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The Christian Church In These Islands Before The Coming Of Augustine by Sir Thomas Browne


Laurentius, Mellitus, and Justus agreed that it was better for them to go back to their own country, and there serve God with minds at rest, than to live fruitlessly among barbarians who had revolted from the faith (Bede, ii.5). It was in pursuance of this resolution that Mellitus and Justus crossed the Channel, and Laurentius prepared to follow them.

The last decade of the century usually played an important part in the period which our present consideration covers. From 190 to 200, Christianity made such progress in Britain as to justify the remark of Tertullian quoted on page 54. From 290 to 300, Constantius secured his position. From 390 to 400, the last great stand against the barbarian invaders on the north was made by the help of Roman arms. From 490 to 500, the great victory of the Britons under Ambrosius Aurelianus over the Saxons rolled back for many years the English advance. From 590 to 600, the Christianising of the English began to be a fact.

See page 96.

Ecclesiastical History of the Franks, ix.37.

Page 120.

Daily Chronicle, June 30, 1893.

Standard, May 30, 1893.

Anglo-Saxon Chronicle (late Canterbury copy). Green, Making of England, p.111.

There is a very interesting discussion in a recent book, The History of St. Martin's Church, Canterbury, by the Rev. C. F. Routledge, Honorary Canon of Canterbury, on the meaning of this statement (pages 120, &c.). It seems to me clear that Bede believed the church in question to have been dedicated to St. Martin while the Romans were still in the land. As Martin was living up to 397, and the Roman empire in Britain ended in 407, there is not much time for a dedication to this particular Martin. But our ideas of dedications are very different from those which guided the nomenclature of churches in the earliest centuries of Christianity here. If Martin himself ever lived at Canterbury, and had this church, the difficulty would disappear.

The contradictory instructions given by Gregory on the question of using heathen temples for Christian worship are rather puzzling. They are found in a letter to Mellitus, dated June 15, 601, and in a letter to Augustine, dated June 22, 601. The surmise of Messrs. Haddan and Stubbs that the former date is wrong, and that the letter to Mellitus was later than that to Augustine, is reasonable, and solves the puzzle. On this view, Gregory wrote to Augustine, on June 22, 601, to the effect that the idol-temples must be destroyed. This letter, as we know, he gave to Mellitus, who was in Rome, to be brought by him to England. Then, a few days later, perhaps on June 27, he sent a short letter to Mellitus, to say that he had carefully considered the matter, and had decided that if an idol-temple was well built, it should be cleansed, and consecrated to the service of Christ. It is an interesting fact that the earliest historical testimony to the existence and martyrdom of St. George, who was recognised for so many centuries as the Patron of England, is found in an inscription in a church in southern Syria, dating from about the year 346, stating that the church had been a heathen temple, and was dedicated as a church in honour of the |great martyr| St. George.

Known as the Goidelic branch of the Celtic race.

The names Galatae and Celtae are not improbably the same word, the latter name being pronounced with a short vowel between the l and the t, as though spelled Cel[)a]tae or Cel[)u]tae. It is in fact so pronounced to this day in many parts of the island.

Known as the Brythonic branch of the race.

As has been already remarked, they are now generally described as the Brythonic and Goidelic branches of the Celtic race.

Or with ab, as Bevan and Baddam, that is, ab Evan and ab Adam. Map and mab, ap and ab, stand for |son.|

St. Peter is now being claimed as one of the Apostles of Britain; but it is impossible to deal seriously with such a proposition. A pamphlet with this view was issued in 1893, by the Reverend W. Fleming, M. R. Cardinal Baronius, holding the view that St. Peter lived long in Rome, felt the difficulty which any one with the historic sense must feel, that St. Paul in his Epistle to the Romans makes no mention of St. Peter as being then in Rome, nor does the history in the last chapters of the Acts. The explanation given is that St. Peter, though permanently resident in Rome, was away from home on these occasions. As there is no trace of him in any known country at the time, Britain is taken as the place of his sojourn during some of the later years of St. Paul, probably as the country where traces of his sojourn were least likely to be found on record. Mr. Fleming quotes a passage from a book written in 1609 by the second |Vicar Apostolic of England and Scotland,| which is only too typical an example of a style of assertion and argument of which we might have hoped that we had seen the last. |I assure the indifferent reader, that St. Peter's preaching to the ancient Britons, on the one side is affirmed both by Latins and Greeks, by ancient and modern, by foreign and domestic, by Catholic writers..., by Protestant antiquaries...; and on the other side, denied by no one ancient writer, Greek or Latin, foreign or domestic, Catholic or other.|

Archdeacon Prescott informs me that in an early deed in the MS. Register of Lanercost Priory there is mention made of a capella de virgis, a chapel of wattle-work, at Treverman (Triermain). Divine Service was celebrated there by consent of Egelwin, the last Anglo-Saxon Bishop of Durham.

