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Littlestone
Littlestone
5381 posts

Re: Re St.Arilda's church at Oldbury on Severn
May 05, 2009, 21:50
moss wrote:
Not on a circle but a presumed bronze age barrow, and with a long history of occupation on site.... What is fascinating is the dominant feature of the church in the landscape atop a very large mound, a statement of power by the church over paganism...

http://www.themodernantiquarian.com/site/8082/st_arilda_oldburyonsevern.html


Recent visits to churches in Essex once again reinforce the theme of a pre-Roman (Christianised site) with a least one large stone embedded in its foundations. The walls of Essex churches are generally constructed from small nodules of flint (occasionally with the addition of small or broken puddingstones) so the presence of a large sarsen-like stone in a wall is very striking indeed. Were such stones brought from afar and incorporated into (pre-Christian) stone circles because of their association with centres of ancient importance? At Alphamstone in Essex for example there is a local legend that the sarsen stones in and around the church were brought from Wiltshire. Conversely, were stones from different parts of the country taken to places of major importance such as Silbury and incorporated into its construction as an act of pilgrimage or respect for the departed - a Westminster Abbey of the Neolithic? The use of sacred sites, and the subsequent building sequence of churches in Essex (and elsewhere?) seems to be -

1) The site tends to be on slightly raised ground and is close to a river, stream or a spring.
2) The site will have at least one (formerly a standing stone?) embedded in its lower foundations, as well as Roman tiles in the upper layers of its walls.

The Essex churches of Broomfield and Great Canfield (with its fascinating fylfot crosses and other pre-Christian reliefs) as well as the church at Little Baddow seem to be examples of this continuous use of sacred sites - ie from a grove with water close by to a Roman villa to an Anglo-Saxon and then to a Norman presence.

Two thousand years of sacred use - perhaps even much longer...
GordonP
474 posts

Re: Re St.Arilda's church at Oldbury on Severn
May 06, 2009, 22:10
Recent visits to churches in Essex once again reinforce the theme of a pre-Roman (Christianised site) with a least one large stone embedded in its foundations. The walls of Essex churches are generally constructed from small nodules of flint (occasionally with the addition of small or broken puddingstones) so the presence of a large sarsen-like stone in a wall is very striking indeed. Were such stones brought from afar and incorporated into (pre-Christian) stone circles because of their association with centres of ancient importance? At Alphamstone in Essex for example there is a local legend that the sarsen stones in and around the church were brought from Wiltshire.

How far would that be?

And how big are the stones?

If it were true it would make a nonsense of the glacial erratics theory for the movements of the sarsens to within 5 miles of Stonehenge to say nothing of the bluestones
Littlestone
Littlestone
5381 posts

Re: Re St.Arilda's church at Oldbury on Severn
May 06, 2009, 23:02
And how big are the stones?


The stones mentioned at the sites above, Gordon, are not that big; 3-4 foot long (originally high?) by a couple of foot wide as a general rule (please see http://www.themodernantiquarian.com/site/2065/ingatestone.html where the largest stones there are now used as buffers on the corners of Fryerning Lane. These stones could have quite easily been bunged into a wagon and moved to Essex from further afield. I'm not saying they were moved but that, even today, there is a tendency for us to pick up a stone, pebble, shell etc from one place and take it home (in Hawaii there's still a tradition that says anyone who removes even a small stone from any of the islands will be cursed).

Just another idea to play with - ie the idea that the removal of a sacred piece of stone/earth/land from one place to another (from Wiltshire to your own land [circle] at Alphamstone in Essex for example) or the transportation of a piece of your own (sacred) land in the form of a stone to Silbury for example, formed part of an act of pilgrimage - we're in the Neolithic after all, there's not a lot that's going to last other than stone.
Littlestone
Littlestone
5381 posts

The Churchs of St Mary the Virgin
Jun 18, 2009, 07:21
Couple of more (possible) Christianised sites in Essex - the church of St Mary the Virgin at Great Canfield (with the interesting fylfot/pagan reliefs in its porch, and a single large stone in its south wall). Also a similar large stone in the north wall of the Church of St Mary the Virgin at Little Baddow (notice the puddingstones and Roman tiles/bricks in the wall here). See http://www.themodernantiquarian.com/img_fullsize/75962.jpg and http://www.themodernantiquarian.com/img_fullsize/75961.jpg
hotaire
43 posts

Re: Circles under churches
Sep 29, 2009, 08:02
You're almost certainly right that it's an accommodation. The convolutions early Christian authorities went through to convert the English were quite remarkable.

"Do not destroy pagan temples, but convert them to Christian use so that the people will feel more comfortable coming there." "If the people insist on sacrificing an animal, let them do it – just so long as they sacrifice it to God."

Both of these instructions are to be found in a letter from Pope Gregory to Abbot Mellitus, who had come to England with St. Augustine. The letter's dated 601. It's quoted extensively in Bede's Historia Ecclesiastica.

York Minster is the only church in Christendom ever to have hung mistletoe within its walls - and the fact that it is York Minster means an archbishop must have made the decision.

