October 13 – Anthony of Chkondidi; Edward the Confessor

Anthony of Chkondidi (d. 1815) was born to a prince and a (different) prince’s daughter in Georgia. His sister married a king, but this is not her story. (Not that her story isn’t fascinating.) Their mother, Gulka, raised her children in the Christian faith, and Nicholas, their older brother, whose story this also isn’t, was expected to become a bishop. Anthony was groomed for a diplomatic career and fed on steaming bowls of philosophy, literature, poetry, art, and foreign languages such as Turkish and Persian.When Nicholas rejected his calling (too ascetic), however, Anthony gladly took his place.

Once monkified, Anthony realized his education was incomplete, and so the monks at his monastery arranged for him to be tutored by some French missionaries. Tony soon realized that the scholasticism they taught was incompatible with Orthodoxy. “Can you put wine into a glass of water without them mixing?” he said enigmatically. “Mais non,” said one of the Frenchmen. “Well, neither can you mix your theology and ours,” Anthony concluded. “Um, yeah,” said the missionaries, and they parted, hopefully amicably. Anthony then traveled to Tblisi, where he had relatives among the royalty (of course), to further his education. Before you know it (at least in this retelling) he was made bishop, fasting until his face resembled that of an angel (a fat baby with wispy blond curls?).

As bishop he ordered that a daily meal be prepared for the poor at the episcopal residence, and spoke out sternly against the practice of slave trading, even convening a church council to condemn it. He endowed monasteries with (tax-free!) holdings, as well as with ancient icons and such. He was ultimately made a Metropolitan, and ended his days at the Nakharebou Monastery at a venerable old age.

Edward the Confessor (1003–1066), son of King Æthelred the Unready (no blame to him of course), went into exile (with the rest of the family) when Viking Sweyn Forkbeard (is that a great name or what?) invaded. A series of battles ensued between the Unreadys and Sweyn and his son Cnut, killing all of Ed’s brothers (at least one pretty horrifically). When Æthelred died (a search of a dozen sources did not turn up the cause), his wife was so torn up that she married Cnut[1]. After Cnut died, a period of weirdness ensued. Ed’s mother acted as regent for Cnut’s successor Harthancnut, who was busy in Denmark. When he died, Edward mounted the English throne, unanimously proclaimed king by the requisite proclaimers (some of whom walked 500 miles, doubtless). He complained that his mother had “done less for him than he wanted before he became king, and also afterwards” (direct quote), which as you have seen was putting it rather politely.

Once enthroned Edward navigated a part-Danish, part-English nobility, regaining the authority his father had lost even before he was booted. He turned back some invaders, restored the Scottish king to his throne, and rolled back some really unjust taxes. He was known for charity to the poor, devotion to God, and for commissioning Winchester Cathedral. Though had no direct heir (he and his wife lived chastely, as was discovered years later) (don’t ask how), that didn’t matter, as the Anglo-Saxon kingship would soon end thanks to William the Bastard, um, Conqueror. After Ed’s death there was a groundswell of support for his saintification, but the Normans took a couple of generations to get sufficiently over their anti-Anglo-Saxon-ism. Finally, as a consequence of some papal politics involving Henry II, Edward was canonized. He is the patron saint of separated spouses, but not, interestingly, of treacherous mothers.

[1]Actually it may not have been voluntary.