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Alphege of Canterbury, St.


Benedictine, archbishop, honored as a martyr; b. 954; d. Greenwich, England, April 19, 1012. Alphege, who is known also as Aelfheah, Elphege, or Godwine, entered the monastery of Deerhurst in Gloucestershire against his parents' wishes. He left to become an anchorite near Bath; later he was abbot until dunstan called him to succeed ethelwold as bishop of winchester in 984. In 1006 he was translated to the archbishopric of Canterbury and visited Rome for his pallium. Five years later the Danes sacked Canterbury and held Alphege for ransom, which he agreed to pay until he remembered the poor who must raise the sum. Apparently he sometimes preached to his captors, who in 1012 during a drunken orgy pelted him to death with the bone remains of their feast. In 1023 King canute ceremoniously carried the body of Alphege to Canterbury. Years later Alphege was one of the saints lanfranc wished to remove from the English calendar, but anselm of canterbury felt that to die for justice and charity was tantamount to martyrdom. The best sources include Osbern of Canterbury's Life (ed. H. Wharton, Anglia Sacra, 2:122147), the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle and florence of worcester, for the year 1012, and thietmar of merseburg (Monumenta Germaniae Scriptores 3:849).

Feast: April 19 (Dioceses of Westminster, Clifton, Portsmouth, and Southwark).

Bibliography: w. hunt, Dictionary of National Biography from the Earliest Times to 1900, 63 v. (London 18851900) 1:150152. c. cotton, The Saxon Cathedral at Canterbury and the Saxon Saints Buried Therein (Manchester, England 1929). w. a. pantin in For Hilaire Belloc, ed. d. woodruff (London 1942). a. butler, The Lives of the Saints, ed. h. thurston and d. att-water, 4 v. (New York 1956) 2:129131. d. knowles, The Monastic Order in England, 9431216 (2d ed. Cambridge, England 1962), passim.

[e. j. kealey]

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