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St Alphege, defying kidnappers


The Venerable Chapel at Winchester Cathedral, recently dedicated to the murdered hero St Alphege. /Image: Winchester Cathedral

One thousand and one years after his death on April 19th 1011, St Alphege was recognized in Winchester Cathedral, where he had once served as bishop, with the dedication of the Venerable Chapel to his memory.

A beautiful Sunday service presided over by the new bishop of Winchester recalled his life and death:

Alphege became a monk at Deerhurst near Gloucester but withdrew in later life to be a hermit in Somerset. Dunstan, the Archbishop of Canterbury, drew him back to be Abbot of Bath and, in 984, Bishop of Winchester. In 1005 Alphege was made Archbishop of Canterbury, where his austere life and lavish almsgiving made him a reverend and much-loved man. In the year 1011, the Danes overran southeast England, taking Alphege prisoner. They put the enormous ransom of £3000 on his head, but Alphege refused to pay it and forbade anyone from doing so, knowing that it would impoverish the ordinary people. He was brutally murdered by his captors at Greenwich on April 19th 1012.

They attacked Alphege with bones, the heads of cattle, and finally an axe. Thorkell the Tall tried to save him, but could not. "Appalled by the brutality of his fellow raiders" he deserted to the English side (Wiki).

I am touched by Alphege's love of solitude, where he could pray and praise God, his willingness to serve when asked, his refusal to oppress his people with financial demands, even to save his life, and his defiance of his kidnappers.

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