I have spent a week in the little village of Giggleswick in the Yorkshire Dales, close to Settle, and about 60 miles by road from the Coptic Orthodox Church of St Mary and St Mina in Stockport.The Church is named for St Alkelda, almost entirely unknown outside these mountain valleys. She was from a noble family in the 9th century, and took up the monastic life in the village of Middleham across the moorland from Giggleswick. She came to Giggleswick to evangelise the local people, and to establish a Church here.
The people were baptised in the waters of the local stream, and in the churchyard there is part of an ancient Anglo-Saxon cross that would have marked the location of a simple wooden chapel.In Middleham, at the Church which is also named for St Alkelda, she was martyed by two Danish/Viking women who strangled her to death in about 866 A.D. She was buried in her simple Church, which may have also been the location of a small convent which she cared for. Inside the Church is a great treasure.
Despite the efforts of those who wished to destroy ever shrine and every relic, she is still buried there. A plaque on one pillar identifies the area where her tomb was found during restoration, and a piece of Anglo-Saxon stonework set into the floor just outside the chancel marks her holy grave.I took the blessing of praying here for a while standing where she is buried, asking her blessing.
I feel a strong connection to her and have asked for her intercessions throughout this week. Before the Protestant Revolution it would have been entirely normal to find such shrines and holy tombs in churches all around the country. But early all have been destroyed, and the holy relics burned or thrown out with the rubbish. But St Alkelda remains, in her own Church.
May her intercessions be with us all, and all those who make pilgrimage to her place of rest.