Early Britain eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 175 pages of information about Early Britain.
held in the open air at some sacred spot—­and there the priests and thegns declared their willingness to accept the new religion.  Coifi, chief priest of the heathen gods, himself led the way, and flung a lance in derision at the temple of his own deities.  To the surprise of all, the gods did not avenge the insult.  Thereupon “King AEduin, with all the nobles and most of the common folk of his nation, received the faith and the font of holy regeneration, in the eleventh year of his reign, which is the year of our Lord’s incarnation the six hundred and twenty-seventh, and about the hundred and eightieth after the arrival of the English in Britain.  He was baptized at York on Easter-day, the first before the Ides of April (April 12), in the church of St. Peter the Apostle, which he himself had hastily built of wood, while he was being catechised and prepared for Baptism; and in the same city he gave the bishopric to his prelate and sponsor Paulinus.  But after his Baptism he took care, by Paulinus’s direction, to build a larger and finer church of stone, in the midst whereof his original chapel should be enclosed.”  To this day, York Minster, the lineal descendant of Eadwine’s wooden church, remains dedicated to St. Peter; and the archbishops still sit in the bishop-stool of Paulinus.  Part of Eadwine’s later stone cathedral was discovered under the existing choir during the repairs rendered necessary by the incendiary Martin.  As to the heathen temple, its traces still remained even in Baeda’s day.  “That place, formerly the abode of idols, is now pointed out not far from York to the westward, beyond the river Dornuentio, and is to-day called Godmundingaham, where the priest himself, through the inspiration of the true God, polluted and destroyed the altars which he himself had consecrated.”  So close did Baeda live to these early heathen English times.  From the date of St. Augustine’s arrival, indeed, Baeda stands upon the surer ground of almost contemporary narrative.

Still the greater part of English Britain remained heathen.  Kent, Essex, and Northumbria were converted, or at least their kings and nobles had been baptised:  but East Anglia, Mercia, Sussex, Wessex, and the minor interior principalities were as yet wholly heathen.  Indeed, the various Teutonic colonies seemed to have received Christianity in the exact order of their settlement:  the older and more civilised first, the newer and ruder last.  Paulinus, however, made another conquest for the church in Lindsey (Lincolnshire), “where the first who believed,” says the Chronicle, “was a certain great man who hight Blecca, with all his clan.”  In the very same year with these successes, Justus died, and Honorius received the See of Canterbury from Paulinus at the old Roman city of Lincoln.  So far the Roman missionaries remained the only Christian teachers in England:  no English convert seems as yet to have taken holy orders.

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Early Britain from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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