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October 21, 2023 6 min read


Heahmund | The True Story of the Bishop from the Vikings Series

More than a year after the sixth and final season of "Vikings," fans of the series are still hungry for more. Although the epic of Ragnar's sons has come to an end, many questions still hover around the most emblematic characters, especially the singular Bishop Heahmund !

Making a very noticeable entrance at the end of season 4 of "Vikings", Heahmundmarks both the fans and the continuation of the series' events. However, his premature disappearance has left many questions surrounding this character.

After all, was he really based on a historical character? Was Heahmund Lagertha’s lover? But most importantly, did he really die in the Battle of Marton? Without further ado, this article lifts the veil on everything you need to know about Bishop Heahmund!

Heahmund, was he based on a real character?

Heahmund | Everything You Need to Know About the Vikings Series Character

As with many other characters from the "Vikings" series, Heahmund's storyis loosely inspired by a real historical figure. Most likely, it is drawn from the story of an authentic Anglo-Saxon bishop who bears the same name.

The real Heahmund lived around the 9th century AD in Wessex, England. Very little is known about him before his episcopal consecration between the years 867 and 868, where he is ordained Bishop of Salisbury.

He thus succeeded the Bishop of Sherborne Eahlstan and became a saint venerated by the Catholic and Orthodox Church. However, Heahmund was not a man of faith in the conventional sense. He was also a warrior and a shrewd strategist who pledged allegiance to the kings of Wessex, Æthelred and Alfred.

So just like in the "Vikings" series, the real Heahmund died at the Battle of Marton on March 22, 871. The Vikings emerged victorious from this encounter, which pitted the troops of Wessex, led by Æthelred, against the great Viking army led by Halfdan Ragnarsson. Afterwards, he was buried in the town of Keynsham.

However, that is where the similarities between the medieval Saxon bishop and the Heahmund of "Vikings" end. Especially since the series creator, Michael Hirst, allowed himself numerous script and chronological liberties.

Either way, we are going to unravel the truth to help you rediscover the story of Heahmund in a new light!

The Story of Heahmund: The Tale of the Warrior Bishop

Heahmund | Everything You Need to Know About the Vikings Series Character

Heahmund makes his first appearance at the end of the fourth season of the "Vikings" series. While the series is in full swing, this character manages to capture the attention of the viewers with a quite singular entrance.

In this finale, we discover Bishop Heahmund playing the role of the bishop who leads a funeral, but who provides not very Catholic comfort to the widow of the deceased. In the middle of their sexual escapade, the series ends with a close-up of his armor and his sword, on which the inscription “Ananyzapata” can be read.

It is, to say the least, a forceful entry. In a single scene, Heahmund establishes himself as a complex character: a man of religion, a sinner, but above all, a warrior.

Although there is no certainty about the bishop's love life, Heahmund was indeed a real warrior bishop. These were religious men with high positions in the church, trained to become fierce and brave knights.

The creator of the series, Michael Hirst, provides some explanations about these sacred warriors. He explains that they are the ancestors of the Templars, elite soldiers in the service of the church. Furthermore, he also specifies that: “Heahmund was one of the greatest warrior bishops in history.”

Thus, although this character is on the side of the church, he has left his mark in the pages of Viking history. In any case, he has made an impression on all fans of the series since he becomes the rival of Ivar Ragnarsson, known as “the Boneless”.

Heahmund's sword: what does the inscription “Ananyzapata” mean?

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Heahmund’s sword is an integral part of his character. Its handle is decorated with gold and adorned with a large precious stone. But what makes it special is the word “Ananyzapata” engraved on it.

This mysterious inscription is actually an epigraph, a prose sentence that summarizes a Christian quote. Thus, “Ananyzapata” is nothing but a Latin excerpt meaning: “Repel evil and protect its good Christian bearer from evil and destruction.”

Historically, this holy inscription was found on a 15th-century jewel, the Middleham Jewel. This gold pendant, containing several Christian symbols, is presumably the source of inspiration for Heahmund's sword.

Moreover, the quality of this weapon surpasses most Viking swords. The blade of this sword is made from an incredibly durable metal and is so sharp that Ivar the Boneless believed it to be magical.

However, there is no proof that Heahmund's sword ever really existed. It seems to be a blend of Christian historical inspirations from the medieval period by Michael Hirst.

The worthy rival of Ivar Ragnarsson

Heahmund | Everything About the Vikings Series Character

Heahmund is a man of faith who holds a deep love for Christianity. Yet, this does not prevent him from being a skilled warrior and a clever strategist who revels in women and drink. In other words, he is a religious fanatic, a knight, and a sinner.

According to Michael Hirst, this character is: “the epitome of devotion and passion.” He and Ivar are in some ways two opposite poles of the same magnet. “They are both extreme characters with very strong beliefs,” adds Hirst.

This is why Heahmund embodies the perfect rival of Ragnar Lothbrok’s son, Ivar the Boneless, in season 5 of “Vikings”. During the first half of this season, Bishop Heahmund will fight Ivar.

Despite his courage and prowess in battle, he suffers a crushing defeat against the Viking army. Yet, the warrior bishop still manages to impress Ivar, who admires his determination. Ivar takes him prisoner and forces him to fight at his side.

However, the bishop remains fiercely attached to his Christian beliefs and is liberated by Lagertha when she triumphs over Ivar. The mother of Björn Ironside decides to spare the wounded Heahmund, not realizing that this decision will change their future.

Of course, there are no historical sources that report the capture of Bishop Heahmund by Ivar. Even less the existence of a conflict between the latter and Lagertha. In fact, the only time Heahmund and the sons of Ragnar are mentioned together is during the fateful Battle of Marton.

Heahmund and Lagertha: fiction or truth?

Heahmund | All About the Character from the Vikings Series

Shortly after Lagertha's victory, she has a philosophical discussion with Heahmund. This conversation kindles the flame of passion in both characters. When night falls, the bishop comes back to see Lagertha under the pretext of wanting to continue their exchange, but the discussion takes a completely different, more carnal turn.

This is how the secret relationship between the two lovers begins. An intense story, but very brief, since the bishop begins to have premonitory visions of hell.

Deeply attached to Christianity, Heahmund finds himself torn between his faith and his passion for Lagertha. However, this does not prevent him from distancing himself from his Viking lover. A decision he will bitterly regret later on.

From a historical perspective, it is very unlikely that Bishop Heahmund could have been Lagertha's lover. Moreover, no Nordic source indicates that the Viking warrior went to England, making their encounter an unlikely occurrence.

The Death of Bishop Heahmund

The death of Heahmund in "Vikings" is one of the most poetic endings of the series. The creator of the show wanted to make this event poignant and theatrical.

Thus, after receiving several arrows during the Battle of Marton, the bishop dies gloriously, finished off by Gunnhild. However, before taking his last breath, he cries out Lagertha's name. A final proof of love for his sweetheart.

For Michael Hirst, it was a crucial moment in the series since the character was in search of redemption. However, he condemns himself to hell out of love for Lagertha. "Heahmund reminds us that love is the most important thing, even between Vikings and Christians.," says the showrunner.

Although fans were devastated by this tragic death, it was necessary. "Heahmund is just a footnote at the bottom of the pages of Nordic history. There was no real reason for his character to survive and still be present in the series.," explains Michael Hirst.

Heahmund is a complex figure who has marked both the pages of history and the collective subconscious of the fans of the "Vikings" series. Torn by a moral conflict, the valiant Christian warrior symbolizes the delicate relationship between Anglo-Saxon conquerors and brave Vikings.

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