What's remarkable about the two sites you mention is that they suggest (very strongly) that people were still worshipping in stone circles as late as the seventh century a.d. Interesting.
Littlestone
Littlestone
5381 posts

Re: Circles under churches
Sep 29, 2009, 12:26
York Minster is the only church in Christendom ever to have hung mistletoe within its walls - and the fact that it is York Minster means an archbishop must have made the decision.


Very interesting - thanks.

What we've found, visiting churches over the last few years, is just how many seem to follow the same pattern of being very near a water source - an ancient sacred site? There are then often signs of Roman occupation on or near the site, and then later of a church there incorporating (sanding) stones, Roman bricks etc in its fabric. The Church of St Mary with St Leonard at Broomfield in Essex http://www.themodernantiquarian.com/site/11391/church_of_st_mary_with_st_leonard_broomfield.html is a good example of this pattern. Pewsey church http://www.themodernantiquarian.com/site/3867/pewsey.html in Wiltshire though is an example of some really beautiful large stones incorporated in its foundations and under some of its buttresses, and it's not hard to imagine them as once forming part of a stone circle.

The question is whether the Church was suppressing or assimilating the older beliefs - perhaps it was doing both in different places at different times; or perhaps, as you quote, "Do not destroy pagan temples, but convert them to Christian use so that the people will feel more comfortable coming there." really was the tactic used and the stones we now see under some churches are indeed the remains of 'converted pagan temples'.
wideford
1085 posts

Re: Circles under churches
Sep 29, 2009, 13:21
In Orkney, too, kirks and graveyards are situated near water. But no tradition of temples, the nearest thing is ones built on brochs.
moss
moss
2813 posts

Re: Circles under churches
Sep 29, 2009, 14:16
Littlestone wrote:
York Minster is the only church in Christendom ever to have hung mistletoe within its walls - and the fact that it is York Minster means an archbishop must have made the decision.




The question is whether the Church was suppressing or assimilating the older beliefs - perhaps it was doing both in different places at different times; or perhaps, as you quote, "Do not destroy pagan temples, but convert them to Christian use so that the people will feel more comfortable coming there." really was the tactic used and the stones we now see under some churches are indeed the remains of 'converted pagan temples'.


Though this may be wrong 'converted pagan temples' hit something in my mind, Avebury (just down the road) had two French monks from their mother house in France, which was built and incorporated a pagan temple at one time (1st century AD.) So given the rather strange fact that we have two churches situated very close together..why? near to streams and overlooked by Adam's Grave longbarrow, could it be that the supposed stone circle under the church was there, and the powers that be were so horrified by this pagan manifestation that they had to build two churches to keep it suppressed ;)
Littlestone
Littlestone
5381 posts

Re: Circles under churches
Sep 29, 2009, 14:40
So given the rather strange fact that we have two churches situated very close together..why? near to streams and overlooked by Adam's Grave longbarrow, could it be that the supposed stone circle under the church was there, and the powers that be were so horrified by this pagan manifestation that they had to build two churches to keep it suppressed ;)


Why should the two churches at Alton Priors and Alton Barnes be situated so close together? Well, you could also have had two different communities living side by side; 'Britons' at Alton Priors, close to the spring and stream there, and Anglo-Saxons at Alton Barnes. The Alton Priors church is Norman but may have replaced something earlier. The Alton Barnes church is Anglo-Saxon. There's a wonderful stone path that links the two together by the way. It's not improbable that in the 6th or 7th centuries there'd still be different pagan (British and Anglo-Saxon) and early Christian religions all being practiced within the same area - certainly in an area such as that around Avebury.
hotaire
43 posts

Re: Circles under churches
Oct 03, 2009, 16:20
"The question is whether the Church was suppressing or assimilating the older beliefs - perhaps it was doing both in different places at different times; or perhaps, as you quote, "Do not destroy pagan temples, but convert them to Christian use so that the people will feel more comfortable coming there." really was the tactic used and the stones we now see under some churches are indeed the remains of 'converted pagan temples'."

It was assimilating as much as necessary in order to suppress. t's important to realize that Christianity was not welcomed with open arms by many. It was accepted by kings, and the people were ordered to accept it - and the resentment of the people is well illustrated by the following story :

Around 650 a.d., a young Saint Cuthbert watched as a group of people jeered at monks being helplessly washed down the Tyne before a strong current. Cuthbert admonished them, saying that they should pray for the monks’ salvation. He was told :

“Nobody is going to pray for them. Let not God raise a finger to help them! They have done away with all the old ways of worship and now nobody knows what to do.” - Bede’s 'Vita Sancti Cuthberti', Chapter 3, completed in 721 a.d.

So church authorities were forced to assimilate whatever it took to convert them. Brigid, the great pagan goddess of the north (i.e. Brigantia - a kingdom named after her) became St. Brigid. Wells and streams, probably the homes of pagan water spirits, became associated with famous Christians - St. Helen's Well, St. Hilda's Well, etc. They didn't destroy these places - that would have INCREASED the resentment - but took enough pagan items into Christianity for the people to find it less objectionable.

It was a matter of assimilate what is necessary in order to suppress the remaining bulk of heathenism.
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