Some writers, not aware of the extent to which wattle-work can be used and has been used, have said that virgea must in this connection mean |made of boards,| not of wattle. There seems to be no sufficient reason for putting this interpretation upon a well-known word. And even if it had that meaning, we should find in the recently revealed British marsh-fortress an equally good illustration of their skill in working boards. The principal causeway is faced with oak boards on its two vertical sides. These are kept in their place by carefully squared oak posts, driven deep into the ground below, so that their tops are level with the surface of the causeway. The tops of the posts are morticed, and a bar of oak, across the causeway, is let into the tops of the two posts opposite to one another, and is fastened there with oak pegs. Thus the boards which face the vertical sides of the causeway are clamped tight in their places. The work is done throughout with extreme neatness of fit and finish.

Juvenal, Satires, xii.46; Martial, Epigrams, xiv.99.

Ep. xi.53.

Wars of the Jews, vi.6.

Annals, xiv.32, 33.

That is, in December 1893, in the war with the Matabele.

It is added that in the eventual revenge of the Romans, some eighty thousand of the Britons were killed. These numbers seem at first sight very large, too large to be historical. But we may bear in mind that Caesar a hundred years before had noted with surprise the populousness of Britain -- hominum infinita multitudo, countless swarms of men.

See p.117. As I have found myself obliged by historical considerations to abandon the interesting old tradition of King Lucius, I may as well give in a note some details of the story which have special interest for us in London. It may be mentioned as a preliminary, that Gildas (about A. D.560) makes no reference to the story. Bede, who usually follows Gildas, gets his information about Lucius from the Roman Chronicle, as enlarged in the time of Prosper. But he gives two different dates, in one place (i.4) A. D.156, which is inconsistent with the names of the reigning emperors as given by him, and in another place (the summary at the end of book v) after A. D.167. The earliest British testimony to the story is that of Nennius, in the ninth century. He tells us that Lucius was called Lleur maur, the great light, because of this event.

The fully developed story is quoted by Dugdale (History of St. Paul's, p.2) from a MS. in the possession of the Dean and Chapter of St. Paul's before the fire of 1666, as follows: -- 'In the year 185 Pope Eleutherius sent hither into Britain, at the instance of King Lucius, two eminent doctors, Faganus and Damianus, to the end that they might instruct him and his subjects in the principles of Christian religion, and consecrate such churches as had been dedicated to divers false gods, unto the honour of the true God: whereupon these holy men consecrated three metropolitical sees in the three chief cities of the island, unto which they subjected divers bishopricks: the first at London, whereunto all England, from the banks of Humber southwards, and Severn eastward, belonged: the second, York, which contained all beyond Humber northwards, together with Scotland: the third, Caerleon (upon Uske) whereunto all westward of Severn, with Wales totally, were subject. All which continued so till Augustine (who was sent by Pope Gregory) in the year 604 after the birth of our Saviour, having translated the primacy to Canterbury, constituted Mellitus the first bishop of London.'

The Church of St. Peter upon Cornhill claims to have been the Cathedral Church of London, as founded by Lucius. There was a brass plate hanging 'in the revestrie of Saint Paules at London' (Hollinshed, A D.1574), with a statement to that effect, probably dating from the time of Edward IV. The old brass plate, now preserved in the vestry of St. Peter's, Cornhill, is 'the old one revived': except in some of the details it agrees with the following copy of the plate formerly in the vestry of St. Paul's as given by Weever before the fire (Funeral Monuments, A. D.1631, p.413).

'Be hit known to al Men that the yeerys of owr Lord God An. clxxix, Lucius, the fyrst christen king of this lond, then callyd Brytayne, fowndyd the fyrst Chyrch in London, that is to sey, the Chyrch of Sent Peter upon Cornhyl; and he fowndyd ther an Archbishoppys See, and made that Chirch the Metropolitant and cheef Chirch of this Kindom, and so enduryd the space of cccc yeerys and more, unto the commyng of Sent Austen, an Apostyl of Englond, the whych was sent into the lond by Sent Gregory, the Doctor of the Chirch, in the tym of King Ethelbert, and then was the Archbyshoppys See and Pol removyd from the aforeseyd Chirch of Sent Peters apon Cornhyl unto Derebernaum, that now ys callyd Canterbury, and ther yt remeynyth to this dey.

