ALPHEGE, ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY
Rev. Mary McCue
Alphege (or AElfheah in ancient Saxon) was the first Archbishop of Canterbury to die a bloody death.
Born around 953, he was first a monk, then an anchorite (one who withdraws from the world to focus on prayer or the Eucharist). He was noted for his piety and austerity. That, and his devotion to St. Dunstan, an Archbishop of Canterbury, brought him to the attention of church authorities.
He was first named Abbott of Bath, then Bishop of Winchester. Named Archbishop of Canterbury in 1006, he maintained his devotion to St. Dunstan, but also launched new liturgical practices and became noted for his dedication to care of his community in a time of political and secular violence. In that, he was like a later Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Becket.
According to Canterbury Cathedral archives, Becket revered the memory of Alphege, and preached a sermon about him and his example. Alphege was captured by Danish forces in 1011, and Canterbury was plundered and burned. Though ransom was arranged for him, the Danes demanded additional ransom, which Alphege refused to pay. He was then murdered by the Danes in 1012.
Thomas Becket was murdered by soldiers of King Henry II in 1170. Some say he prayed to Alphege while he was being slain. Both slain Archbishops are memorialized in Canterbury Cathedral, where both their bodies are interred.
May they rest in eternal peace.
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The Rev. Charles Hoffacker is a retired priest of the Diocese of Washington