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Littlestone
Littlestone
5381 posts

Edited Sep 29, 2009, 09:00
Circles under churches
Apr 28, 2005, 22:10
Apologies for introducing this topic on TMA as it was discussed in some detail on the Stones List last year and some of you may have read the posts it raised back then. I'm introducing the topic here because A) after my old computer crashed I lost a lot of info on the subject and B) I'm sure there's a lot more info out there that's still not been discussed (are there any circles under churches in Ireland for example?).

The two most interesting examples I know of circles under churches are those at Alton Priors and at Pewsey (thanks to Pete G and Terence Meaden for info on the former by the way). I find it extraordinary that at Alton Priors the sarsens under the church floor are so accessible - why are they so accessible? And at Pewsey are the stones under the foundations a statement of the suppression of the 'old ways' by the Church or an attempt by the Church to accommodate them (I'm increasingly leaning towards believing in the latter).

Anyway, I find it a fascinating subject and maybe one that deserves a place of its own on TMA.
Pete G
Pete G
3506 posts

Re: Circles under churches
Apr 28, 2005, 22:14
You might like to check out Yatesbury church sometime.
That also has Sarsens in the foundation.
A.C.Smith wrote "I must not omit the strange tradition prevalent in the parish that at one time houses extended from Yatesbury to Abury, and that the two parishes were joined!"
PeteG
Pete G
Pete G
3506 posts

Re: Circles under churches
Apr 28, 2005, 22:23
Calne church is also worth a visit as its built inside a henge,
PeteG
Littlestone
Littlestone
5381 posts

Re: Circles under churches
Apr 29, 2005, 06:50
Thanks - haven't seen Yatesbury yet. Are there any stones actually in the church foundations at Calne?

JC details Midmar Kirk on page 389 of TMA and discusses the question of stones in churchyards in, 'The circular churchyards - Dark Age relics of the Great Goddess' on pages 142-149 (I'm not sure how many of these actually have stones under the church though).
FourWinds
FourWinds
10943 posts

Re: Circles under churches
Apr 29, 2005, 07:32
The trend in Ireland was slightly different in the early Xtian days. When the first monks arrived they were, more often than not, given an old fort to build their churches in. This means there are a lot of round churchyards in Ireland. It is my personal belief that this was primarily to give the monks no chance of stealing more land, because the banks of the rath/fort clearly defined an area. Some of the oldest tales tell of monks performing miracles to get more land and if these stories are actually contemporary then local kings would have been rather wary.

One such story is told of St Kevin at Glendalough. The kind told him he could have the land that his lame goose could fly around - Kevin promptly healed the goose and got half the kingdom!

Many of the old forts have legends of being inhabited by the little folk too and people wouldn't live in them anymore for fear of upsetting the Gentry. Ireland seems to have been converted in a different way to most places. There wasn't a persecuted underground cult first. Whereas Xtianity had two bites of the cherry in most places (after the Roman Empire collapsed many places seemed to have returned to pagan beliefs for a while), but in Ireland the transition seems to have been smooth. The usual Piper related stories about stone circles exist, but many pre-Christian practices were assimilated into Xtianity rather than removed altogether: wells, bullauns, pilgrimages to the tops of mountains were all taken in and are still in use today in many cases.

Some of the circular Cillin or church enclosures could have been henges rather than forts, but noone has really undertaken this study.

I don't know of any Irish churches that were definitely built in a stone circle, but I know of many that are built on what were obviously (to me) ancient sacred sites. The church on Church Mountain in Wicklow for instance is built on the base of a passage tomb, the stones of the cairn being used to build the church while leaving the cairn clearly defined: http://megalithomania.com/show/site/999

Another example of reuse is at Labbamaloga in Cork. Here the door of the 8th century church ( http://megalithomania.com/show/image/2816 ) is probably made using the stones from the stone circle or avenue in the next field ( http://megalithomania.com/show/image/2821 ). Another thing to note about this church is that it does not align east-west, but towards the hill hilighted in the second image. The larger and newer church right next to it aligns properly east-west making the alignment of the original very blatant.
Jane
Jane
3046 posts

Re: Circles under churches
Apr 29, 2005, 09:33
I have no proof for it but I believe that the church at Churchill, near Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire was probably built on the site of a stone circle. You can just SMELL it somehow...
http://www.themodernantiquarian.com/site/3742

There's also the Alphamstone in the Far East, of course http://www.themodernantiquarian.com/site/2064
J
x
Littlestone
Littlestone
5381 posts

Re: Circles under churches
Apr 30, 2005, 06:54
Very interesting difference, FW, between Ireland and Britain, and thanks for pointing it out. I Particularly like the doorway at Labbamaloga - but the stones just seem to have been used there without any symbolic gesture of assimilation (or suppression) that you find at Pewsey and Alton Priors.
Littlestone
Littlestone
5381 posts

Re: Circles under churches
Apr 30, 2005, 07:09
Thanks for that info on the church at Churchill, Jane. I see what you mean about, "...the church probably being built on the site of a stone circle." In fact the way some of the stones have been lined up close together is very similar to how the stones have been arranged down by the river at Pewsey.

Thanks, too, for your link to Alphastone - need to check that out in more detail :-)
FourWinds
FourWinds
10943 posts

Re: Circles under churches
Apr 30, 2005, 08:42
>> but the stones just seem to have been used there without any symbolic gesture of assimilation

I would say that using them for the entrance could be particularly symbolic
FourWinds
FourWinds
10943 posts

Re: Circles under churches
Apr 30, 2005, 08:49
My favoruite stone at a church has to be the one outside Le Mans cathedral. The only picture on the web I know of it is here (about two thirds down the page):

http://www.irishmegaliths.org.uk/frenchgenius2.htm
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