#3. St. Louis Crusades His Way to Sainthood
Louis managed to get a lot of shit done with his life, and afterlife, from being the King of France for nearly 25 years to somehow getting a city in Missouri named after him. And he also managed to go on multiple Crusades, which is kind of impressive considering that just surviving one of those would make people think you were a Highlander.
Louis' first Crusades went kind of poorly for him, which is to say during his first attempt he and a couple thousand of his men were captured by the Egyptian army and more than the entire yearly revenue for all of France had to be paid for his ransom. So that was probably mildly embarrassing.
Being that Crusades don't fund themselves, nor do massive ransoms for Kings who fuck up their Crusades, Louis kicked out all the Jews who were charging interest on loans in his country. So he did it because he wanted to help all of the poor and indebted peoples of his land, right? Oh, no, the loans that were owed to them still had to be repaid, just to Louis now.
Also, the man just plain hated the Jews. He had thousands of copies of the Talmud burned. He also expanded the Inquisition in parts of France, all of which proves that badasses also tend to be dicks.
Later in life Louis returned to the one thing that made him happy: Crusading. Probably to everyone's surprise, this worked out even worse than the first time. Louis and his army managed to land in Africa, where the King promptly came down with a wicked case of dysentery and died.
Nevertheless, with all the crazy shit he did in the name of God, he managed to get himself venerated as a saint, potentially the only saint ever who died of the shits on his way to war.
#2. Alfred the Great Invents the Navy
Alfred was the son of an English king named Ethelwulf back in the late 800's when the world was mostly rife with roving barbarians, plagues and triceratops . The youngest of Ethelwulf's four sons, Alfred was probably never expected to be king with three older brothers in line first. But sometimes being a badass can overcome such technicalities.
During a battle with the Danes when Alfred's brother Ethelred was busy praying in his tent for some manner of guidance or victory or a comely wench, Alfred got sick of waiting and hijacked the army, then led them to victory.
When Ethelred died, Alfred took over as king and immediately set himself up as an awesome military strategist by deciding not to fight the Vikings, opting to pay them off instead. Sadly, this lasted until the Vikings realized they were burly, horn-hatted men who raped and pillaged and that no payment would be enough to deprive them of their true passion in life.
The Vikings came storming in and Alfred held them off for a while. Then, the story goes that Alfred slipped on some manner of Dark Ages disguise and snuck into his enemy camp to discover their plans. The next day at the Battle of Edington he defeated the Vikings so badly their leader ended up being baptized as a Christian. That's how it worked back then; you adapted the religion of whoever could hit you with a sword the hardest.
After a few more years of kicking Viking ass, Alfred decided it'd be better to be ready for them at sea, since that's where the gruff bastards came from. The result is that the British Royal Navy and the US Navy now recognize Alfred as the founder of the tradition. Few other saints ever managed to establish an entire division of the armed forces, with the exception of that Mother Theresa Black Ops group we're not allowed to talk about.
#1. Saint Olaf: a Viking
Remember how impressed we were with Valdimir up there and his personal Viking army? Well, Saint Olaf was a Viking. Barring new information on the existence of some ninjas who became saints, or some astronauts, it's not likely many other saints are going to have as much of an awesome history as Olaf and likely few of them ate as much meat or killed as many cave trolls.
Known in life as Olaf the Thick, because Vikings were all about cool and slightly unsettling nicknames, he was the king of Norway for about thirteen years starting in 1015. Back then, as near as we can tell, the average Viking day consisted of getting drunk and setting fire to anything that belonged to someone they didn't like.
Saint Olaf, armed with his giant axe and crucifix hand grenade.
Unlike your grandfather's Vikings, Olaf was a Christian, which didn't necessarily mean he gave alms to the poor and hugged lepers, but it did mean that if you followed any kind of old faith, he would burn your temple to the ground and build a Christian church in its place, which is what "love thy neighbor" meant back in 1015.
As part of his efforts to bring Christianity to the masses, Olaf imported bishops and priests from England to help spread the word. While all of this was going on, Olaf was squashing the lesser kings of Norway and ended up controlling more of the country than any previous king ever had.
So how could the world possibly stop a badass God-fearing Viking king? With another one.
Along came Knut the Great, also known as the Viking King of England (and Norway, and Denmark, and Sweden, and a bunch of other places he probably couldn't get to fit on a business card). Knut promptly handed Olaf his own ass at the Battle of the Helgea.
Two years later Olaf came back with an army to show everyone who the real King was. Sadly, it wasn't him. Olaf was killed, in the way that all badasses should be killed: with an enormous ax.
In honor of Saint Olaf's death, the Church of Norway has this on its coat of arms:
Yes, that's a cross holding a freaking battle axe in each hand. Take that, other religions.
More Fortey can be found at Scenic Anemia.
For those of you raised in public school, check out the secular remix in The 5 Pimpingest Historical Figures. For more religious figures who lived life in the fast lane (while driving an awesome tank) read about The 5 Biggest Badass Popes. Or for some men whose parents at least had the right idea read The 9 Manliest Names in the World.