A discussion forum for history enthusiasts everywhere
 
HomeHome  Recent ActivityRecent Activity  FAQFAQ  RegisterRegister  Log inLog in  SearchSearch  

Share | 
 

 Confused Christian History - the Norfolk Find

View previous topic View next topic Go down 
Go to page : Previous  1, 2
AuthorMessage
nordmann
Nobiles Barbariæ


Posts : 5747
Join date : 2011-12-25

PostSubject: Re: Confused Christian History - the Norfolk Find   Wed 30 Nov 2016, 08:36

"Confused" is the theme of this thread, after all. So that's not a problem.

I had avoided Wales up to now in the discussion as, if the Picts are an open book upon which any old history can be applied with gay abandon by whoever, whenever and whyever, then the Britons who ended up isolated from "civilisation" in Wales have unfortunately suffered the same treatment, in many ways worse. The provenance of the letter from Diaothus, for example, is particularly problematic. In fact the whole "Second Synod of Chester" is problematic and may not even have happened at all. It was deduced to have occurred based on a comment in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle when a Welsh loss at a later Battle of Chester was described as a fulfillment of a prophecy by Augustine that god would make sure the Welsh get theirs at that precise location because they'd snubbed him there. The supposed letter turned up even later, and seemed to "prove" the snub had occurred. However the "snub" proved valuable in two traditions, the Bede version in which some explanation had to be found for Welsh ecclesiastical intransigence (even in his own lifetime) and the Welsh nationalistic tradition which placed (and still places) a huge value on any "evidence" of them going it alone as far back as the paper trail goes. In Wales, unfortunately, there has been so much "belated" invention of paper trails in intervening centuries that the pitch at this stage has been well and truly queered.

The bit everyone on "mainland" Britain leaves out normally, for both the above reasons traditionally, is just what kind of shared identity the Welsh and Eastern Irish might have had (whether Christian or not), and of course to what extent the Welsh Christians exercised influence, overt or subliminally, over others on their general island - especially the non-Saxons. We know that it most probably extended into southern Scotland, at least. However the refusal to contemplate that the Saxon hegemony elsewhere might not have been quite as Bede described it, and that sub-Roman Britain might still have operated in part upon a vestigial Roman demography and infrastructure, has rather limited speculation regarding the nature of Britons in general, the Welsh in particular, and the actual society therefore into which Augustine had attempted to insert his Roman doctrine among existing Christians, whatever about his plan to convert Saxons.

I think, if anything can be gleaned from the mess that is the traditional history of Welsh sub-Roman society as we are led to understand it, it is that Caerleon was a much more significant place ecclesiastically than just a Welsh hot-bed of Christianity, that Welsh Christianity when viewed as a less isolated phenomenon than tradition assumes actually supports the view that the "insulæ" Christianity already in situ when Augustine arrived had been drastically underestimated by him and his papal boss (which would have been understandable as they had not been getting reports back in Rome for yonks), and that this underestimation persists to this day in the tradition which was largely built up around Augustine's importance, and not that of the lads already in place.

And of course what we have to take from all this is just how many such lads there were, and also how pretty effective they already had been "converting" heathens to the cause, thank you very much.

Augustine, if anything, was on a "deconversion" mission, whether he appreciated this when he'd initially set out or not. He learnt on day one that he was up against Frankish Christian influence, he must have learnt pretty quickly that he was up against local pockets of Christian resistance to his brand of the faith throughout the so-called "pagan" territories, and he was left in no doubt when he came up against the Hiberno-Scottish lot (and we can include the Welsh there) that he was essentially trying to Christianise a people who had been quietly getting on with it for centuries anyway without any help from Rome, and moreover had developed a pretty effective model for the political reality in which they existed that Rome would struggle to replace.

I don't like the "Celtic" appellation much (is there a "Rangers" version too?). The Hiberno-Scottish (and Welsh) lads wouldn't have had a clue what that meant or why they should be called anything other than Christian. Culturally and politically they were pretty diverse, though at the administrative levels they were in communication (thanks to Latin) with some pretty big and diverse European players too, as the subsequent merger between their outfit and the Franks was to amply demonstrate. If they are to be tagged these days as "Celtic" then it is only fair to tag Augustine's lot as "Romance", as both words indicate vernacular tongue distinctions and little else. However I feel the "Celtic" tag is used to imply that they were somehow "fringe" players, and that would be the grossest libel of all, though I am sure one that Augustine and his mates would have heartily supported.


Last edited by nordmann on Wed 30 Nov 2016, 09:55; edited 2 times in total
Back to top Go down
https://reshistorica.historyboard.net
Temperance
Virgo Vestalis Maxima
avatar

Posts : 5373
Join date : 2011-12-30
Location : The Sceptred Isle

PostSubject: Re: Confused Christian History - the Norfolk Find   Wed 30 Nov 2016, 09:22

Well, I don't know anything about all that. But I did like the "Celtic" services - so very different from the Rangers version - that rabid evangelicalism now trending in the C of E. All so wearing and noisy.

