Alfred The Great

849-899. King of Wessex from 871. Although he was concerned to restore the condition of the English Church after the devastation of the Danish raids, the continuing financial burden of military defense severely limited what he could achieve. A general revival of monasticism was still out of the question, although communities were precariously established at Shaftesbury and Athelney, for women and men respectively. Plans for diocesan reform likewise had to be delayed beyond Alfred's death. The king concentrated on restoring the most important treasure that had been lost: education. Even here, Latin scholarship could not flourish without the abbeys and minsters. But something of greater significance at the time was possible. With the help of an international band of scholars, Alfred translated into English some of the fundamental works of theology, philosophy, history, and spiritual direction, by authors such as Augustine, Boethius, Orosius, and Gregory the Great. As one who had traveled on the Continent and visited Rome, Alfred understood the importance of maintaining these links with wider Christendom in an age when disruption of the monasteries could quickly mean the end of civilization.

Asser, Life of King Alfred (ed. W.H. Stevenson, 1904); R.H. Hodgkin, A History of the Anglo-Saxons (3rd ed., 2 vols., 1952); M. Deanesly, The Pre-Conquest Church in England (1961); J. Godfrey, The Church in Anglo-Saxon England (1962).