Saturday, July 28, 2012

Saint Henry Sargophagus explained

This summer I had little "pilgrimage" to finnish church at Nousiainen. It was place were medieval bishop was buried, and later Maunu II Tavast donated sargophagus to church. You can also see these decorative plates at Helsinki, finnish national museum. To fully understand what they tell you need to read bit Legend of The Bishop Henry. 
In start I must remind that Bishop Henry is not official saint. If you want to be specific, bishop Henry would do well. However Henry was considered as Saint during medieval time at Finland and nobody had guts to doubt it. Or, those who did learned it with the hard way!

You might also point out that Bishop Henry might be just a myth and not actual historic person. I allow such thoughts too, but I am more intrested how big influence Henry had on my culture and art, real person or not. 

Indiana Jones adventures of our own!

If you visit someday yourself at actual sargophagus you will understand why I whined about it being difficult to photograph. First, you are standing in medieval church. Second, it is quite massive piece and most beatiful part is seen only from above. Despite having only some good pictures I try decrypt stories behind them and who you can find from them.

Sargophagus: Top plate
 This is sargophagus for Bishop Henry, who is detailed as biggest person dressed in bishop's costume. He is standing above murderer, peasant Lalli and his axe. Notice that Henry is wearing bishop's ring on his finger.
You can see other bishop too, most powerful bishop of Turku city from medieval time, Maunu II Tavast. Sargophagus also contains emblem of Maunu II Tavast and Turku Cathedral (no picture about them).
He was person who ordered these decorative plates from Europe, made by flamish artisans. Behind bishop Henry is heavenly portal and details of gothic cathedral.  Such details hints out how decorations was made at Europe and during 15th century, while Henry lived during 12th century himself. 

Saint Olaf.
Smaller details includes four  Four Evangelists on bottom and upper corners. It is bit unclear for me why evangelist symbol does not have correct name included. There are many small people on sides, some of them are unknown and some are known Saints with atributes. Saints are: St. Peter, St. Paul, St. John, St. Andreas, St. Erik, St. Olaf, St. Catherine Alexandria, St.  Margaret of Antioch, St. Birgitta and St. Helena. There are two swedish apostles named Eskil and Sigfrid and two unknown characters. Next to Henry's head is angels and above is Jesus Christ. 
Swedish apostles Eskil and Sigfrid with bread.
Dragon under feets of Margaret of Antioch.
Saint Andreas and Saint John.
Matthew the Evangelist. Or is it?
Luke the Evangelist. Odd. It says Mateus... ?

Mark the Evangelist.

Salvator Mundi or Jesus Christ.
Text going around edges is from Henry's feast day of worship in latin:

O vita commendabilis
o mors desiderabilis 
propter que venerabilis
hic pontifex sit similis
in gloria sanctorum.

Commenda nos amabilis
pater et honorabilis
martyr regi celorum.

Intercession of Maunu II Tavast to Henry.
Sargophagus: Side plates

Side decoration on sargophagus details stories of the Legend of Bishop Henry. It is most oldest known documentation at Finland and dates back to 13th century. It tells about how Bishop Henry traveled to Finland and in the end died here too by local peasant Lalli.


The body of Heny is placed in sargophagus.

Several miracle includes parents praying for their dead child and Henry revives dead ones.

 Legenda Sancti Henrici, lectio 6:

Digitus martyris gloriosi in hyeme abscisus longe post in vere, cum ubique glacies tota liquefacta est resoluta esset, corvo super ipsum crocitante, cum annulo ipsius est inventus in quadam particula glaciei. 

(Tuomas Heikkilä: Pyhän Henrikin Legenda, Suomen kirjallisuuden seura 2005 Helsinki)

Bishop Henry's finger with bishop's ring is found on ice from lake Köyliö in the spring while all the other ice was melted allready. A raven was sitting on ice near ring.
Saint Henry saves devoted sealhunters.

Servant of the bishop in Turku, Gudmun, visits priest at Sweden and they are having later meal. During Saint Henry Memorial Cup priest laughts at ceremony and says "If he is Saint, let him anger on me, if he can". During following night priest was tormented and in great agony. He then undertood how he had asked this suffering for himself by insulting Saint Henry and called Gudmund in his quarters. He repent his disrespect, shouting Saint Henry to aid him and promised to fast rest of his life before Saint Henry's day eve. After this his agony was soon over.

Lalli murders Henry and wears his hat.

Lalli returns to home telling he hunted bear (Henry). While taking hat off his skin is teared off too.


Swedish crusaders landing on the coast of Finland in two ships and meeting finns, prepared for battle.
Symbols in the flags are tre kronor, swedish monarch emblem and dragon might symbolise paganity like in saint statues.

The Bishop baptises the conquered Finns.

Invaders and finns engaged in battle.

The bishop excommunicates the killer. (Lalli)

The peasant Lalli kills one of the Bishop's men.
This is just a small overlook about amazing details of the Saint Henry Sargophagus. Recently I found intresting book about sargophagus, dating back to 1932! More to come, stay tuned !
If you want to observe cover of the sargophagus online, visit link below. It is only in finnish, but you can see gray picture on other side. Just click full screen button and zoom in and out to find out details seen here too.