At the "Celtic" services, there was no Bible-bashing, no talk of hell, no stern - or, worse, infuriatingly glazed and ecstatic - looks; just quiet, meditative stuff, with lovely music and the delight of worship by candlelight. Bit of respite from the world. But they soon put a stop to all that.

But apologies as usual, this the sort of off-topic "History" you get at ConfusedChristian.com
Back to top Go down
Temperance
Virgo Vestalis Maxima
avatar

Posts : 5373
Join date : 2011-12-30
Location : The Sceptred Isle

PostSubject: Re: Confused Christian History - the Norfolk Find   Wed 30 Nov 2016, 10:19

Re Irish/Welsh connection - I'm very fond of Saint Nectan, a local saint, who ended up in Devon, although he had been born in Wales, and was the son of a Irish ruler who  had moved to Wales(?). Details about him are confused and confusing.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nectan_of_Hartland

Link below goves this:

St Nectan was the eldest son of King Brychan of Brycheiniog. Brychan was born in Ireland but moved to Wales when he was very young in 423 AD. St Nectan was born in 468 AD. He had 24 brothers and sisters and decided to become a hermit after hearing the story of St Anthony in the Egyptian desert. He set sail from South Wales landing at Hartland Point in Devon.

Nectan lived a solitary and reclusive existence at Stoke in the Hartland Forest. The only time he wasn’t alone was when his brother and sisters came to visit each year, just after Christmas, to pray and give thanks to God.


The church dedicated to him at Stoke, Hartland is a very special place.

Nectan is also associated with Tintagel in Cornwall (see link below for details about his waterfall near Boscastle). The reference to "marauding Romans who were ravaging his faith" is extremely odd, but then this is only the stuff of legend. Powerful and lasting stuff, though, for all that.

Legend states that Nectan owned a small silver bell, which he kept in a tall tower high above the waterfall. During the violent storms that sometimes ravaged this isolated spot, St Nectan would ring the bell and save ships that would otherwise have been smashed on the rocks. He believed that the marauding Romans were ravaging his faith, so before he died he vowed that unbelievers would never hear the bell and he threw it into the basin of the waterfall. If the bell is heard today, bad luck will follow. Parallels can be made with events that occurred at Morwenstow and indeed it was Parson Hawker (reverend of both the St Nectan churches at Welcombe and Morwenstow at different times) who claimed this site was known as St Nectan’s Kieve.

http://www.historic-uk.com/CultureUK/The-Legend-of-St-Nectan/
Back to top Go down
nordmann
Nobiles Barbariæ
avatar

Posts : 5747
Join date : 2011-12-25

PostSubject: Re: Confused Christian History - the Norfolk Find   Wed 30 Nov 2016, 10:39

Thanks to actual British history, in which home-grown Christianity in practically all its guises was effectively eliminated from collective memory at the first opportunity, there is no one to say anymore that any imagined "Celtic" ritual or belief, however fanciful, is on the button or not. Just like there's no point telling "druids" and their fellow travellers in Stonehenge and Glastonbury etc that they probably owe as much to Asterix & Obelix as to history (which mightn't be a bad thing).

In fact early "Celtic" Christianity in Ireland is full of really ripping yarns involving show-downs between saints operating in gangs and Irish druids (the actual kind who were magical poets and annalists, so worth defeating if one is intending to rewrite history), newly converted kings excommunicating the pope (they were new to it and hand't quite grasped all the rules yet), death by falling burning roof-beams (at least two royal converts), death by tickling (one saint), battles in which god and the druids embarked on frenzied magic fence building exercises to show who was top dog, and "masses" attended by "sluaigh" (over 5,000 people at a time) in which the Christians produced magic wine and food enough for everybody (and even Jesus on one occasion as a special guest). Whatever you guys were doing in your local church, I bet it wasn't a patch on the "real" deal.

However my point is that the British tradition, however thorough in such expunction it tried to be within a purely British context, never actually got round to eliminating two important external sources which throw light on what was actually going on - the Irish annals and the European accounts, both ecclesiastical and secular, essentially. It is still by no means a complete picture, but it is certainly one with sufficient importance in the detail to contradict many of the assumptions.

