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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Note to Anon Alpost 10VII

[5] hann var særðr með sverði ‘he was mortally wounded with a sword’: A sword or halberd is the iconographic symbol of Matthew’s martyrdom (see Kilström 1956, 175; Roeder 1956, 23). Occasionally the saint is represented with a sword piercing his back (Braun 1943, 523 [Abb. 280], 525; Foote 1976, 169), a detail which appears in most descriptions of the saint’s death at the hands of a king named Hyrtacus (see Cross 1979, 169); cf. the Auctaria (‘Supplements’) to the Martyrology of Usuard: Hircatus [sic] ... apostolum Matthæum ... gladio a tergo percuti fecit et martyrem Christi consecravit ‘Hyrtacus ... had the Apostle Matthew ... cut down from behind with a sword and consecrated him as a martyr of Christ’ (Usuardus Sangermanensis, Martyrologium, col. 493A). The list of Apostles in Holm perg 5 fol, 59vb likewise records that Matthew was med sverdi stangadr ꜳ baki ‘stabbed in the back with a sword’ (Foote 1976, 154, 168-9); cf. AM 764 4°, 16v.


  1. Bibliography
  2. Braun, Joseph. 1943. Tracht und Attribute der Heiligen in der deutschen Kunst. Stuttgart: J.B. Metzlersche Verlagsbuchhandlung.
  3. Cross, James E. 1979. ‘Cynewulf’s traditions about the apostles in Fates of the Apostles’. ASE 8, 163-75.
  4. Kilström, B. I. 1956. ‘Apostelframställningar’. KLNM 1, 173-6.


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