevertheless, by the help of God, the bishop at length completely did away with all auguries of this kind and with the calculations that were made with dry wood, by which they sought for auguries in view of a naval battle or a predatory expedition, and as he feared that the horse, which was used for this evil purpose, should be a snare or cause of stumbling to these simple people, he ordered that it should be sold and sent to another country, and said that it was better fitted to be a chaiiot horse than to furnish predictions. When, as a result of the bishop’s teaching, they had cast away all their superstitions and follies, he admonished them that they should regard all Christians as their brothers, and should not sell or kill them or take spoil from them, but should behave towards all of them in a fraternal and neighbourly manner and should expect the same conduct from them in return.  And inasmuch as it was monstrously cruel to kill female infants he urged the women to agree that this should not occur again. For up to that time, if any woman had given birth to many daughters, the people were accustomed to kill some of them in order that they might provide the more easily for the rest. Moreover they did not consider this to be murder.”

Herbordus XXXIV

[The Purge is Complete] 

“When then the city had been purged of its monstrous wickedness and filth and the practice of polygamy had been abandoned, those who had secretly accepted the faith before the people generally had given their consent, assisted and joined in the work of evangelization ; instruction was given in the streets and open places, the gospel trumpet was sounded, crosses were erected, the crucifix was adored, the name of Christ was upon every tongue and occupied the attention of all, and everyone either learnt, or taught, the Christian faith. In this city, which was of such great size and contained nine hundred fathers of families besides little children and women and a large number of other persons, there was no one found who, after the people had given their consent to the faith, tried to draw back from the truth of the Gospel, with the exception of the priest who had been in charge of the horse to which we have referred. After he had wearied the bishop by his great insolence and had sowed tales above the good seed, he was on a certain day earnestly entreated by the people (to desist) and was at the same time vanquished in argument by the bishop.”


The Triglav horse priest was vanquished in an argument and then died of an unexplained “swelling of the belly”

“Continuing, however, in his obstinate refusal to accept the truth, he was by divine vengeance afflicted with a swelling of his belly and after much pain and outcry he died. This event produced great fear throughout the whole city and all the people praised Christ and declared that God was the mighty upholder of His own law.”

Herbordus XXXV/XXXVI

[Civilization Arrives]

“When the shrines and images had been destroyed and the priest had been punished by God, the victorious Cross was erected, and baptisteries were built,”


Otto’s assistants baptising ecstatic Pomeranians

“and fenced round with screens and everything was arranged in a religious and fitting manner.”

Ebbo X

[Miracles Arrive]

“We must not omit to mention how, through the witness borne by a miracle, the Lord deigned to render famous His faithful labourer who toiled manfully on His behalf even as He had declared by the mouth of the prophet: ” Whoso glorifieth Me, him will I glorify.”

“Two women, who were still entangled in the errors of heathenism, were seriously jll, so much so that they were deprived of all use of their limbs and appeared to be about to die. Otto went to them and declared to them the way of salvation, as they were able to receive it, and, venturing to rely upon the mercy of Christ, he promised them that if they would believe and be baptized, they should receive healing not only of the soul, but of the body, and should become completely well. Having made this promise the servant of God forthwith prayed and placed his hands on their heads, and fortified them with the sign of the cross and words of benediction, whereupon their pains were immediately put to flight and they were restored to their former health.”


The two women did recover thanks to Otto’s prayers, albeit not without certain sideeffects

“Being set free then by the prayers of the holy bishop from a double death, that is a death of body and soul, they were regenerated by the water of salvation with great joy. They were, moreover, the cause of the salvation and conversion of many.”

Ebbo XI

[Wolin Take Two]

“The people of Julin, who had before driven away from them the herald of truth, when they heard that the inhabitants of Stettin had received the faith, began, in accordance with God’s good pleasure, to feel remorse, and despatched messengers of rank to recall the man of God. When Otto saw them, he was moved with holy zeal and said, ” Why have you come to me whom you hated and drove away from you ? ” They, however, made humble apology and begged for pardon, saying, ” Honoured father, we did not dare to infringe the ancient law of our fathers and ancestors without having obtained the approval of the leaders whom we revere in Szczecin/Stettin, which is our chief city. But now that your God has, through your instrumentality, subjected our leaders to Himself, all our resistance is at an end, and we are ready to submit to your counsels and to receive the teaching of salvation.”


In contrast to his first visit, Otto was mobbed by joyful crowds the second time around in Wolin

When he heard this the bishop knelt and gave thanks to God, and, setting out with the messengers, he was received by the inhabitants of Julin with due reverence and opened to those who were in error the way of truth, and, purifying them by the sacrament of baptism, he united to God His adopted people. The number of those baptized at this time was reckoned at twenty-two thousand, one hundred and fifty-six men. All these who, on account of their ignorance of their Creator and their worship of material things, might be compared to the foolish beasts of burden and were made like unto them, did the holy father lead into the true path and teach to offer a rational service to the living God. Every man who is without the knowledge of his Creator is a mere animal.”