EDIT: Your second post arrived while I wrote the above. You see what I mean about the confusion then, as illustrated by Nectan. He demonstrates a Welsh / Irish cultural and religious link. He operates however well outside that comfort zone, and apparently with some success. Historically though he's set up against the Romans, which can't be right, and in terms of importance in the Christian tradition he's been relegated to a funny bit-part, the fate of so many lads like himself within that tradition once it was made to conform to the boss's rules elsewhere. However much one might dismiss the embellishments and even the chances of these guys having lived at all what one can't deny is that they represent a cultural and religious phenomenon in their time which within most other traditions would be acknowledged simply for what it was, the earliest examples of successful proselytisation, conversion, and establishment of a faith.
Back to top Go down
https://reshistorica.historyboard.net
Temperance
Virgo Vestalis Maxima
avatar

Posts : 5373
Join date : 2011-12-30
Location : The Sceptred Isle

PostSubject: Re: Confused Christian History - the Norfolk Find   Wed 30 Nov 2016, 10:52

@nordmann wrote:
In fact early "Celtic" Christianity in Ireland is full of really ripping yarns involving show-downs between saints operating in gangs and Irish druids (the actual kind who were magical poets and annalists, so worth defeating if one is intending to rewrite history), newly converted kings excommunicating the pope (they were new to it and hand't quite grasped all the rules yet), death by falling burning roof-beams (at least two royal converts), death by tickling (one saint), battles in which god and the druids embarked on frenzied magic fence building exercises to show who was top dog, and "masses" attended by "sluaigh" (over 5,000 people at a time) in which the Christians produced magic wine and food enough for everybody (and even Jesus on one occasion as a special guest). Whatever you guys were doing in your local church, I bet it wasn't a patch on the "real" deal.


Good grief - how very different from the home life of our little church. And we thought having a harpist was rather daring.
Back to top Go down
Temperance
Virgo Vestalis Maxima
avatar

Posts : 5373
Join date : 2011-12-30
Location : The Sceptred Isle

PostSubject: Re: Confused Christian History - the Norfolk Find   Wed 30 Nov 2016, 13:58

@nordmann wrote:
EDIT: Your second post arrived while I wrote the above. You see what I mean about the confusion then, as illustrated by Nectan. He demonstrates a Welsh / Irish cultural and religious link. He operates however well outside that comfort zone, and apparently with some success. Historically though he's set up against the Romans, which can't be right, and in terms of importance in the Christian tradition he's been relegated to a funny bit-part, the fate of so many lads like himself within that tradition once it was made to conform to the boss's rules elsewhere. However much one might dismiss the embellishments and even the chances of these guys having lived at all what one can't deny is that they represent a cultural and religious phenomenon in their time which within most other traditions would be acknowledged simply for what it was, the earliest examples of successful proselytisation, conversion, and establishment of a faith.



And what is odd (although I suspect - know - you will dismiss this as utter nonsense) is that I, a woman living in remote Devon 1500 years later and of Irish stock, feel far more affinity with Nectan than with any other "saint" I have read about. There is something very compelling in that simple (although it's an enormous place) church dedicated to him - a hugely benevolent presence. I don't pray "to" saints, having being raised a good Protestant, but if I did, I'd ask for Nectan's intercession.
Back to top Go down
nordmann
Nobiles Barbariæ
avatar

Posts : 5747
Join date : 2011-12-25

PostSubject: Re: Confused Christian History - the Norfolk Find   Wed 30 Nov 2016, 14:29

I don't find that odd at all. When one feels marginalised within one's community of faith (or in any communal identity sense etc) then it is natural to find affinity with those who historically also have been marginalised within the same community. I don't think it's as much to do with your Irish heritage as with your regard for Christianity as represented in your society today and the disconnect you feel with what is presented as that community's ethos. The only difference between a C of E and a Catholic who may be tackling this dilemma is really that the latter has a plethora of candidates to identify with handed to them on a platter, whereas the Protestant normally has to go digging for them.

But on the Irish thing - it is no accident that the saints who retained significantly higher status and levels of devotion throughout almost a thousand years of what we might call a "difficult" relationship with both Rome and then England were the home-grown mavericks. The more people felt their identity was threatened the more they seemingly latched on to any element of the faith that set them apart from whoever was doing the threatening.

It is forgotten now that Protestant edicts against idolatry etc were enforced in Ireland also, even with its Catholic majority (probably even more ruthlessly than in England in fact). The Irish response to having their churches raided, and usually destroyed, was to nominate a patron saint of broken statues (Adomnán, who is also rather beautifully the patron saint of shattered dreams). When the English attempted to outlaw devotion to St Patrick outside the Protestant faith the Irish in fact complied immediately, which at first glance appears to be odd and reassured the English no end regarding who was in charge. What the English didn't realise of course was that Patrick was only the second national saint - the ordinary people regarded Bríd (Brigid) as the main patron saint of the land, she whose pedigree devotionally pre-dates her supposed "Christian" life and goes right back to the old Gaelic goddess of the same name. A popular code name for secret meeting places to celebrate mass was "Áras Bríde", (Brigid's Place), and there are still a few mass fields and woods clearings that have that name locally today - in fact it's often how we know where these clandestine masses took place. I would wager in fact that if one got into the heads of those who still offer prayers to the saints within Ireland that Bríd's mailbox is typically bursting any day you look - to the point where she probably runs Hillary Clinton private servers just to keep up, whereas Patrick could probably get by with the astral equivalent of a G-Mail freebie account.
Back to top Go down
https://reshistorica.historyboard.net
Meles meles
Censura
avatar

