Post-classical history

Erik I of Denmark (d. 1103)

King of Denmark (1095-1103) and leader of a crusade to the Holy Land in 1103.

Erik was born around 1056 and was the fourth son of King Sven Estridsen (d. 1076) to become king of Denmark. His nickname, Ejegod, means “the Good.” On the death of his brother King Oluf Hunger (1095), Erik was recalled from exile in Sweden to assume the crown. He traveled to Rome and Bari, probably in 1098, founding two hospices for pilgrims, one in Lucca and the other near Piacenza. While in Italy he started negotiations that led to the establishment of an independent Danish church province with an archbishopric in Lund (1103/1104). He also managed to have his brother Knud the Holy (d. 1086) canonized in 1100. He fought against the heathen Wends in the 1090s and forced them to pay tribute; it is very likely that the Wendish areas, especially around Rügen, became a Danish missionary field at this time.

In 1103 Erik left for Jerusalem with his wife, Bodil, and a strong following: according to a contemporary Icelandic poet, this was to heal his internal wounds and save his soul. Later twelfth- and thirteenth-century sources suggest that Erik had taken the cross, and if his status as crucesignatus (one signed with the cross) cannot be taken as certain, it is at least very likely. His journey to Jerusalem took him via Constantinople (mod. Istanbul, Turkey), where he was splendidly received by the Byzantine emperor. Erik never reached the Holy Land but died in Paphos on Cyprus; his exact burial place on the island is not known. His wife continued on to Jerusalem, where she died on the Mount of Olives and was buried in the Valley of Jehosaphat.

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