Ebbo XII

[What to Do, What Not to Do]

“…In the year of our Lord eleven hundred and twenty-four, that is in the second ” indiction,” when Calixtus the second occupied the papal chair at Rome, Otto by the grace of God, eighth bishop of the Church of Bamberg, inflamed by the fire of divine love and strengthened by the apostolic authority already mentioned, approached part of the territory belonging to the Pomeranian pagans and certain towns of Leuticia [lands of the Liutizi/Wilzi West of the Odra], in order that he might recall them from the error of idolatry and might lead them into the way of truth and to a knowledge of Christ the Son of God. And when, by the help of the Lord, these had been converted and baptized, he built and consecrated churches, and taught the people to observe the ordinances of the holy fathers.”


At first Otto seemed scary and distant to the Pomeranians but…

“Thus he taught them to abstain on Fridays from flesh and milk, after the manner of Christians; and on the Lord’s Day to abandon all secular work and come to church in order to hear the divine Office; and to offer assiduous and earnest prayers. He taught them also to keep the Saints’ Days and their vigils with all diligence, as had been explained to them, and to observe carefully the holy season of Lent by fasting, watching, alms-giving and prayers, and to bring their infants to be baptized on the Passover sabbath and at Pentecost, accompanied by their godparents and with candles and the hood, which is called the ” white robe.” He taught them too that when the infants had been dressed in the robes of innocence they were to bring them to church day by day till the eighth day and to see that they were present at the celebration of the divine Office. He strictly forbade also the murder of daughters, which was a very common crime amongst them, and taught them that they should not bring their own sons and daughters to be baptized, but should seek godparents for them, and that the children should trust and love their godparents even as their natural parents.”


…soon it became clear he just wanted to help them tell Right from Wrong

“He forbade also anyone to have as his wife the child of his own mother, or any relation as far as the sixth and even seventh generation, and ordered that each man should be content with one wife, and that the Christian dead should not be buried with the heathen in the woods or the fields, but in cemeteries, as is the custom of all Christians; that they should not place sticks on their tombs, and should abandon all pagan customs and depraved practices; that they should not build idol temples, nor visit witches [phitonissas/pythonissas] or act as soothsayers, and that they should not eat anything unclean…,


Certain traditional foods were on their way out

“…nor that which had died of itself, or had been suffocated, or offered as a sacrifice to idols, nor should they eat the blood of animals. They should not participate with pagans, nor take food or drink with them or in their vessels, nor should they revert to pagan customs in all these matters. He enjoined upon them that while they were in health they should come to the priests of the Church and confess their sins, and when they were sick they should call the presbyters to them and after having been purified by confession should receive the Body of the Lord. He instructed them also that they should display penitence in respect of perjury, adultery, homicide, and other crimes in accordance with the canonical ordinances, and should obediently observe all the rules of the Christian faith ; and lastly that women after childbirth should come to church and receive the customary blessing of the priest.”


[On the Treacherous Widow, the Tree of Triglav and the Cunning of Otto and his Man Hermann]

“The idol priests alone refused to accept the right way and laid many snares for the Lord’s servant, whom they sought to destroy secretly. But when multitudes hastened day by day to accept the faith, the sacrilegious and profane priests found no means to approach him, but, being confused and awestruck by his appearance, after the example of the magicians Zaroes and Arfaxat, who fled from Christ’s apostles Matthew, Simeon and Judas, they left that district and retired to a distance.”


The idol priests lay many snares for Otto

“And because they were not able to raise an open persecution against God’s servant, they tried to injure him by slanders and horrible blasphemies ; and wherever they went they stirred up envy and hatred against him, ‘and heaped upon him infamies and reproaches. As a recompense for this, however, the worthy bishop obtained from the Lord the greater grace, for as it is written, “The blessing of the Lord is upon the head of the just,” so God bestowed upon him an eternal inheritance in heaven, and he found favour in the sight of all men.”

“When the temples and the idol images had been destroyed by Otto, the sacrilegious priests carried away by stealth outside the province the golden image of Triglav which was chiefly worshipped by the people, and committed it to the care of a certain widow who lived in a small country house where it was not likely to be looked for. The widow for a stipulated reward took charge of this profane image and shut it up as a man shuts the pupil of his eye. For this purpose the trunk of a great tree was hollowed out, and the image of Triglav, after being covered with a cloak, was placed inside so that no opportunity of seeing, not to say rinding it, was afforded to anyone. Only a small hole was left in the trunk where a sacrificial offering might be inserted, nor did anyone enter the house except for the purpose of offering an idolatrous sacrifice.”