Posts : 2911
Join date : 2011-12-30
Location : Pyrénées-Orientales, France

PostSubject: Re: Confused Christian History - the Norfolk Find   Mon 05 Dec 2016, 15:33

And now in addition to the Norfolk graves there are these:

The Guardian - Somerset skeletons are oldest evidence of monks found in UK

"Skeletons excavated at a site near Glastonbury are the oldest examples of monks ever found in the UK, carbon dating has proved. The remains, unearthed at the medieval Beckery chapel in Somerset ..... indicate a monastic cemetery dating back to the fifth or early sixth centuries AD, before Somerset was conquered by the Saxon kings of Wessex in the seventh century.

Archaeologists first located an extensive cemetery of between 50 and 60 bodies during an excavation in the 1960s. The fact all were male – apart from one female, thought to have been a visitor, nun or patron, and two juveniles, who may have been novices – left little doubt this was a monastic graveyard. Now a new excavation – a community training dig – has uncovered two more bodies, and taken bone samples of seven other individuals which, when carbon dated, showed the earliest to have died between AD406 and 544."

... the median of this dating is well before St Augustine's Gregorian mission to Britain.


Last edited by Meles meles on Mon 05 Dec 2016, 15:47; edited 1 time in total
Back to top Go down
ferval
Censura
avatar

Posts : 2572
Join date : 2011-12-27

PostSubject: Re: Confused Christian History - the Norfolk Find   Mon 05 Dec 2016, 15:46

I was just about to post that, I wonder if they are going to do any stable isotope analysis to try to establish where they were born?
Back to top Go down
Priscilla
Censura
avatar

Posts : 1890
Join date : 2012-01-16

PostSubject: Re: Confused Christian History - the Norfolk Find   Mon 05 Dec 2016, 23:32

Assuming that such analysis can be trusted, ferv, it will be interesting. People used to get about no end, even then. That St Martin of Tours was Hungarian - and ex Roman army too, makes the story of monastical roots ever fascinating. The where and the when is almost as interesting as the why.
Back to top Go down
nordmann
Nobiles Barbariæ
avatar

Posts : 5747
Join date : 2011-12-25

PostSubject: Re: Confused Christian History - the Norfolk Find   Tue 06 Dec 2016, 08:24

It's a strange article, isn't it? Besides the huge assumption made 50 years ago of the bodies being those of "monks" it then goes on to make a lot of very weird statements - for example "medieval" referring to a period prior to the 6th century, Arthur and St Bridget [sic] visiting Glastonbury (why did they leave out Joe of Arimathea - he got around too), and then this;

Monasticism began in France just before AD400, and gradually spread all around the Irish Sea in Ireland, Scotland, Wales and western England

Has anyone ever heard this claim before? Did anyone on the journalism staff (I'm making an assumption myself there) not consider asking the North Africans what they might think?

The article concludes with this bombshell:

The monastic use of the site may have ended in the later ninth century when Somerset was attacked by Viking armies.

Which would make total sense if the place was called "Glaston". What does the journalist think the "bury" bit means? Graves? Have all Alfred's cake burning and sundry exploits been in vain?
Back to top Go down
https://reshistorica.historyboard.net
Priscilla
Censura
avatar

Posts : 1890
Join date : 2012-01-16

PostSubject: Re: Confused Christian History - the Norfolk Find   Tue 06 Dec 2016, 09:01

I suspect that the journalist had done a quick Wiki and come up with the St Martin monastic originator stuff - as I did once by chance. Someone has since diddled a bit more info into that source. The days of yore when I researched in depth I never used on-line material - not once - but lived somewhere within a huge heap of books to cross reference. I do not regret it though now there is so much stuff  out there at a finger tip search. Even now I still wonder about it. Cherry picking info  and inference is all too easy.  this subject is not my field so ferv had better come in here. (I don't actually have a field, plot or window box, come to that.)
Back to top Go down
ferval
Censura
avatar

Posts : 2572
Join date : 2011-12-27

PostSubject: Re: Confused Christian History - the Norfolk Find   Tue 06 Dec 2016, 10:30

It's the old complaint about the standard of journalism when it comes to archaeology (or history or physics or biology or anything that requires more than a degree in Medja). A friend is a journalist but has an archaeology degree and regularly sends me press releases with an accompanying rant. Here's a cracker she got from Visit Scotland yesterday:

http://mediacentre.visitscotland.org/pressreleases/lands-of-legends-celebrate-king-arthur-1680106

Even the Scottish nonsense isn't the right nonsense - everyone knows that Merlin came from Dumbarton (or Partick or Harthill) and the Big A lived in Camelon.

