Tuesday, April 19, 2016
Feast of St. Alphege of Canterbury
St. Alphege of Canterbury, King and Martyr, asked for advice. 15th century.
St. Alphege (+1012AD), was a monk of the monastery of Deerhurst who was served as both Bishop of Winchester and then Archbishop of Canterbury. He guided the English Church during a troubled period of Danish intervention. The Saxon King Aethelred "the unready" ruled from 983-1013, when the Dane, Sweyn Forkbeard managed to seize power (1013-1014). A brief return of Saxon rule (1014-1016) would be followed by a couple Danish monarchs from 1016-1042, including Canute the Great (1016-1035).
The Danes in this period were often at least nominally Christian, but were far from adopting all of the moral expectations of Christian life. St. Alphege bear witness to the fact that amongst the Danes a number of pagans remain -- he was executed by some of them in 1012AD.
The Saxon chronicle describes his death in this way:
"... the raiding-army became much stirred up against the bishop, because he did not want to offer them any money, and forbade that anything might be granted in return for him. Also they were very drunk, because there was wine brought from the south. Then they seized the bishop, led him to their "hustings" on the Saturday in the octave of Easter, and then pelted him there with bones and the heads of cattle; and one of them struck him on the head with the butt of an axe, so that with the blow he sank down and his holy blood fell on the earth, and sent forth his holy soul to God's kingdom."
He was the first Archbishop of Canterbury to die a violent death.
For more on St. Alphege, you might note:
Catholic Saints Info: St. Alphege of Canterbury