Early Britain—Roman Britain eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 242 pages of information about Early Britain—Roman Britain.

F. 7.—­First, the number of continuously unoccupied Romano-British cities is very small indeed.  Except at Silchester, Anderida, and Uriconium, almost every one has become an English town.  But when this took place early in the English settlement of the land, the ruins of the Romano-British churches would still be clearly traceable at the conversion of the English, and would be rebuilt (as St. Martin’s at Canterbury was in all probability rebuilt)[433] for the use of English Christianity, the old material[434] being worked up into the new edifices.  It is probable that many of our churches thus stand on the very spot where the Romano-British churches stood of old.  But this very fact would obliterate the remains of these churches.

F. 8.—­Secondly, it is very possible that many of the heathen temples may, after the edict of Theodosius (A.D. 392), have been turned into churches (like the Pantheon at Rome), so that their remains may mark ecclesiastical sites.  There are reasons for believing that in various places, such as St. Paul’s, London, St. Peter’s, Cambridge, and St. Mary’s, Ribchester, Christian worship did actually thus succeed Pagan on the same site.

F. 9.—­Thirdly, as Lanciani points out, the earliest Christian churches were simply the ordinary dwelling-houses of such wealthier converts as were willing to permit meetings for worship beneath their roof, which in time became formally consecrated to that purpose.  Such a dwelling-house usually consisted of an oblong central hall, with a pillared colonnade, opening into a roofed cloister or peristyle on either side, at one end into a smaller guest-room [tablinum], at the other into the porch of entry.  The whole was arranged thus: 

    Small Guest Room.  P P e e r r i Central Hall, i s with pillars
    s t on each side t y (often roofless). y l l e e Porch of

It will be readily seen that we have here a building on the lines of an ordinary church.  The small original congregation would meet, like other guests, in the reception-room.  As numbers increased, the hall and adjoining cloisters would have to be used (the former being roofed in); the reception-room being reserved for the most honoured members, and ultimately becoming the chancel of a fully-developed church, with nave and aisles complete.[435] It may be, therefore, that some of the Roman villas found in Britain were really churches.[436]

F. 10.—­This, however, is a less probable explanation of the absence of ecclesiastical remains; and the large majority of Romano-British church sites are, as I believe, still in actual use amongst us for their original purpose.  And it may be considered as fairly proved, that before Britain was cut off from the Empire the Romano-British Church had a rite[437] and a vigorous corporate life of its own, which the wave of heathen invasion could not wholly submerge.  It lived on, shattered, perhaps, and disorganized,

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Early Britain—Roman Britain from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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