And what's a real-life legend when it's at home?



And in case you can't wait for the film, here's a trailer:

Back to top Go down
nordmann
Nobiles Barbariæ
avatar

Posts : 5747
Join date : 2011-12-25

PostSubject: Re: Confused Christian History - the Norfolk Find   Wed 07 Dec 2016, 13:00

Getting back to just how little we know about the true nature of the development of Christianity in Britain, and just how misleading the official version is, can I draw attention to what might be called "the Silchester Church"?

I say "might" because, believe it or not, since its initial excavation in 1892 there has been huge antipathy from the establishment in the form of the modern church authorities as well as academia towards even contemplating such a use. The C of E problem is obvious - this is no monastery, has a layout not seen again in the British archaeological record until well after Augustine (which they claim should be the earliest examples), and if the usual calculations regarding size versus use are employed also suggests quite a thriving little Christian community regularly worshipping in a building built right on the city's forum and in the century before Constantine officially "approved" their faith anywhere, let alone in Britain, itself almost a full century prior to Augustine's arrival.

The academic opposition also concerns its age, though here the strength of disgruntlement is harder to understand. One would think that archaeologists and historians would be simply delighted to have found in such remarkable condition something which would appear very strongly to suggest that not only are official church histories all wonky, but also that in some small way Britannia might even have been ahead of the game when it came to the open adoption and regulation of this new religious phenomenon. The problem they have, if one goes down that road, is that it would simply rip to shreds many long held historical assumptions, not just regarding Christianity but Rome itself.

These days there is a small but growing nod in the direction of the possibility that this is a church, mainly by allowing the word into official articles etc, but always stuck between inverted commas. Reading University's article about the mosaic found on the site linked here is a case in point.

The entire dilemma, only part of which being that it cannot easily be dismissed as a church, is easy to appreciate if not quite understand. In fact if this building had been found in any other part of the Roman empire, and possibly just a little later in history regarding its construction, there would be absolutely no compunction whatsoever in ascribing it that particular use, end of story. And indeed several almost identical structures have indeed been found from Gaul to Syria and throughout North Africa. Moreover, the assumption in those instances is of purpose-built buildings, not merely incidental adaptations from previous function, and this of course has huge significance when assessing the status of the organisation which built them.

But this was in Silchester, then a major city in a much regulated province, some time in the early to mid third century CE (based on contextual finds), during a time therefore of so-called "persecution", and plonked moreover in probably the most central and public place possible in any Roman city - its forum.

The building conforms to a design still familiar to us today, with nave, aisles and an apse. The mosaic, now on display in Reading museum, was situated up to the 1970s in the apse, just where an altar might have been placed, and contains a cross as its central motif. A tiled area in one of the aisles near an entrance appears to have accommodated a font. The building is 13 meters long and nine wide, around average for such early urban churches (though none as early as this one yet) throughout Roman cities - the dimensions dictated often by their literally supplanting the ground space originally used for small temples in such contexts. The semi-circular extension to the apse however is regarded also as a typically Christian addition, as can be seen for example in Greek church design to this day, the effect being a deliberate imitation of the same feature writ large in basilica design, the buildings most often commandeered and imitated when larger congregations of Christians required to be accommodated.





The mosaic is the most enigmatic clue, of course. The cross is there, one can see it. However it has been incorporated into a larger pattern, almost as if its owner could answer "cross, what cross?" if challenged, though with everything else about the building screaming "we are Christians!" this might at first appear odd. However this is also what probably marks it out as being genuinely Christian, a religion which at that early point was emerging from a furtive first manifestation in which codes, symbols and deliberate obfuscation of both had become an integral part of its aesthetic as well as its theological core.

Back in the 1890s, just a year or so after this church's discovery, an historian called F.J. Haverfield got into terrible hot water when he decided simply to go through the then known philological records of early British Christianity to see what might actually hold water. Probably unaware at that early stage of just how controversial this building would prove to be in establishment eyes he included reference to it in the article he subsequently published.

Primarily an archaeologist, so therefore always willing to draw historical conclusions from that source of data, Haverfield was also actually a good historian for his time in that he immediately identified and deemed almost worthless "records" of poor provenance or ones which could obviously be ascribed to later invention. However that still left quite a lot of stuff, not least those records which arose even from "official" early ecclesiastical histories such as Bede or Nennius as well as those maintained and regarded as canon in other countries. And these alone, he felt, were enough to call into question just who Augustine reckoned he was converting. From as long ago as a full century before "pagan" Britain awaited conversion from the pope's man, for example, there was this:

In 314 three British bishops from York, London, and Lincoln — Eborius de civitate Eboracensi, Restitutus de civitate Londinensi, and Adelfius de civitate colonia Londinensium (probably an error for Lindensium) — with a presbyter, Sacerdos, and a deacon, Arminius, attended the council of Arles, in the south of Gaul, and British bishops were present, if not at Nicaea (325) and at Sardica (343), yet certainly at Ariminum (359).

