Alphege

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Ælfheah (Old English: Ælfhēah, "elf-high") (954 – 19 April 1012), officially remembered by the name Alphege within the Church, and also called Elphege, Alfege, or Godwine, was an Anglo-Saxon Bishop of Winchester, later Archbishop of Canterbury. He became an anchorite before being elected abbot of Bath Abbey. His perceived piety and sanctity led to his promotion to the episcopate, and eventually, to his becoming archbishop. Ælfheah furthered the cult of Saint Dunstan and also encouraged learning. He was captured by Viking raiders in 1011 and killed by them the following year after refusing to allow himself to be ransomed. Ælfheah was canonized as a saint in 1078. Thomas Becket, a later Archbishop of Canterbury, prayed to him just before his own murder in Canterbury Cathedral.

Contents

Life

Reportedly born in Weston on the outskirts of Bath,[5] Ælfheah became a monk early in life. He first entered the monastery of Deerhurst, but then moved to Bath, where he became an anchorite. He was noted for his piety and austerity, and rose to become abbot of Bath Abbey.[6] Probably due to the influence of Dunstan, the Archbishop of Canterbury (959–988), Ælfheah was elected Bishop of Winchester in 984,[7][8] and was consecrated on 19 October that year.[9] While bishop he was largely responsible for the construction of a large organ in the cathedral, audible from over a mile away and said to require more than 24 men to operate. He also built and enlarged the city's churches,[10] and promoted the cult of Saint Swithun and Swithun's predecessor, Æthelwold of Winchester.[9]

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