Otto planning to discover location of Triglav idol (Hermann, in the back, stands ready for any Einsatz)

“The famous apostle of Pomerania, on hearing this, considered many plans for getting to the place, for he feared, as eventually proved to be the case, that after his departure this image might bring harm to the people who were ignorant and not yet confirmed in the faith. But, being endowed with great sagacity, he wisely reflected that if he were to announce that he was going thither publicly, the priests would hear of his coming and would again remove the image of Triglav secretly to some more remote place. Accordingly he wisely determined to send secretly to the widow’s house one of his companions named Hermann, who was acquainted with the speech of the barbarians and was a man of understanding and intelligence. He directed him to assume the native dress, and to pretend that he was going to sacrifice to TriglavHermann then bought a native cap and cloak and, after encountering many dangers in the course of his difficult journey, he came at length to the house of the widow and declared that, as the result of an appeal to his god Triglav, he had been delivered from a tempestuous sea and desired to offer a fitting sacrifice as a token of gratitude for his safety.


The widow put Hermann through many humiliating tests before revealing the location of the Triglav tree

He said also that he had been led thither in a marvellous manner and by unknown ways. The widow replied, “If you have been sent by the god, behold the sanctuary in which our god is detained, shut up in a hollow tree. Himself indeed you cannot see or touch, but prostrate yourself in front of the tree and note from a distance the small opening into which you may put the sacrifice that you have vowed. When you have placed it there, shut the door reverently and go out, and if you desire to preserve your life be careful to tell no one what I have said.” He entered eagerly into this sanctuary and threw into the hole a piece of silver in order that the sound of the falling metal might suggest that he had offered a sacrifice.


Hermann ascending the Triglav tree

But he quickly drew back what he had thrown, and so far from showing honour to Triglav he displayed his contempt for it by spitting. He then examined it more closely to see if there was any means by which he could accomplish the business for which he had been sent, and he noticed that the image of Triglav had been pressed into the trunk so carefully and firmly that it could not possibly be pulled out or moved. At this he was greatly distressed and doubted as to what he could do, and he said to himself, ” Alas that I have traversed so much sea to no purpose. What shall I say to my lord, or who will believe that I have been here if I return empty?” Looking round he noticed that the seat of Triglav was fixed to a wall close by: it was of great antiquity and was of very little use. He leapt with joy and, pulling from the wall this inauspicious gift, he made off. He started early in the night and with all haste rejoined his master and his companions, to whom he narrated all that he had done, and showed the seat of Triglav in order to confirm the truth of his statements.”

“The apostle of Pomerania, after taking counsel with his companions, decided that he and they ought to refrain from further search for the idol for fear lest it should appear that he was prompted to do this not by his zeal for justice but by his desire to secure the gold. When then the chiefs and elders had been brought together he exacted of them an oath that they would entirely abandon the worship of Triglav and, after breaking up his image, would use all the gold for the redemption of captives.”

[this is obviously different from the Herbordus version above where the Triglav icon travels with Otto to Rome]

Ebbo XIV

[Meanwhile at Bamberg]

“But while “the strong man armed ” who had hitherto possessed Pomerania as his house was overcome by Christ, who was stronger and who distributed the spoils, and while his arms were shattered by the good bishop, he could not endure his forcible exclusion from his own dwelling-places, but as a roaring lion he sought to do, even if it were but a little, harm to God’s servant. And as he could find nothing else that he could do because he was prevented by the Lord, he destroyed the greater part of Bamberg…”

Herbordus XXXVI

[Wolin Take Two Herbordus Version]

“…And as their words flashed forth little by little, the whole city was inflamed, even as a reed burns in the fire, and the people soon began to show disgust and horror at their abominations and to renounce their idols and the errors in which they had been held. The bishop, moreover, remembering the agreement in accordance with which he had retired from them, contemplated proceeding with haste to visit them after the conversion of Stettin. He was, however, asked to visit first of all two small towns, namely, Gradicia and Lubinum, which belonged to the town of Stettin and were situated on its border.”

Herbordus XLII

[After Return to Bamberg, Apostasy Happens in Pomerania and Otto is Needed Once More]

“…Whilst the good bishop laboured and sweated amidst his divine labours in these parts, the ancient Enemy languished with poisonous envy as he grieved over the loss of so many souls which had accrued to him in Pomerania, and strove to sow tares over the good seed. The two towns of Julin and Stettin apostatized at the instigation of the great Enemy, and abandoned the worship of the true God, and by observing again their idolatrous customs gave themselves over to destruction. How this came about and how, through God’s grace, the harm done was marvellously repaired by the second apostleship of Otto, the third book will, by the Lord’s permission, explain.”


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May 9, 2015