This council mission at Arles is a mere year after Constantine's edict, and only a decade after all these people were ostensibly "purged" under Diocletian and, as Haverfield pointed out, none of them according to traditional historical theory should have been there anyway to be either purged or promoted. Moreover the sub-divisions of rank talk of an organisation accommodating quite a large congregation - fledgling start-up Christian communities tended to make do with a single "bishop" of sorts until they got the ball fully rolling and the converts came in in heaps.

Haverfield, a respected authority on Roman Britain in his day and one to whom we are still grateful today for the various initiatives he took to ensure Britain's Roman heritage survived at all, was actually forced to publish a retraction in the newspaper after he had published his musings in an antiquarian magazine back in 1896. The article was re-written, and one change was to post-date the recently excavated Silchester church to Saxon times (completely out of kilter with almost everything else he conjectured in the article). More modern methods have actually more or less pushed this date back again to the third century, where he too had originally guessed it, so he was right.

Thanks to the University of Chicago one can read his full (redacted) article here. It was ridiculed as crackpot in its day. Nowadays however there is little he said here which does not appear in standard textbooks.

Except the church in Silchester of course. We still don't talk much about that ...
Back to top Go down
https://reshistorica.historyboard.net
PaulRyckier
Censura
avatar

Posts : 1859
Join date : 2012-01-01
Location : Belgium

PostSubject: Re: Confused Christian History - the Norfolk Find   Wed 07 Dec 2016, 22:11

Thanks Nordmann for this article. It learns us indeed to put historywriting in perspective.
And it confirms seemingly what you already said.

I learn here every day something new.

Kind regards, Paul.
Back to top Go down
nordmann
Nobiles Barbariæ
avatar

Posts : 5747
Join date : 2011-12-25

PostSubject: Re: Confused Christian History - the Norfolk Find   Thu 08 Dec 2016, 09:21

All I've been saying all along is that one can forget the notion that Augustine, or even Patrick for that matter in Ireland, were on simple missions to convert "pagans", as their respective traditions state. Both these Roman emissaries arrived in societies with established Christian traditions and membership already in place, and both - if tradition is to count for anything - simply ignored whatever they found in that respect and imposed a version compatible with Rome's ideas.

In the case of Augustine in Britain this, if anything, was even more pronounced a strategy than in Ireland where Patrick only had two generations of Christianity "gone skewy" to address. There are a few philological clues as to why. The papacy, remember, was the first institution to drop the "Britannia" label and veer towards "Insulæ" when characterising the islands, especially after their political and military allies (at this point the church was one of three aspects to the same administration) decided Britannia was no longer viable as a sustainable Roman property.

The Roman military "withdrawal" from British civic government was obviously a watershed moment in papal eyes, and there is no doubt an urgent and critical assessment was made of Christianity's standing in that region at that point of control relinquishment. For a start, the attempt to convert the Irish island had, it seemed, backfired somewhat and was already being seen as a complication Rome could do without. By the early 5th century the hoped for ecclesiastical structure in the western island on which Rome insisted had failed to materialise, despite even Patrick's expensive and thorough attempts. In its place had arisen a dynamic monastic network which showed no signs of losing dynamism - in fact it had at this stage already spread throughout the two islands and was even making tentative inroads into Europe, an alarming proposition for the papacy which saw the northern tribes, and especially the Franks, as intransigent, heretical, and ultimately dangerous Christians. The Visigoths were still a recent memory and the damage they had done to the papal version of Christianity with their Arianism had come close to undoing the Catholic belief system entirely (Catholic was a term originally employed to distinguish from Arian), especially when they at times secured supreme political and military power. The solution that time had been to negotiate, wait, and plot against their ability to retain power, and it was a long one that even by the 5th century had not totally eradicated that particular threat. To have to fight the same war on another front against an emergent non-compliant Christian bloc as represented by an Insular/Frankish alliance could prove too much, especially a bloc which indicated it was immune from such negotiation and influence anyway.

In Britain then there was an added complication. A church in-situ, and which may even have enjoyed political acceptability and all the strengthening of status that goes with it earlier indeed than the Roman church itself, was already a potential problem. Now, with that province adrift in terms of political control from Rome, and with all the indications being that the islands were basically forging a new religious power structure increasingly independent of papal control, something obviously had to be done - immediately and as effectively as was possible.

