January 19

St. Canute IV

St. Canute IV

St Canute was born in 1042 as one of the many sons of Sweyn IIEstridson. He was from Denmark and his father was a king. When hisfather died, St Canute’s elder brother, Harald III became the King andSt Canute was opposed to his brother.

Herald III then passed away in 1080 and St Canute succeeded him tobecome the King of Denmark. He then married the daughter of Count RobertI of Flanders named Adela and together they had one son named Charlesand twin daughters. Flanders were already allies based on their mutualhostility towards William I of England.

His Works

St Canute’s first notable actions were when he was a member of Sweyn’sraid of England which occurred in 1069. He is also reported to have beenone of the leaders of another raid on England that happened in 1075.

As a king, St Canute proved to be someone who was highly ambitious andhe was also a very devoted person. This was clear on how he acknowledgedthe church’s authority and demanded strict observation of churchholidays.

St Canute was a zealous propagator of the faith of Christ, he was piousand he was also charitable to the poor. He was assiduous in prayer andcontemplation.

St Canute was also known for giving generous gifts to the churches inOdense, Roskide, Viborg, Dalby and Lund. He also enforced the collectionof tithes. This strong devotion to the church resulted in the churchbecoming his strong ally and supporting his position in power.

At some point in 1085 St Canute granted the Lund Cathedral large tracksof land in Scania, Zealand and Amager. The clerics at Lund were giventhe prerogatives of the land enabling them to be able to tax thepeasantry there.

Despite all this, he still retained his right to pardon the outlaws,impose fines and demand transportation for his retinue.

Throughout his reign, he attempted to increase the royal power inDenmark by stifling the nobles. He assigned to himself ownership ofcommon lands, the right to goods from shipwrecks and gave himself theright to inherit possessions of foreigners and those who had norelations.

His policies to strengthen his powers led to discontent amongst hissubjects as they were not accustomed to such kind of leadership.

His Ambitions

St Canute’s ambitions were not only for Denmark but he also wished toextend beyond borders. He took it that the crown to England wasrightfully his since he was a grandnephew to Canute the Great who wasthe ruler of England, Denmark and Norway until 1035.

In 1085 with the support of his father in law, Count Robert and Olaf IIIof Norway, he planned to invade England and called his fleet atLimfjord. However, the fleet never set sail as St Canute became occupiedby the potential threat from Henry IV who was the Holy Roman Emperor.Canute had the fear that Henry would invade Denmark as Henry’s enemyRudolf of Rheinfelden had sought refuge in Denmark

The warriors who made up the fleet got weary of waiting for him as theywanted to return home for the harvest season. They then decided to electOlaf who was Canute’s brother to argue their case. This did not sit wellwith St Canute and he arrested Olaf.

The End of His Reign

In early 1086, a revolt broke among the peasants against him inVendsyssel where Canute was staying. He then fled to Schleswig and thento Odense.

On the 10th of July that same year, Canute and him men took refuge inthe wooden St Alban’s Priory in Odense. However the rebels stormed intothat church and killed Canute and his brother Benedict as well asseventeen of their followers. Based on the results of his CT scan thatwas done in 2008, it is likely that he faced his death without anystruggle.

After his death, St Canute was succeeded by his brother Olaf as Olaf Iof Denmark.

The reason for the up rise that resulted in his death is unknown butothers argue that it had something to do with fleet of peasants that hewas supposed to go with to the invasion of England.


St Canute is also the founder of the Lund Cathedral School and he isknown as the patron saint of Denmark.

Because of his advocacy for the church and his martyred, he quicklybecame considered a saint. He was canonized in 1101.

10 July is recognized by the Catholics as his feast day.

The St Canute Cathedral was built in his name and his remains and hisbrother Benedict’s remains where entered there and their remains are ondisplay there.

Canute’s abortive invasion of England marked the end of the Viking Age.


There are different interpretations of St Canute’s ruler ship with someconsidering him as violent king who tyrannized his subjects and othersconsidering him as a strict but fair ruler who supported the RomanCatholic Church.

He was never a thoroughly popular saint in Denmark but when he wascanonized, it gave the Danish monarchy a sense of divine legitimacy

5 Interesting Facts About St. Canute IV

  1. St Canute went into exile in Sweden when his brother became the
    King as he actively opposed him.
  2. St Canute was the first Dane to be canonized.
  3. After the peasant dispersed when they did not go through with
    their plan to invade England, St Canute planned to carry out the
    invasion the following year.
  4. He died following a lance thrust in the flank.
  5. When Olaf was the king, Denmark suffered crop failure and this was
    seen as divine retribution for the killing of Canute.

Prayer to St. Canute IV

Heavenly King, we pray that like St. Canute, we will be willing to offerup all that we have to You, that we may spend eternity in Your royalcourt in Heaven. Amen.