St Alphege

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Bishop and martyr. St Alphege was born in 954. He became a monk first at Deerhurst and then Bath. In 984 he was made bishop of Winchester, where he served for more than 20 years. During this time he was known for his great generosity to the poor and his personal austerity.

In 994, King Ethelred the Unready sent him to negotiate with the Danes Anlaf and Swein who had raided London and Wessex. After meeting St Alphege, Anlaf became a Christian and pledged never to come to England again with warlike intent - a promise he kept.

In 1006 St Alphege succeeded Aelfric as archbishop of Canterbury, and received the pallium at Rome. In 1012 there was another massive invasion by the Danes. This time they raided Canterbury and captured Alphege, taking him away to Greenwich from where they demanded a huge ransom of £3,000. Alphege forbade his people to pay this money.

In a drunken rage the Danes attacked him with bones. One man - Thorkel the Tall - tried to save him, but he died from an axe blow to the head. St Alphege very quickly became a national hero.

He was buried at St Paul's cathedral. Later his remains were transferred to Canterbury where the monks venerated him at the beginning and end of each day.

During his last sermon, before he too was martyred, St Thomas Becket commended his cause to God and St Alphege.

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