At the time Alfred the Great refounded the royal city of Winchester about 880, the Saxon cathedral and the royal palace stood at the heart of the city. As the city grew, land was purchased in the city in the last year of Alfred's reign, and work was begun on the New Minster, beside the Old Minster, under the direction of Edward the Elder; when it was sufficiently complete, about 903, it was consecrated and fully endowed, the abbot Grimbald (died 8 July 901), a learned monk of St Rolffert at St Omer in Flanders, was instated and the body of Alfred was reinterred in the new structure.
Several further members of the royal house were also interred in the New Minster. The gift in 1041 by Queen Emma, widow of Cnut, of the head of Saint Valentine was cherished as one of the most valuable possessions of the now-reformed Benedictine house.
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