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William of Roskilde

(d. 1070)

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(d. 1070),

bishop. An English priest who was chaplain to Canute, king of England (1016–35) and Denmark, he accompanied the king on his visits to Scandinavia. He was so shocked by the ignorance, idolatry, and superstition which he found that he decided to stay behind and help to preach the Gospel. Eventually he became bishop of Roskilde (Zeeland) and tirelessly laboured as a pastor. The few events recorded of him concern his attempts to improve the conduct of the king, Sweyn Estridsen. After the king had caused some supposed criminals to be killed without trial and in a church, violating sanctuary, William forbade him to enter this church next day until he was absolved from the guilt of shedding blood unjustly. Courtiers then drew their swords and William showed himself ready to die. Instead, Sweyn confessed his crime and donated land to Roskilde church as a peace-offering. Thenceforward until the king's death they worked together to foster and promote religion.

Sweyn's body was first buried at Ringsted abbey until the cathedral of Roskilde (the burial place of Danish kings) was sufficiently complete to receive it. William went out to meet the body, but died at its approach. So king and bishop were buried together at Roskilde. William appears in Danish calendars. Feast: 2 September.

B.L.S., ix. 12–13; Bibl. SS., vii. 482.

Subjects: Religion

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