November 5

St. Magnus

Saint Magnus

Are saints born or made? Take your time before you answer the question.

I believe saints are people with ambition for something bigger thanthemselves. If you read till the end, you will be able to answer thequestion.

An Aristocratic Heritage

Magnus was a boy born into a wealthy aristocratic family in Orkney,United Kingdom. His grandparents were Earl Thorfin and his wifeIngibiorg Finnsdottir (related to kings Olav11 and Harald 11 ofNorwegian.

Magnus was born in the year 1080 as the first son to father ErlendThorfinnsson, Earl of Orkney, and mother Thora, daughter of SumarlidiOspaksson of Iceland. He had a brother Erling and sisters; Gunhild andCecilia.

There is no doubt how glamorous and affluent the Magnus family were inthat era. As a boy born in such luxury, he had a good beginning,attended the best schools, and specialized in holy writings.

Thorn of Power

St. Magnus’ father, Erlend, had a twin brother called Paul (Paal), whomtogether they both ruled in peace as earl of Orkney till their childrengrew up.

Then entered Hakon Paulsson, a cousin to Magnus and his siblings. Hakonbelieved he was the most excellent of the cousins and deserved to beseen as the foremost among his kin but st. Magnus’ younger brother,Erling, would have none of that.

Rivalry broke out between the cousins Erling and Haakon. According tothe book “Magnus saga”, Erling and Haakon were described astalented but quarrelsome and arrogant. On the other hand, St Magnus wasdescribed as quiet and peaceful, not particularly interested in theEarldom.

St. Magnus’s father and his twin brother Paul tried mediating betweenthe warring cousins and failed. Both of them bear sentimental attachmentto promoting the interest of their son.

Finally, the Earldom had to be divided into two distinctive territories.Haakon traveled to Scandinavia, where he stayed with another cousinMagnus Barefoot, King of Norway. It appeared that peace returned toOrkney.

The Outcast?

In Haakon’s absence, his father Paul had left mainly control of thekingdom to Erlend and his sons (st. Magnus’ father). The people ofOrkney enjoyed the peace and wished for Haakon never to return.

On getting wind of the happenings in Orkney, Haakon sought the help ofKing Magnus of Norway to help him take Orkney for himself in the battleof 1098. His betrayal was to become his downfall as King Magnus hadother plans.

With Haakon, King Magnus conquered Orkney and took possession of Orkneyfor himself and his 8-year-old son. Contrary to the agreement he hadwith Haakon to make him the earl of Orkney.

King Magnus deposed the twins Erlend and Paul and sent them to Norway,where they died as prisoners. He took St. Magnus, his brother Erlingwith their cousin Haakon as hostages to serve him.

While on a raiding expedition along the west coast of Scotland, kingMagnus brought the cousins along to fight for him. St. Magnus refused tofight the Vikings and instead remained on the ship singing psalms. Hisrefusal was viewed as cowardice by the Norwegians.

When his younger brother Erling died while fighting the Vikings on theraid expedition, st. Magnus was forced to steal away from the ship andfled into Scotland.

Bridging the Gulf Again

Years passed by, king Magnus died in one of his many raids, and Haakon,st. Magnus’s cousin gained control of Orkney again. St. Magnus returnedto Orkney in 1105, 7 years after he sought refuge in Scotland.

On his return, he was granted the Earldom, and he ruled jointly in peacewith his cousin Haakon till….year 1114.

Again, Things Fall Apart?

It is on record that the followers of st. Magnus and Haakon fell out andwere ready to go to war. This became a tremendous burden on the peacethat was long fought and won.

After mediation, it was agreed that the two earls. Earl Magnus and earlHaakon should come together at the island of Egislay with just two shipsonly. An agreement st. Magnus honored but not his cousin Haakon who camewith eight ships and was tightly armed for battle.

St. Magnus hid all night in a church nearby when he realized that he hadbeen betrayed by his cousin. The followers of Haakon searched for himand captured him in the morning. Magnus offered to go into exile orprison for peace to reign.

But, in a world with so many voices, Haakon chieftains kept telling himto kill Magnus as they were tired of joint rule. And Haakon heeded theirwords.

Easter Sunday 16 April 1117, Lifolf Haakon’s cook on his order killedst. Magnus with an ax to his head.


5 Interesting Facts About Saint Magnus

  1. Did you know St Magnus is honored as the patron saint of Orkney?
    Why? After his death, his cousin was filled with grief, repented
    of his sins, even went on pilgrimage to Rome, after which he
    became the best leader of Orkney and ruled in peace.
  2. Who would have believed that there is courage in cowardice? By
    refusing to shed the innocent blood of the Vikings against king
    Magnus’s wishes, St Magnus showed that courage and strength could
    be found in simple things.
  3. He showed an example of authentic leadership by laying down his life
    willingly to restore peace to Orkney.
  4. Seen a saint with a great combination of humility and confidence?
    Look up to st. Magnus
  5. St. Magnus showed empathy even in death. He prayed for his

Prayer to Saint Magnus

May the precious merits of thy martyr st. Magnus protects us, O Lord, bypreaching the works of thy majesty, may we receive thine aid both nowand forever.St. Magnus, pray for us.