Friday, October 3, 2014

Salt & Pepper: Two Ewalds

Statues of the two Ewalds, in the church at Cologne.
Although the Saxons were not converted to Christianity until Charlemagne did it by force in the 8th century, there were other attempts by missionaries to do so. One attempt was made by a pair of friends, both named Ewald.

Ewald the Fair and Ewald the Black were both born in Northumbria and educated in Ireland. Their nicknames were the result of their appearance and not an evaluation of their personalities. Struck with zeal for converting Germans, they traveled to Saxony c.690 where they made the acquaintance of the steward of one of the tribal chieftains in Aplerbeck. The steward said that he would (eventually) introduce them to the chieftain.

During the intervening days, the Ewalds conducted themselves as expected of pious missionaries: they prayed regularly, said Mass for themselves, and recited the canonical hours (prayers meant for different parts of the day). Other Saxons, observing these rituals, feared that the Ewalds were going to try to convert their chieftain to Christianity and eliminate all of their cherished local religious customs and temples. They decided to eliminate the Ewalds instead.

On 3 October 695 (or 692) Ewald the Fair was killed with a sword. Ewald the Black, the cleverer of the two, was seen as the leader and deserving of something more. They tortured him, ripping his limbs apart. The bodies were thrown into the Rhine. According to Bede, when the chieftain heard of what happened, he had the murderers killed.

But the last was not heard of the bodies of the Ewalds: they floated upstream for 40 miles, a heavenly light shining above them, until they reached a place where the Ewalds' companions were camped. The two were buried nearby, but disinterred by Pepin the Short and moved to the church of St. Cunibert in Cologne.

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