Showing posts from 2019

Brexit and the Conversion of the English

Prof Susan Oosthuizen's Emergence of the English redirected my attention to Prof Tom Williamson's interesting view of the North Sea and its waterways published in East Anglia and Its North Sea World. In relation to the Conversion of the English, not only do I have to accept the likelihood of the continuation of  Christianity in East Anglia in the post-Roman era, for example, at Norfolk's two places named Eccles; but also the ongoing links with Europe once the Church had rooted itself in Anglo-Saxon society, St.Felix came to East Anglia from in 630 or thereabouts, with King Sigeberht who had been in exile in Merovingian lands. The next generations of church leaders gave us Botolph, who had his monastic formation at Faramoutier (not far from Paris), where Saethryth (sister of Withburga of Dereham and Elthelburga of Ely) was abbess. Hilda of Whitby's sister, Hereswith, who had married into the East Anglian royal family, became abbess of Chelles; a house which was founded …

English Viking Friendship at Reedham

The standard story is of rape and pillage as in Marie de France - Life of St.Audrey 
Felix built first a church at Soham. then a church at Reedham where people worshipped God. But the pagan Danes, who despised God and his laws, robbed it and destroyed itand took away the servants of God…….
Felix had lovingly baptised King Anna and his people and caused the whole region to be
born again through baptism.A different story is told in  John Lydgate's Life of St Edmund and Fremundand perhaps the church Felix had founded just fell into disuse and disrepair.

Read about it here and in Eleanor Parker's excellent Dragon Lords.

According to Lydgate Lothbrok and Edmund were mates until something went wrong!

They used to go hunting together as here in British LibraryHarley 2278  f. 42 
Whatever, Lydgate's tale does reflect Norfolk's pre  Norman Conquest  confident Anglo-Norse society.
Reedham and St. Felix feature on the Norfolk Saints Way

St. Bridget of Sweden in Norwich - some notes

The Norwich Benedictine monk, subsequently Cardinal, Adam Easton promoted the cult of St. Bridget. Some have suggested that Adam was Mother Julian's Spiritual Director and have noted similarities between St. Bridget and Mother Julian. The Passion of Christ was central to both - both were visionaries, both  were writers.

The Carmelite friar and friend of Margery Kemp, Alan of Lynn, also promoted St. Bridget.

Veneration of St. Bridget and other female saints  was popular in the 15th C. The screen at Horsham St.Faith's  has a quiver full! The picture opposite is a panel from the screen.

For further reading - Benedictines in the Middle Ages
on-line -

Links to the Norfolk Saints' Way:-
i)  through Julian of Norwich
ii) Adam Easton was an opponent Wycliff and thus did much to stoke up the fires in Lollards' Pit.
iii) Because of her criticism of the popes  Bridget has been hailed  as a forerunner of the Reformation as Wyc…

Feast of St. John the Baptist

Re-badging pagan places of worship as churches, as outlined in Gregory the Great's 7th C Letter  to Mellitus, made a great deal of sense in the conversion of  East Anglia. To what extent modern church dedications reflect the choice of a feast days to coincide with and replace pagan festivals is a moot point. 

The spandrels above the west door  -  a lamb and flag on one side and the eagle on the other - a and the two empty niches of St. John the Baptist, Coltishall  reveal its original dual dedication. 

That would have been very handy if  there was a pre-existing tradition of marking midwinter (St. John the Evangelist) and midsummer (St. John the Baptist).
We cannot know, but we might guess,  that the tradition of midsummer fires that continues in some parts of the U.K, was part of a wider (pre-Christian?) tradition marking  all the solstices and equinoxes with fire. So one can imagine our yet to be converted Anglo-Saxon forebears having their festivals at the same times and the same …

Norwich Cathedral - a Minster site?

I am intrigued by my reading of Blair The Church in Anglo Saxon Society,

i)  re minster sites and the vallum or septum  monasterii and how lost features in the landscape might be reconstructed from the road system as at Bisley p197

ii) And on p 199  several churches in an enclosure and aligned churches

Could it be that the Close Norwich (and Great Hospital) are the fossil of an earlier minster?   Occupying an area on as bend in the river?

The original site of St.Helen's is in line with the Cathedral, but the churches within the imagined vale are widely dispersed. On the plus side - the site does seem to tick the boxes that Blair suggests for a minster site !

From - Through - To : Liminality in the Christian Cultus

"Pilgrims On The Way"  are in a state of Liminality,
                        The time and miles of a pilgrimage, however long or short, are a threshold.
The pilgrim travels  

                       Through    a landscape and a time apart from the work-s-day world  - 

                       To             B.  

