1400-Y-O Church Discovered on UK Holy Island, Where Conversions of Pagans to Christianity Began

The tidal island of Lindisfarne or Holy Island in Northumberland, the U.K., in May 26, 2012.
The tidal island of Lindisfarne or Holy Island in Northumberland, the U.K., in May 26, 2012. | (Photo: AwesomeBritain YouTube screencap)

Archaeologists have discovered an ancient seventh century church on the Holy Island of Lindisfarne in the U.K., believed to be the site where monks began England's mass conversion from pagan traditions to Christianity.

"This latest discovery of a potential church building on the Heugh cements Holy Island as one of the most significant early medieval sites in Britain," said Conservation Manager Sara Rushton, according to an article in MailOnline on Tuesday.

"It is incredible to think that we have uncovered two very significant buildings associated with the early Christian foundation of the priory that provide tangible links to both St. Aidan and St. Cuthbert," she added, referring to the early Christian monks.

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The church in question is believed to have been built in the same time period as a monastery in 635 A.D. The small rectangular building, where the church once stood, was apparently built just a few feet from a cliff edge.

The location is believed to be the cradle of Christianity in the North East, MailOnline noted, and it is where early Christian monks set out to convert the pagan population and share with them the Good News.

Previous archaeological research at the island had found other important items, such as the Lindisfarne Gospels, one of Britain's most celebrated illuminated manuscript.

The monastery at the island grew to become an international center of learning and craftsmanship, but was ransacked in the late eight century by vikings.

The Independent noted that archaeologists have also found dozens of pieces of broken masonry at the site of the church's remains, including crudely-worked window surrounds. The eastern end of the church could have been the base of the original altar installed there by St. Aidan, they added.

Peter Ryder, an archaeologist specializing in medieval ecclesiastical buildings, affirmed the importance of the discovery.

"It is one of the most important discoveries from the early medieval period that has been made in Britain over recent decades," he said.

Experts added that while the church is pre-Norman Conquest and could potentially date anywhere from 630 A.D. to 1050, they believe the earlier date is more likely.

Richard Carlton of The Archaeological Practice and Newcastle University, who led the excavations, said that there are not many churches from the time period known in medieval Northumbria.

"What is in favor of the argument for an early church is that on the ridge it would have been entirely visible from Bamburgh, the seat of political power at the time, and in turn would have had great views of Bamburgh," Carlton said, according to Chronicle Live.

"It adds another chapter to the history of Holy Island."

The website for the Holy Island of Lindisfarne states: "In 635AD Saint Aidan came from Iona and chose to found his monastery on The Holy Island of Lindisfarne. The Christian message flourished here and spread throughout the world."

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