'And Millet Monk, whych came into this lond wyth Sent Austen, was made the fyrst Bishop of London, and hys See was made in Powllys Chyrch. And this Lucius, Kyng, was the fyrst Fowndyr of Peters Chyrch apon Cornhyl; and he regnyd King in this Ilond after Brut mccxlv yeerys. And the yeerys of owr Lord God a cxxiiii Lucius was crownyd Kyng, and the yeerys of hys reygne lxxvii yeerys, and he was beryd aftyr sum cronekil at London, and aftyr sum cronekil he was beryd at Glowcester, at that plase wher the ordyr of Sent Francys standyth.'

The records of the Corporation of London shew that in 1399 and 1417 the Rector of St. Peter's, Cornhill, had precedence over all Rectors in the City on this account. 'An apostolic contention oftentimes arose between the Rectors of the churches of St. Peter, Cornhill, St. Magnus the Martyr, and St. Nicholas, Cold Abbey, which of them would seem to be the greater and by reason of such dignity should occupy the last place in the procession in the week of Pentecost.' The Mayor and Aldermen decided that the Rector of St. Peter's, 'of right, and for the honour of that most sacred Basilica of St. Peter (which was the first church founded in London, namely, in the year of our Lord 199, by King Lucius, and in which was the metropolitan see for four hundred years and more) shall go alone after all the other Rectors of the same City ... as being priors or abbots over them.' [From an account of the Church of St. Peter upon Cornhill, by the Rev. R. Whittington, now Prebendary of St. Paul's, 1872.]

On this important point we may expect some detailed discussion before long. The interesting publication, recently commenced, of the Supplement aux Bollandistes pour des vies de Saints de l'epoque Merovingienne (Dupont, 4 Rue du Bouloi, Paris), will contain a treatise sur l'evangelisation de l'Angleterre par les soins du roi Lucius.

The French ecclesiastics claim the foundation of bishoprics at some of these places in the first century.

The language of the traditions would suggest that only the holders of the principal sees went from Britain, there being other bishops who stayed at home, in smaller places. Bishoprics rapidly increased in number in the early Anglo-Saxon Church; indeed, the number of bishoprics in England remained almost stationary from Bede's time to Henry VIII. In the time of Archbishop Tatwine, who was contemporary with the last years of Bede, there were seventeen bishoprics, counting Whithorn, and at the beginning of Henry VIII's reign there were eighteen, counting Man; the Welsh bishoprics are not included in these numbers. Dunwich and Elmham, Sherborne, Selsey, Lindisfarne, Lindsey, in Tatwine's time, were represented respectively by Norwich, Salisbury, Chichester, Durham, Lincoln, in Henry VIII's time. Leicester, Hexham, Whithorn, had disappeared, and Bath, Carlisle, Ely, Exeter, Man, had come into existence.

See page 59.

Any one writing of these early times has to exercise great self-restraint, if he is not to overload his subject with interesting illustrations. I cannot refrain from quoting here two paragraphs from Bede (iii.15) which shew that there was a curious knowledge of the property of oil in England in the seventh century, about 651 A. D.

A certain priest, whose name was Utta, a man of great gravity and sincerity, and on that account honoured by all men, even the princes of the world, being ordered to Kent, to bring from thence, as wife for King Oswy, Eanfleda, the daughter of King Edwin, who had been carried thither when her father was killed; and intending to go thither by land, but to return with the virgin by sea; repaired to Bishop Aldan, entreating him to offer up his prayers to our Lord for him and his company, who were then to set out on their journey. He, blessing and recommending them to our Lord, at the same time gave them some holy oil, saying, |I know that when you go aboard, you will meet with a storm and contrary wind; but do you remember to cast this oil I give you into the sea, and the wind shall cease immediately, you will have pleasant calm weather, and return home safe.|

All which fell out as the bishop had predicted. For in the first place, the winds raging, the sailors endeavoured to ride it out at anchor, but all to no purpose; for the sea breaking in on all sides, and the ship beginning to be filled with water, they all concluded that certain death was at hand. The priest at last remembering the bishop's words, laid hold of the phial and cast some of the oil into the sea, which, as had been foretold, became presently calm. Thus it came to pass that the man of God, by the spirit of prophecy, foretold the storm that was to happen, and by virtue of the same spirit, though absent, appeased the same. Which miracle was not told me by a person of little credit, but by Cynemund, a most faithful priest of our church, who declared that it was related to him by Utta, the priest, on and by whom the same was wrought.

