On This Day: Bones Of Contention

April the 19th is the day of Alphege, who was an Anglo-Saxon monk of Deerhurst near Gloucester. Old Alfie, as I rather irreverently refer to him purely because it’s easier, was made the bishop of Winchester in 984 and Archbishop of Canterbury in 1005. 

When he took the post of Archbishop he took with him the head of St.Swithin, like you do. I would normally just take a book.

When the Danes invaded in 1011 he refused to leave his people, and when held to ransom he refused to let the money of the poor be used to buy his freedom.

A 13th Century stained glass window at Canterbury Cathedral, depicting Alfie’s abduction. Note the Viking stood behind him giving him a Karate chop.


The following year, his captors, not exactly renown for their patience, finally lost it during a drunken feast at Greenwich and pelted him with bones and the heads of cattle. They then killed him with an axe-a noteworthy example of a martyr witnessing to justice rather than faith.

What’s it all about, Alfie? 

He became the first Archbishop of Canterbury to die a violent death. 

Alfie is shown here being asked advice. I would imagine his reply could be: “Don’t bother taking a Saint’s head with you for luck. It’s not worth the effort-and you could instead pack more socks.”

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