St Sigfrid’s Way is a celebration of the shared journeys, physical and spiritual, taken by Christian communities in Britain and Sweden, dating back to the journey of St Sigfrid in the 11th century.
The route binds together Sigfrid’s journey from York in the North of England to Växjö in the South of Sweden, carrying in his pilgrim’s pouch the liberating and unifying teachings of Christ and the journey towards shared Christian communion, inspired by those teachings, undertaken by the dioceses of Oxford and Växjö in the last twenty years.
Sigfrid, says the legend, was an Archbishop of York who became known as the Apostle of Sweden.
Along with three of his nephews, Unaman, Sunaman and Vinaman, Sigfrid was sent to King Olaf of Norway by the English King Ethelred in 995. Olaf had converted to Christianity whilst living in England during a period of exile from Sweden and on his return had requested the help of the English king in his attempt to bring Christianity to his household and country. It was the intention of Ethelred that Sigfrid would not only work for the conversion of Norway, but of Sweden too.
On arriving in Sweden, Sigfrid built a church at Växjö. He consecrated his nephews as bishops, and left to evangelize other parts of Sweden.
Whilst he was away, his nephews were murdered, and Sigfrid’s church in Växjö was burnt to the ground. Those responsible for the deaths and the arson were caught, but when Sigfrid returned to Växjö he pleaded with the king that those perpetrators should not be executed. King Olaf agreed to his request, and instead ordered that a large fine be paid. Sigfrid refused to accept any of this money, preferring to rebuild the church without it.
Sigfrid died c.1045 in Växjö after a ministry in Sweden, Norway and Denmark. Tradition has ascribed many stories of miracles to Sigfrid, some apparently used dubiously to frighten pagan tribes into accepting Christianity. The history of the spread of the gospel throughout Sweden, Norway and Denmark is difficult to ascertain with any degree of accuracy or impartiality. However, what is not in doubt is the success of the efforts of Sigfrid and others associated with him in bringing Christianity as a constant presence, abiding to this day, in the society of a region in which governments and royalty were constantly changing and battles for supremacy were the norm.
Växjö Cathedral, the building and its continuing worship, is a testimony to Sigfrid’s success. As is the presence and the worship of the nearly 350 churches of the Diocese today.
Adapted from Saints on Earth: A biographical companion to Common Worship by John H Darch and Stuart K Burns
ST SIGFRID’S TRUST
The Trust exists to promote and strengthen the relationship between the Church of England and the Swedish Church, formalised under the Porvoo agreement to which the Church of England signed up in 1995. Much of our work is done in conjunction with the Diocese of Oxford but we are very happy to consider collaboration with other bodies and individuals.
We look particularly to foster new initiatives. We have been instrumental in putting in place what is now an annual course for Oxford curates, ‘Getting to know the Swedish Church’, which happens in Oxford’s link diocese, Växjö. We have facilitated the development of several parish-to-parish links between Oxford and Växjö parishes.
We have helped with visits by Oxford choirs to Växjö and vice-versa and supported individuals wanting to spend time in the link diocese.
So if you have an idea for an Anglo-Swedish ecclesiastical venture, do be in touch with us, we may be able to offer a bit of guidance and some funding.