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Alfred, Guthrum and Christianity: the Baptism of Guthrum

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The baptismal rites undergone by Guthrum would have involved not only water, but an anointing with oil. A linen chrismal fillet (O.E. crism) was bound over the anointed place and remained in place for a week.

During this time, Guthrum, together Alfred, his sponsor in baptism, would attend church each day.

At the end of this time, there was a major church service the ‘crismlising’, or removal of the chrismal. This was followed by a period of feasting, drinking and entertainment, and the giving of costly gifts.

Guthrum, together with many of his noble followers were entertained for twelve nights at Wedmore by King Alfred. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle says:

his crismlising wæs æt Wedmor, ⁊ he wæs .xii. niht mid þam cyninge
(his ‘crismlising’ was at Wedmore and he was 12 nights with the king)

Guthrum’s baptism meant that Alfred, as his baptismal sponsor, now stood as his spiritual father. Furthermore, although Guthrum was of royal blood, he was now welcomed into the exclusive band of Christian kings – rulers accepted not only by their people, but by God.

Guthrum had ceased to be a pagan enemy, he and his followers had been accepted as equals by the king and his courtiers.




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