Page:The Saxon Cathedral at Canterbury and The Saxon Saints Buried Therein.djvu/124

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Two years afterwards, in 1011, the final blow fell on the City of Canterbury.

There can be little doubt that during all these years the City of Canterbury owed its preservation to its well-defended walls and gates, as before mentioned, and it is quite likely that it would not have fallen in 1011 had it not been set on fire.

St. Alphage had ruled for six years as Archbishop, when an army of the Danes, who had ravaged East Anglia, turned westward, and desolated Huntingdonshire, Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire. Then they turned to the east and, coming to Canterbury, encompassed the city with a siege.

According to the Chronicle entitled Flores Historiarum,[1] on the twentieth day of the siege a part of the city was set on fire by the treachery of Almar, Archdeacon of Canterbury, whom Archbishop Alphage had formerly saved from being put to death. The Saxon Chronicle has the same story, but calls Almar, "Elfmar," and "an abbot." Henry of Huntingdon, Simeon of Durham, Florence of Worcester, Gervase of Canterbury, Thorne, Hoveden and others, taking their accounts from the Saxon Chronicle and copying one another almost word for word, continue what might be considered a falsification of history. Henry of Huntingdon does not give him the title of "Archdeacon"; and Brompton styles him simply "a deacon."

Osbern, who wrote the Life of St. Alphage at the request of Lanfranc, in describing the siege says that

"the city was soon brought to great stress through want of provisions; the enemy planted battering-rams against the walls, and threw fire-brands into the city, whereby the houses were presently all in flames. The citizens then forsook the defence of the city walls, to look after their houses, wives and children. By this advantage the enemy made breaches in the walls, entered the city and caused dismal slaughter after a siege of twenty days."

In this account there is no word of any Archdeacon or even of anyone of the name of Almar, as being a betrayer of the city, but only conclusive evidence of the city having been taken by force of arms.

There was at this time, however, an Abbot of St. Austin's whose name was Almar, or Elfmar, but it is impossible now to ascertain what

  1. Rolls Series.