The time and the miles of a pilgrimage provide an opportunity to reflect and reach a new understanding. This is why pilgrimages are often given as a penance.  They allow for amendment of life!

All Christian Life is Pilgrimage  From in  the waters of baptism we embark on a new life.                       Through the path of life, following Jesus who is "the Way, the Truth and the Life.  "Here we have no abiding city, but we look for one that is to come. ( Hebrews 13.14).
   To           the life of the world to come
It follows that the pilgrimages we undertake during the course of our  lives are sacramental. They are outward and visible si…

Where have all the kids gone?

There were three children at Family Service at Coltishall today. We had a good time retelling the Easter story in a slick 45 minute all age worship format. I hope that it was simple and profound, something that everyone could engage with in their own way.

Afterwards I found myself contrasting and comparing  how it is now and how it was back in the day, during the 1970s when I was a curate in a Surrey suburban parish.  I remember, we had over 120 at Sunday School and our own version of St. Matthew,  sitting at the seat of customs, marking their attendance on their record book. And, yes, once a year they got a prize -  but only if they had attended a minimum number of Sundays!

Ahhh! Happy Days!?  Well, not really!  Attendance at Sunday School seemed to inoculate children against adult involvement. The passing out ceremony, before they went up to big school, was the great dismissal service. After which we never saw them again!

Annunciation Pilgrimage

Once, long ago, many would come on this feast day to St. Mary, Hautbois . Today, there was just me and, if not a host, there was a least, "a scattering of golden daffodils, beneath the trees". I came and prayer and remembered using the Hail Mary of Raymond Lull

And I am not sure that I was wandering lonely. I had, rather, strode manfully, through the village and along the disused railway line with plenty of time to ponder on the way.

Thoughts about:

predestination and the permanents way

The primrose path that leads to the everlasting bonfire. 

And about the Lamb of God

Dragon Hunting at the Viking Exhibition at the Norwich Castle Museum

I was looking for clues to give me a better understanding of what I think of as "my Hautbois font-base."
Bingo! I think I got the chap!  He turns up on a grit stone tomb slab from beneath York Minster (YorkM: 1993.713)

I imagine that it is on the basis of the next picture that the scene depicted is interpreted as slaying of the dragon Fafnir by Sigurd as recorded in the Volsunga Saga.

At this alarm bells should ring!  The Volsunga Saga is late 13th C. The earliest German versions of the story, in which Sigurd is called Siegfried,  begin in 12th C! 

A parallel story is told in the Anglo Saxon epic,  Beowulf -  a text that J.R.R. Tolkien argued must have come from the Conversion period, perhaps some date close to 700 C.E..
The York sculptures above are dated to the 10th C. Consequently they pre-date Scandinavian visual depictions of the story from 11th C onward by 100 years and the Volsunga Saga by 300 years. The Jelling Cup, from the time of Harald Bluetooth's  conversio…

Broads' Heritage Churches

It  is 9 years since I launched the Churches Together on the Broads web page to promote our heritage churches .

By 2016 it had done its job and run its course. 

Both  Norwich Diocese and Broads Tourism had taken up the baton

Today I picked up the wonderful, new, Visit the Broads
Pocket Guide

The future looks good!
Many thanks to everyone who has shared in the journey and has picked up the baton.
I'll allow myself a glass of something tonight and drink your health!
Tomorrow I'll crack on!  There's work to be done on 

Pride of Place - Anglo Saxon Kingdom's Exhibition

It was great to meet an old Norfolk friend, in pride of place, welcoming visitors to the Anglo Saxon Kingdoms Exhibition at  the British Library!  He represents the old East Anglia. East Anglia before Christian missionaries began the conversion in the 7th C.
Made of clay, the model of Spong Hill Man forms the stopper of a cremation urn ' Looking at him in a new light, he seemed less like one of the three monkeys, perhaps somewhere between Rodin's Thinker and Edvard Munch's The Scream, as he contemplates the mysteries of life and death.  For such as him St.Felix established a church close to Spong Hill at North Elmham. A church that was to become the centre of the diocese until it transferred to Norwich in 11th C. 

Another Norfolk treasure  - the  (the newly acquired)  Whinfarthing Pendant  - was displayed nearby.

It dates from a time when the East Anglian elite was beginning to turn towards Christianity. Like St.Felix, who accompanied King Sigeberht of East Anglia from ex…