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King Alfred

No visit to Lyng would be complete without a mention of one of our most famous former residents and benefactors, King Alfred the Great, who in 878 took refuge at Athelney.

A Benedictine monastery is said to have been founded by Alfred in 888, it survived  until 1539.

Time Team, from Channel 4, investigated the site in 1993 and the programme under the title 'The Guerrilla Base of the King' was first broadcast on 16th January 1994. A brief synopsis is given on the Time Team website; "In the ninth century Athelney was an island deep within marshland and Alfred the Great took refuge there in 878. He emerged to defeat the Viking army at the battle of Edington, and the Morgan family, who farm in the area, set the Team the task of locating the site of his fort, and the abbey he built on the island to celebrate his decisive victory"

To mark the site of the Abbey/Monastery  a monument was erected 200 years ago by the then landowner.  

In 2002 the village celebrated this anniversary and to commemorate this a footpath to the monument was opened to the public from the River Parrett Trail, which passes only a few hundred yards from the site.

The Alfred Jewel

The Alfred Jewel was discovered four miles from Athelney, where Alfred had founded a monastery.

The Alfred Jewel bears the inscription "AELFRED MEC HEHT GEWYRCAN", "Alfred ordered me to be made" and dates from the reign of King Alfred the Great (ruled 871-899). The jewel is made of gold and cloisonne enamel, covered with a transparent piece of rock crystal. It was discovered in 1693 in nearby North Petherton, and is kept in Ashmolean Museum in Oxford.

The function of the jewel is unknown. It may have been an "aestel", an object which Alfred sent to each bishopric when his translation of Gregory's "Pastoral Care" was distributed. Each aestel was worth 50 mancuses (gold coins), so was a very expensive object. The consensus is that an aestel was intended to be used as a book pointer. If this theory is correct, there should have been several such jewels. 

On the other hand, it seems unlikely that such a beautiful object as the Alfred Jewel would have been lost or destroyed in all but one copy if several were made. Another theory is that the jewel was a symbol of office, either of Alfred or of one of his officials. Alfred often gave gifts to his bishops and other officials, and the inscription "Alfred ordered me to be made" may adorn such a gift.

The figure on the Jewel has been supposed to be a represention of Christ as the incarnate form of the Wisdom of God, or possibly to be a personification of Sight.

 

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