[St. Pachomius Library]

Hieromartyr Alphege, Archbishop of Canterbury

Also ELPHEGE, Old English ÆFHEAH
X/XI Centuries
Known also as Godwine, St. Alphege (c. 954-1012) is said to have been of noble birth. He became a monk at Deerhurst before retiring to a hermitage in Somerset. Through the influence of St. Dunstan, Alphege was named abbot of Bath (some say he was the first abbot of the monastery) and later (984) bishop of Winchester. Ten years later, Ethelred the Unready sent Alphege to negotiate with the Danes, whose leader Aflaf converted to Christianity and agreed to accept tribute (now called the Danegeld) to insure peace. Ethelred's massacre of the Danes on St. Brice's Day (13 November), 1002, brought renewed hostilities. Alphege became Archbishop of Canterbury in 1005 and travelled to Rome to receive the pallium from John XVIII. When the Danes invaded and conquered most of southern England in 1011, the subdeacon Ælfmar is said to have betrayed Canterbury. The Danes held Alphege and other officials for ransom. Alphege refused to be ransomed for £ 3, 000. since the money would have to come from the poor. The Danes pelted him with ox bones one night after a feast at Greenwich, and someone then killed him with an axe. He was buried at St. Paul's. His body was translated to Canterbury in 1023. He was venerated as Canterbury's first martyr, and the fame of Thomas à Becket eclipsed that of the man whose name he invoked as he was dying.

Karen Rae Keck


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