The History of Kent
Copyright Kent Past 2010
Reportedly born in Weston on the outskirts of Bath, Alphege became a monk early in
life. He first entered the monastery of Deerhurst, but then moved to Bath, where
he became an anchorite. He was noted for his piety and austerity, and rose to become
abbot of Bath Abbey. Probably due to the influence of , the Archbishop of
Following a Viking raid in 994, a peace treaty was agreed with one of the raiders, Olaf Tryggvason. Besides receiving danegeld, Olaf converted to Christianity and undertook never to raid or fight the English again. Alphege may have played a part in the treaty negotiations, and it is certain that he confirmed Olaf in his new faith.
In 1006, Alphege succeeded AElfric as Archbishop of Canterbury, taking Saint Swithun's head with him as a relic for the new location. He went to Rome in 1007 to receive his pallium -
While at Canterbury he promoted the cult of Saint Dunstan, ordering the writing of the second Life of Dunstan, which Adelard composed between 1006 and 1011. He also introduced new practices into the liturgy, and was instrumental in the Witenagemot's recognition of Wulfsige of Sherborne as a saint in about 1012.
Alphege sent AElfric to Cerne Abbey where he took charge of its monastic school. He was present at the council of May 1008 at which Wulfstan II, Archbishop of York, preached his Sermo Lupi ad Anglos (The Sermon of the Wolf to the English), castigating the English for their moral failings and blaming the latter for the tribulations afflicting the country.
In 1011, the Danes again raided England, and from 8�29 September, they laid siege to Canterbury. Aided by the treachery of AElfmaer, whose life Alphege had once saved, the raiders succeeded in sacking the city. Alphege was taken prisoner and held captive for seven months. Godwine (Bishop of Rochester), Leofrun (abbess of St Mildrith's), and the king's reeve, AElfweard were captured also, but the abbot of St Augustine's Abbey
Alphege refused to allow a ransom to be paid for his freedom, and as a result was killed on 19 April 1012 at Greenwich (then in Kent, now London), reputedly on the site of St Alfege's Church. The account of Alphege's death appears in the E version of the Anglo-
'... the raiding-
Alphege was the first Archbishop of Canterbury to die a violent death. A contemporary report tells that Thorkell the Tall attempted to save him from the mob about to kill him by offering them everything he owned except for his ship, in exchange for Alphege's life; Thorkell's presence is not mentioned in the Anglo-
Alphege was buried in St Paul's Cathedral. In 1023, his body was moved by King Cnut to Canterbury, with great ceremony. Thorkell the Tall was appalled at the brutality of his fellow raiders, and switched sides to the English king AEthelred the unready following the Archbishops death.
Pope Gregory VII canonized Alphege in 1078, with a feast day of 19 April. Lanfranc, the first post-
In the late medieval period, Alphege's feast day was celebrated in Scandinavia, perhaps because of the saint's connection with Cnut. In 1929, a new church in Bath was dedicated to Saint Alphege, designed by Giles Gilbert Scott in homage to the ancient Roman church of Santa Maria in Cosmedin.
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