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The third seal of the City of Stockholm, depicting the crowned head of Eric the Saint, attested for the first time in 1376.
Eric IX of Sweden (or Erik the Lawgiver or Erik the Saint. In Swedish he is simply known as Erik den helige or Sankt Erik which translates as Erik the Holy and Saint Erik respectively) (c. 1120 – May 18, 1160) was a Swedishmarker king c.1150 – 1160. No historical records of Eric have survived, and all information about him is based on later legends that were aimed at having him established as a saint.

Referring to Eric as Eric IX is a later invention. The Swedish kings Erik XIV (1560–68) and Charles IX (1604–1611) took their numbers after studying a highly fictitious History of Sweden. He was actually Erik IV.

As later kings from the House of Eric were consistently buried at Varnhem Abbeymarker near Skaramarker in Västergötlandmarker, the family is considered to have Geat roots like other medieval ruling houses in Sweden. Based on the information that his possible brother Joar was a son of Jedvard (Edward), modern sources call him also Eric Jedvardson, but this remains speculative. He was a rival king, from 1150, to Sverker the Elder who had ascended the throne c.1130 and was murdered 1156, after which Eric was recognized in most or all provinces. Eric's reign ended when he was murdered in Uppsalamarker. He is said to have been murdered by Emund Ulvbane, an assassin who was hired by people working for the Sverker dynasty, in order for them to regain the control of the kingdom, or alternatively by Magnus Henriksson, another claimant, who is said in some sources to have succeeded him briefly as king. Swedes believe a miracle occurred at Eric's death, a fountain is said to have sprung from the earth where the king's head fell after being chopped off.

Eric would later be made a saint whose feast day in the Roman Catholic Church and Evangelical Lutheran Church in America is 18 May, although he was never formally canonized by the Catholic Church. The relic casket of Eric is on display in Uppsala Cathedralmarker (Uppsala domkyrka). The casket contains bones of a male, with traces of injury to the neck. Eric is the patron saint of Stockholmmarker and depicted in the city's coat of arms.

According to legends, Eric did much to consolidate Christianity in his realm and spread the faith into Finlandmarker. In an effort to conquer and convert the Finns, he allegedly led the First Swedish Crusade against the native Finns and persuaded an English Bishop Henry of Uppsalamarker to remain in Finland to evangelize the natives, later becoming a martyr there.

Eric was responsible for codifying the laws of his kingdom, which became known as King Eric's Law (also the Code of Uppland). Additionally, he established a monastic chapter in Old Uppsalamarker, which had come from the Danish abbey of Odensemarker.

In reaction to Eric's insistence that tithes be paid to support the Church as they were elsewhere in Europe, some Swedish nobles joined forces with Magnus Henrikson, great-great-grandson of the late king Sweyn Estridson of Denmark. Magnus the Strong son of the Danish king Niels of Denmark (c. 1064 – 1134) has been confused with Magnus Henrikson but he did not outlive his father. Eric was accosted near Uppsala at Ostra Aros as he was leaving church after hearing Mass on Ascension Day by the rebel Swedish nobles. He was thrown to the ground from his horse, tortured, ridiculed, then beheaded.

The king was buried in the church of Old Uppsala, which he had rebuilt around the burial mounds of his pagan predecessors. In 1167, his body was enshrined and his relics and regalia were transfered to the present cathedral of Uppsala, built on the site of Eric's martyrdom, in 1273.

In an effort to consolidate his position, Eric's son Knud encouraged the worship of his father as a martyr. Facts and fiction about his life were inseparably mixed together. The movement of Eric's relics extended the depth of his religious following. On his feast there were processions from the cathedral to Old Uppsala to petition for a good harvest.

Saint Eric is portrayed in art as a young king being murdered during Mass with the bishop Henry of Uppsala. In Uppsala Cathedral there is a series of late medieval paintings depicting Eric and Henry of Uppsala.

Archaeological evidence

According to the legend, King Erik the Saint was slain while he attended the mass at the ecclesia Sancte trinitatis – Trinity church - at Mons Domini. The current Trinity church in Uppsala was founded in the late 13th century and cannot be the church where Eric was slain. Scholars have discussed different locations of the older Trinity church, but the presence of pre-cathedral graves in the vicinity of the cathedral might suggest that the original Trinity church was located at the same spot as the cathedral. In an effort to elucidate this early history of the cathedral and Mons Domini, archaeologist Magnus Alkarp and geophysicist Jaana Gustafsson examined a large part of the cathedral with ground-penetrating radar (GPR). The results from this investigation confirmed the existence of an older building beneath the cathedral, in all the details corresponding with the outline of a 12th century Romanesque church, which implies that the cathedral is the site of the earlier Trinity church.


Married to Kristina from the House of Stenkil.

  1. Canute I of Sweden, King of Sweden 1167–1196.
  2. Filip
  3. Katarina Eriksdotter, married to Nils Blake.
  4. Margareta Eriksdotter, married in 1185 Sverre I of Norway, died in 1202.


  1. Article Karl in Nordisk familjebok

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