The excuse, like with Blair/Bush and Iraq's "weapons of mass destruction", was to be the "Saxons". This, in the extant documents, is when we first hear about these pagans and how they had "overrun" and "invaded" Rome's old province. No previous Roman account had cited such a threat - in fact what we know from previous documentation on which we can rely is that the Saxons were an appreciated mercenary presence within the vast military administration Rome maintained in Britain. We don't even know if the "Saxon Shore" forts in eastern and southern Britain were to fend them off - as is often averred in the traditional account - or in fact their officially approved ports of use, just as the equivalent forts appointed across the channel in Gaul accommodated influx into that region. This would at least explain how such a migration as DNA analysis seems to support happened right under Roman noses and why the forts' importance waned in the 5th century. The migration, for what it was, had already long ago occurred. Any further Germanic/Belgian/Friesian incursions were not going to be effectively controlled through a vast network of forts requiring central administration anyway. That form of rule - a "Count of the Saxon Shore" responsible for several hundred miles of coastal fortifications - went out with all the other centralised authority, and pretty much overnight.

The traditional account has always had a huge dilemma when it tries to explain how the Saxons were seemingly the only ones poised and in position to immediately effectively take over almost two thirds of the Roman province. We know of no organised mass migration sufficient to transplant the assumed population of Saxons in so short a time, and no battles of conquest in that period from Roman accounts. We know of no great domestic population displacements from the same sources either, which in fact are very good at recording exactly that phenomenon (Rome was traditionally obsessed with migrant races).

And I would add to this that we don't know even if they were "pagans".

Christianity in Britain, like in much of Rome, embraced the civic and to some extent the political sphere, but up to Constantine had never been adopted by the military, at least not as a general policy, and the archaeological evidence suggests not at all in fact. Even under Constantine and afterwards there is no great evidence that the military regarded it as anything other than an emblematic symbol of power which could easily be exchanged for another depending on the political exigencies current at any particular time. Now, if the "Saxons", rather than a suddenly invading people, actually were a population already in situ in Britain, and whose leaders were effectively Roman military leaders who became de facto sole leaders when their original masters departed, then why should we think that the prevailing Christian demographic should have excluded them?

If all the above makes sense then what does that mean Augustine actually encountered when he arrived shortly after this traumatic point in British history? Well, if one forgets "Saxon versus Briton" for a moment and just thinks in terms of civic and agrarian versus military (which now doubled in warlord fashion as regional political administration), I imagine what he found was more or less what prevailed to a greater or lesser extent throughout the whole empire at the time, though in Britain now outside any political control of Rome itself - an indeterminately sized Christian community prevalent in the non-military population (including "Saxons" and other non-Britons), with a predominantly pagan leadership in the places where no concerted effort had been made to convert this leadership. Where it had been made, it had been by the Insular church, and in Kent in a startling new development, apparently by the Frankish church. In effect the islands were close to being "lost" to Roman control all over again, this time in terms of faith, while still remaining ostensibly Christian.

In this interpretation of the reality of the day then so much else also makes sense. Why Kent was targeted as a first priority to stop Frankish influence before its addition to the mix would make any future attempt to bring everyone to heel untenable. Why what appear to have been thriving and well organised Christian networks of congregations are dismissed as "pagans" and their churches dismissed as "temples". Why the archaeological record keeps throwing up anomalies of apparent "Saxon" and "Angle" churches pre-dating their so-called conversion from paganism. Why history itself had to be later massaged and even invented to explain how a reasonably established and prevalent Christian community had been subsumed by "pagans" so suddenly. And, as official church history itself admits, why a Christian community's leadership theologically advanced enough both to produce notable heretics and then equally notable defenders appointed at international Church council, diet and synod level to denounce them, became "pagans" overnight in papal eyes.

Augustine was little more than an "enforcer", in my view. And moreover one who ruthlessly oversaw the dismantlement of what could well have been Europe's first civilised, intellectually competent, theologically erudite, politically integratable, provenly adaptable, and effective Christian church. In fact, given the Roman church's subsequent history in its own version of political integration as time progressed which often translated into overt political ambition ruthlessly pursued, who is to say that the Insular model - as indicated by the monastic and home-grown Romano-British traces still decipherable today - wasn't in fact one more likely to adhere to what we now regard as core Christian principles? Could the history of Europe, and indeed the world, have been far less bloody and divisive had this version been allowed pursue its ascendancy, one assaulted and effectively snuffed out through Augustine's intervention?

Which is why you can see why I get all animated when 9th century graves are described as "early British Christian".
Back to top Go down
https://reshistorica.historyboard.net
ferval
Censura
avatar

Posts : 2572
Join date : 2011-12-27

PostSubject: Re: Confused Christian History - the Norfolk Find   Thu 08 Dec 2016, 10:19

Superb post, nordmann. Thanks.