The dates of the departures and restorations of the Roman troops may be stated as follows: --

A. D.387. Withdrawal of the Roman troops from Britain.

A. D.396. A legion sent to guard the Wall.

A. D.402. The legion withdrawn.

A. D.406. The Roman army restored.

A. D.407. Constantine the usurper again withdraws the army.

A. D.409. Termination of the Roman empire in Britain.

The last troops no doubt sailed from Richborough, the massive Roman walls of which have defied the ravages of time. Since these lectures were delivered, an interesting token of the presence of the Romans has been found there, a gold coin of Honorius, who was emperor of the West at the time of the final withdrawal. It has evidently not been in circulation for more than at most a very short time. Richborough has now been purchased at the instance of the Archbishop of Canterbury and placed under trustees, and all treasures found there will be carefully preserved. The great bulk of the coins and other relics found in recent years was acquired some time ago for the Liverpool Museum.

Haddan and Stubbs, i.121. The British were not driven from these parts much before 652-658. Hence, perhaps, the preservation of the old wattle church, the conquerors being now Christians.

The list of sixteen Archbishops is given by Sir T. D. Hardy in his edition (1854) of Le Neve's Fasti Ecclesiae Anglicanae, on the ground that he did not wish to omit a list given by Godwin; he adds that Wharton (de episcopis Londin.) believed Restitutus and Fastidius to be the only names of Bishops of London contained in the list. The names of the so-called Archbishops are: -- 1. Theanus; 2. Eluanus; 3. Cadar; 4. Obinus; 5. Conanus; 6. Palladius; 7. Stephanus; 8. Iltutus; 9. Theodwinus, or Dewynus; 10. Theodredus; 11. Hilarius; 12. Restitutus; 13. Guitelinus; 14. Fastidius; 15. Vodinus; 16. Theonus. The first on the list is said to have been made archbishop by King Lucius. The date of the twelfth is of course 314. The fifteenth is said to have been murdered by Hengist for protesting against the unlawful marriage of Vortigern with Hengist's daughter Rowena, about 455; this date of the last but one on the list is consistent with a view held by some chroniclers that there were no bishops of London between the beginning of the Saxon invasion and the coming of Augustine.

It is evident that when the masquerading dress of Latin is taken off the names, some of them are British.

It is unnecessary to say that some writers in the past have assumed that a metropolitan bishop in early times was of course an archbishop. It was not so.

Augustine does not appear to have been called Archbishop of Canterbury in his lifetime. He was called Bishop of the English, and sometimes Archbishop. His epitaph, as given by Bede (ii.3), described him as dominus Augustinus Dorovernensis Archiepiscopus primus, |the Lord Augustine, first Archbishop of Dorovernium| (Canterbury).

Bede, i.29.

If, indeed, he is certainly speaking of the same Picts.

See page 96.

On one stone, -- +Alpha+ et +Omega+, hic iacent sancti et praecipui sacerdotes id est Viventius et Mavorius; on the other, -- [Piu]s et Florentius.

It has been said confidently that the Alpha and Omega is not found in Ireland. I found, however, an early stone in the churchyard at Kells with the Alpha and Omega, the Chi Rho, and the I H S. This is the only case in which I have seen all three on one monument.

In a field near the Almond, at Kirkliston. The inscription is In oc tumulo iacit Vetta f Victi ... If we take the form used by Bede (i.15) Victi would stand for Victigilsi.

See page 11.

Tacitus, Life of Julius Agricola, ch.24.

See page 59.

See page 58.

Almost the same details, however, appear in the treatment of Wilfrid by his fellow-Anglians (Eddi, ch.49). His opponents so entirely execrated his fellowship, that if any abbat or priest of his party, bidden by a faithful layman, made the sign of the cross over the meat, it was cast out as a thing offered to idols; and any vessel they used was washed before one of the other side would touch it. Theological differences are a competent substitute for difference of race.

The general idea of the |cycle of years| is that after such-and-such a number of years the sun and moon and earth return to the same relative positions. This is fairly true of nineteen years; more closely true of ninety-five.

Adamnan, who tells us this, tells us also that the prophecy was fulfilled. Lugbe Mocummin was at Cantyre with the Saint some months after, and found there a ship whose captain told them of the destruction of the city (now called Citta Nuova). Life of Columba, i.22.

St. Oliver, formed from Santo Liverio (St. Liberius, the Swiss St. Livres), and San Todo, from St. Odo, are similar cases.

One has recently been found at Silchester, much further east than any other known example.

In modern phrase, the Goidelic, not the Brythonic branch of the Celtic race.

Thus on the famous stone at St. Dogmael's, near Cardigan, the first bilingual inscription of this kind found, the Ogam is sagramni maqi cunatami, the Latin, sagrani fili cunotami.

It is unnecessary to explain that Missa, the Latin equivalent of Mass, was of course used in Augustine's time. It was not for centuries after this that a narrow meaning came to be attached to the words Missa and Mass, by the introduction and prevalence of the doctrine of Transubstantiation.

Those who desire information on these points will find it in the Rev. F. E. Warren's Liturgy and Ritual of the Celtic Church.

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