Celtic and Old English Saints          19 March

* St. Lactan of Freshford
* St. Alkmund of Northumbria

St. Lactan (Lactinus) of Freshford, Abbot
Born near Cork, Ireland; died 672. Saint Lactan was educated at Bangor
under Saints Comgall (f.d. May 11) and Molua (Luanis or Lugid; f.d.
August 4). Saint Comgall sent him to be abbot-founder of Achadh-Ur, now
Freshford, in Kilkenny. He is credited with many miracles, including
cures of paralytics and the mentally ill
(Benedictines, Montague).

Saint Alkmund of Northumbria, King and Martyr
The holy Martyr Alkmund was the son of Alchred and brother of Osred,
kings of Northumbria. He succeeded to the throne of Northumbria after
the murder of his brother, and ruled with great humility and love, being
a liberal father to the poor, the orphans and the widows. He always
longed to die for Christ, and this the Lord in His goodness granted him.

In 802, Alderman Athelmund of the Hwicce (South-West Mercia) was enraged
against the men of Wiltshire and threatened to invade that territory. On
hearing this, King Alkmund, who had the intention anyway of going to
Wiltshire to protect some lands that he possessed there, called the two
warring sides together and urged them to peace. The Mercians were
persuaded to return home, but in their hearts they were not pacified,
and they soon returned with a great army.

At this juncture the men of Wiltshire called on King Alkmund to help
them. And he, wishing to die for Christ, and remembering the words of
the Lord, "Greater love hath no man than this, that he lay down his life
for his friends," consented to their desire. In the ensuing battle, the
Wiltshire men won, but both of the leaders and Alkmund were killed.

The place where the holy Martyr-King fell was the scene of many
miracles. His body was transferred to the ancient Church of Lilleshall,
and then later to the White Church in Derby. This was the scene of
further miracles. The sick, the deaf, the blind and those suffering from
various diseases were brought to the tomb, and there they received
healing through the intercessions of St Alkmund. Some years later, when
at the request of many of the faithful, the priests of this Church
raised the Holy relics, a most beautiful fragrance issued from the tomb.
This fragrance persisted for a long tome, as the people praised and
glorified God and his Holy Martyr. However, when a certain unbeliever
entered the Church and behaved in an unseemly and impious manner, the
fragrance suddenly ceased.

When there were further incursions by the Danes the body of St. Alkmund
was taken further south for safety and arrived in Derby on March 19th
which has been kept as his feast ever since. Devotion to the young King
and Martyr grew and this may be due to the interest shown in him by the
Queen of Mercia, Ethelfreda, a daughter of Alfred the Great. She is
responsible for the dedications at Shrewsbury and Derby and quite
possibly to two other churches which have Alkmund as their patron,
Whitchurch in Shropshire and Blyborough in Lincolnshire.

The people of Derby took Sr. Alkmund to their hearts and as the church
was on the Ryknald Street, the Roman road to the north and one of the
main thoroughfares in the Middle Ages, pilgrims abounded. The fame of
the shrine survived its destruction and the Vicar of St Alkmunds in the
eighteenth century reported miracles and said journeymen still asked
"for the tomb and set their packs upon it". Unfortunately the Victorian
builders and road makers have caused the disappearance of both the
church and St Alkmund's Well but in the Derby Museum there is a
sarcophagus found when the church was demolished. It is decorated with a
beautiful Anglo-Saxon inter-lace design and is thought to be the coffin
in which the body of the saint rested.

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