Have you heard of St. Ansgar, the patron saint of Scandinavia? Unless you’re Danish or Scandinavian, odds are you haven’t. The “Apostle of the North” did so much to help the spread of Catholicism in Northern Europe. Want to know more? Here are 7 facts on the little-known St. Ansgar.
He wasn’t even Scandinavian
You’d think that St. Ansgar, patron saint of Denmark (and Scandinavia as a whole), would be Northern European but he wasn’t: he was French! St. Ansgar was born near Amines. So, how did he become the patron saint of this region? He was a missionary to Denmark, Norway, and Sweden. St. Ansgar is credited as having founded the first Christian church in Sweden around A.D. 832 and the first Christian school in Denmark. He was also responsible for the conversion of King Erik of Jutland and King Harald Klak of Denmark.
Benedictine monk and student of saints
St. Ansgar was the student of both Sts. Adelard of Corbie and Paschasius Radbert. He was a Benedictine monk at both Old Corbie Abbey in his hometown of Picardy and New Corbie is Westaphalia (which is modern-day Germany) before he was sent off as a missionary to the North.
Champion against slavery and for the poor
St. Ansgar actively campaigned against the Viking slave trade that targeted Christians. He did all he could to ensure the freedom of as many Christian slaves as possible, even risking his life in the process. He also limited what he ate to bread and water in order to show solidarity with the poor.
You can venerate his relics
Even though he’s been dead for over a millennium, there are still two places where you can venerate his relics; both are in Hamburg, Germany. The first is St. Mary’s Cathedral and the other is St. Ansgar’s and St. Bernard’s Church. As for his remains, he was buried in Bremen, Germany in 865.
A saint across Christian denominations
St. Ansgar is venerated not only by the Roman Catholic Church but also other Christian denominations such as the Eastern Orthodox and the Lutheran Church. Now that’s some staying power!
To the moon
Did you know that there is a crater on the Moon named after the great St. Ansgar? You can look up where the crater Ansgarius is located and see if you can one day see it for yourself!
Earthly mother in heaven
Written by his successor, St. Ansgar’s biography lets us know that he had a vision that his deceased mother was in heaven when he was still a young boy. This was the moment that prompted St. Ansgar to become more religiously-minded and continued to inspire him for the rest of his life.
In his own words
“If I were worthy of such a favor from my God, I would ask that he grant me this one miracle: that by His grace He would make of me a good man.” – St. Ansgar
Unfortunately, after this death, pagans did all they could to erase all of St. Ansgar’s hard work. The region continued to fall to paganism for 200 until two more missionaries were sent to convert people of the North. As of now, the numbers of Catholics continue to fall while the number of those who don’t identify themselves as Christian continues to grow. St. Ansgar, pray for Scandinavia!