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Persecutions In The Eleventh Century

Alphage, archbishop of Canterbury, was descended from a considerable
family in Gloucestershire, and received an education suitable to his
illustrious birth. His parents were worthy christians, and Alphage
seemed to inherit their virtues.

The see of Winchester being vacant by the death of Ethelwold, Dunstan,
archbishop of Canterbury, as primate of all England, consecrated Alphage
to the vacant bishopric, to the general satisfaction of all concerned in
the diocese.

Dunstan had an extraordinary veneration for Alphage, and, when at the
point of death, made it his ardent request to God, that he might succeed
him in the see of Canterbury; which accordingly happened, though not
till about eighteen years after Dunstan's death in 1006.

After Alphage had governed the see of Canterbury about four years, with
great reputation to himself, and benefit to his people, the Danes made
an incursion into England, and laid siege to Canterbury. When the design
of attacking this city was known, many of the principal people made a
flight from it, and would have persuaded Alphage to follow their
example. But he, like a good pastor, would not listen to such a
proposal. While he was employed in assisting and encouraging the people,
Canterbury was taken by storm; the enemy poured into the town, and
destroyed all that came in their way by fire and sword. He had the
courage to address the enemy, and offer himself to their swords, as more
worthy of their rage than the people: he begged they might be saved, and
that they would discharge their whole fury upon him. They accordingly
seized him, tied his hands, insulted and abused him in a rude and
barbarous manner, and obliged him to remain on the spot until his church
was burnt, and the monks massacred. They then decimated all the
inhabitants, both ecclesiastics and laymen, leaving only every tenth
person alive; so that they put 7236 persons to death, and left only four
monks and 800 laymen alive, after which they confined the archbishop in
a dungeon, where they kept him close prisoner for several months.

During his confinement they proposed to him to redeem his liberty with
the sum of L3000, and to persuade the king to purchase their departure
out of the kingdom, with a further sum of L10,000. As Alphage's
circumstances would not allow him to satisfy the exorbitant demand, they
bound him, and put him to severe torments, to oblige him to discover the
treasure of the church; upon which they assured him of his life and
liberty, but the prelate piously persisted in refusing to give the
pagans any account of it. They remanded him to prison again, confined
him six days longer, and then, taking him prisoner with them to
Greenwich, brought him to trial there. He still remained inflexible with
respect to the church treasure; but exhorted them to forsake their
idolatry, and embrace christianity. This so greatly incensed the Danes,
that the soldiers dragged him out of the camp, and beat him
unmercifully. One of the soldiers, who had been converted by him,
knowing that his pains would be lingering, as his death was determined
on, actuated by a kind of barbarous compassion, cut off his head, and
thus put the finishing stroke to his martyrdom, April 19, A. D. 1012.
This transaction happened on the very spot where the church at
Greenwich, which is dedicated to him, now stands. After his death his
body was thrown into the Thames, but being found the next day, it was
buried in the cathedral of St. Paul's by the bishops of London and
Lincoln; from whence it was, in 1023, removed to Canterbury by
Ethelmoth, the archbishop of that province.

Gerard, a Venitian, devoted himself to the service of God from his
tender years: entered into a religious house for some time, and then
determined to visit the Holy Land. Going into Hungary, he became
acquainted with Stephen, the king of that country, who made him bishop
of Chonad.

Ouvo and Peter, successors of Stephen, being deposed, Andrew, son of
Ladislaus, cousin-german to Stephen, had then a tender of the crown made
him upon condition that he would employ his authority in extirpating the
christian religion out of Hungary. The ambitious prince came into the
proposal, but Gerard being informed of his impious bargain, thought it
his duty to remonstrate against the enormity of Andrew's crime, and
persuade him to withdraw his promise. In this view he undertook to go to
that prince, attended by three prelates, full of like zeal for religion.
The new king was at Alba Regalis, but, as the four bishops were going to
cross the Danube, they were stopped by a party of soldiers posted there.
They bore an attack of a shower of stones patiently, when the soldiers
beat them unmercifully, and at length despatched them with lances. Their
martyrdoms happened in the year 1045.

Stanislaus, bishop of Cracow, was descended from an illustrious Polish
family. The piety of his parents was equal to their opulence, and the
latter they rendered subservient to all the purposes of charity and
benevolence. Stanislaus remained for some time undetermined, whether he
should embrace a monastic life, or engage among the secular clergy. He
was at length persuaded to the latter by Lambert Zula, bishop of Cracow,
who gave him holy orders, and made him a canon of his cathedral. Lambert
died on November 25, 1071, when all concerned in the choice of a
successor declared for Stanislaus, and he succeeded to the prelacy.

Bolislaus, the second king of Poland, had, by nature, many good
qualities, but giving away to his passions he ran into many enormities,
and at length had the appellation of Cruel bestowed upon him.
Stanislaus alone had the courage to tell him of his faults, when, taking
a private opportunity, he freely displayed to him the enormities of his
crimes. The king, greatly exasperated at his repeated freedoms, at
length determined, at any rate, to get the better of a prelate who was
so extremely faithful. Hearing one day that the bishop was by himself,
in the chapel of St. Michael, at a small distance from the town, he
despatched some soldiers to murder him. The soldiers readily undertook
the bloody task; but, when they came into the presence of Stanislaus,
the venerable aspect of the prelate struck them with such awe, that they
could not perform what they had promised. On their return, the king,
finding that they had not obeyed his orders, stormed at them violently,
snatched a dagger from one of them, and ran furiously to the chapel,
where, finding Stanislaus at the altar, he plunged the weapon into his
heart. The prelate immediately expired on the 8th of May, A. D. 1079.

Next: Papal Persecutions

Previous: Persecutions From The Early Part Of The Eighth To Near The Conclusion Of The Tenth Century

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