St. Alphege: A Historical Perspective
When They Lived:
St. Alphege, also known as Alphege of Canterbury, lived from c. 954 to April 19, 1012.
Where They Lived:
St. Alphege lived primarily in England, particularly in the region of Canterbury.
Notable World Events During Their Life:
- Viking Invasions: St. Alphege’s life was marked by the Viking Age, a tumultuous period characterized by repeated Viking invasions and raids across Europe.
- Battle of Maldon (991): The Battle of Maldon was a significant conflict during St. Alphege’s lifetime, where the Anglo-Saxons faced off against Viking raiders.
- Conversion of Vladimir the Great (988): The conversion of Vladimir the Great, ruler of Kievan Rus, to Christianity marked a momentous shift in the religious and geopolitical landscape of Eastern Europe.
- Foundation of the University of Al Quaraouiyine (859): The establishment of the University of Al Quaraouiyine in Morocco stands as a testament to the growing importance of knowledge and education during St. Alphege’s time.
- Canute the Great’s North Sea Empire: Canute the Great’s reign impacted the political dynamics of the region and influenced St. Alphege’s time.
St. Alphege is recognized as the patron saint of Greenwich in London and also of kidnap victims.
His patronage of kidnap victims comes from his own experience of being captured by Viking raiders in 1011. During his captivity, he exhibited unwavering faith and charity, leaving an enduring legacy that continues to inspire those facing adversity.
St. Alphege’s life and the events of his time are a testament to the challenges, triumphs, and spiritual resilience of an era marked by both turmoil and transformation. His story serves as a reminder of the power of faith, compassion, and courage in the face of daunting circumstances.
Saint Alphege was born in Weston, Summerset, England. He was born around the year 953 A.D.
No detailed account mentions the names of his parents or what he did at a young age.
Saint Alphege joined a monastery in his early life and became a monk. He was first said to have joined the monastery at Deerhurst and spent some time there.
He moved to Bath, still in England, where he was said to have become an an anchorite.
Dedication and Devotion
Saint Alphege was a devoted young man who took great pleasure in studying the word of God. He was said to have spent time alone praying or been seen preaching in groups.
Although he was humble, he was also very austere. He took care not to get too comfortable with things he considered vanity.
Some parts of history claim that Alphege joined Glastonbury Abbey, where he became a monk. Not all historians agree with this claim, however.
Tradition has it that Saint Alphege became an abbot in Bath between the years 977 and 982.
Some historians account for the gap in the years by claiming that Alphege lived in Gloucester, where he was a monk. After asking to be allowed, it was said that he had left the Deerhurst monastery and gone into seclusion.
Several accounts claim he shared power as an abbot with his predecessor.
Saint Alphege was very respected. He was revered for his holiness and love for the Church. This caused him to be elected Bishop of Winchester around 984.
Some people account his appointment as a result of Archbishop Dunstan of Canterbury, who respected Alphege.
Saint Alphege received his vow of consecration on the 19th of October, 984.
As bishop, he commands authority in favor of establishing religious institutions. He was also said to have been in charge of the building of the organ in the Cathedral.
This huge instrument was said to have produced music that could be heard from more than a mile away.
Saint Alphege was also said to have promoted the cult of Swithun and that of his predecessor, Thelwold. He did this by transferring the reliquaries that belonged to Thelwold to a more befitting cathedral at Winchester.
Saint Alphege was also noted to have reached a treaty with a Viking named Olaf Tryggvason. Olaf was so impressed with Saint Alphege’s beliefs that it is said that he converted to Christianity.
Around 1006, Saint Alphege was appointed Archbishop of Canterbury. In 1007, he traveled to Rome to accept the pallium that represented his status as the Archbishop. The pallium was given to him by Pope John XXIII.
Saint Alphege was, however, robbed on his way home.
Back at Canterbury, he ordered the writing of The Second Life of Dunstan to stimulate Dunstan’s court. Saint Alphege also helped with the implementation of new practices in the liturgy for Witenagemot’s sake.
Around 1011, the Danes attacked England. It is estimated that between September 8 and September 29, they raided Canterbury. They were said to have been helped by Lfmaer, a man who was once saved thanks to Saint Alphege.
Alphege was kidnapped and held for seven months. After he was removed from Canterbury, the cathedral was robbed and burned down.
Death and Canonization
Saint Alphege was imprisoned and tortured. He was told that he was going to be released if his people paid a ransom of about four thousand pounds.
Alphege refused to pay the ransom. He was killed in Greenwich on the 19th of April, 1012.
Saint Alphege was said to have been beaten to death with an ax. He died as a martyr.
Saint Alphege was canonized by Pope Gregory VII in 1078. He is celebrated on the 19th of April.
5 Interesting Facts About St. Alphege
- Did you know that Saint Alphege is the patron saint of Greenwich and
- Did you know that the Church organ requires the strength and skill of
24 men to be built?
- Did you know that the Viking Olaf Tryggvason was said to have
never fought another battle against the English, thanks to Saint
- Did you know that Saint Alphege took Swithun’s head as a relic?
him to Canterbury in 1006?
- Did you know that Saint Alphege’s Church is recognized as the site
of the Saint’s death?
Prayer to St. Alphege
Lord Jesus Christ, who willingly walked the way of the cross, strengthen your church through the example and prayers of your servant Alphege to hold fast the path of discipleship; for with the Father and Holy Spirit, you live and reign, one God, forever and ever. Amen.