As ever it has set me off thinking, especially on the political implications, and it occurred to me - might the influence of The New Rome fit into this? The heartlands of the Celtic church are also those areas where trade connections with the Mediterranean persisted well into the early historic period, everywhere from Tintagel through Whithorn to  Dunadd the archaeological evidence is there. I'm afraid I don't know about the Irish record but since the east coast is on that same route, is there similar stuff there?
Celtic monasticism has many similarities to that of the east, being aesthetic, hermetic and semi-cenobitic although their deserts were wet and windy, and there are some artistic similarities not just in all that orpiment being imported and used. Could part of the missionary project also have been a proxy war between Rome and Constantinople?

Back to top Go down
nordmann
Nobiles Barbariæ
avatar

Posts : 5747
Join date : 2011-12-25

PostSubject: Re: Confused Christian History - the Norfolk Find   Thu 08 Dec 2016, 12:53

@ferval wrote:
Celtic monasticism has many similarities to that of the east, being aesthetic, hermetic and semi-cenobitic although their deserts were wet and windy, and there are some artistic similarities not just in all that orpiment being imported and used.

Some Irish monasticism does - and some doesn't. Which is why I detest that "Celtic" cover-all appellation. Though the ethos you describe is certainly represented in Ireland, and even quite easily identifiable strains of it too.

The earliest monastic settlement that can be identified in Glendalough in Wicklow, for example, certainly suggests a hermetic though partially cenobitic community and, if tradition can be relied on regarding its antiquity (in Ireland actually it normally can) one that dates back as far as the 7th century with that ethos. From its foundation it went on a consistently upward spiral in terms of importance, though with Glendalough this was represented by its assimilation into a post-Whitby, Rome-friendly version of monastery-cum-diocese headquarters. It did not participate in any way that we know of in evangelical missionary work. Nor did its monks ever suffer voluntary ascetic hardship in the name of their faith, though instead gained renown and attributed "holiness" instead for the quality of their literary output and metalwork. In fact the fertile valley in which they had plonked themselves was obviously developed even further by them so that the area came to support quite a substantial agrarian community and several towns by the time of its dissolution.

Compare that to the contemporaneously founded monastic settlement on Skellig Michael off Kerry. There, the attraction for the monks seems to have been that they most definitely would not be distracted from their religious devotions by communal involvement in any way. No one had been there before them, and even today one has to be an adventurous soul indeed to make it out to the island, even with a helicopter. These were not evangelising either, as is plain, but in fact they were very close in character to some known Coptic and other North African extremely ascetic monastic communities. In so far as anything can now be deduced regarding influences you could well have a point that this "exotic" and "eastern" attitude to monasticism could well have filtered in through trade routes over which Rome did not exercise exclusive - or indeed sometimes any - control.

And then as a final comparison take Cluaninis and Bangor, the two monasteries in which Columbanus had been trained just a century prior to the foundation of the two above. These, from the beginning, seemed intent on producing missionaries, Columbanus being just one notable graduate. Within their own regional bases there is no evidence of even a partially ascetic ethic regarding devotion, and in fact like Glendalough concentrated on what might be called industrial and agricultural development, though with a view to investment in evangelical ventures, some as far afield as Poland and Lithuania. These, as you can imagine, became relatively wealthy and on this basis were prime targets for later Norse raids.

The founders of all these monasteries, if tradition can be relied on (and again in this case it generally can), had to varying levels of degree an association with and some debt for training to Clonmacnoise, which in turn we believe received help in its early days from Columba, he of Iona fame and the first known member of the Irish "aristocracy" to put his wealth, influence and contacts to work in spreading the faith. The monastery he founded at Clonard is regarded as the prototype of them all, though not in any sense that its own ethos was ever completely replicated afterwards (Clonard, for example, ran a "druid conversion" therapy group, which I for one would love to have witnessed).

About the only thing these places and chaps have in common, in fact, is that they all assiduously avoided organising themselves into dioceses and parishes, avoided bishops and any other form of Roman authority like the plague (one bishop visiting from Gaul was turned away when he arrived at Clonard because he wasn't Christian enough - basically told to go and "wait with the druids" until the therapy room opened that day), and never once asked Rome for permission to do anything - be it celebrate Easter or conquer the Polish heathens. Aside from that they differed in huge respects - some designed to evangelise, some designed to spawn offshoots, some designed to work within their surrounding communities, and some shunning contact with everyone altogether.

However if you were to ask me what is the one thing that sets the "Celtic" model apart from Rome it is this, and I choose to believe that this in some way must also have been true within Romano-British versions too (hence the "Insulæ" mentality which Rome noticed and which superseded "British" once that lost its political meaning); their surviving (and extensive) literary output reveals not only their core Christian theology but also, in all likelihood, why they all were seen as nigh-on heretical back in Rome. Their illuminated manuscripts, their theses, their recorded sermons, their religious poetry, in fact just about everything posterity knows they uttered, wrote and believed, relates to the gospels. Not St Paul, not the Old Testament, not the Acts of the Apostles, not Revelations, not anything which isn't directly related to actual quotes from Jesus. Other stuff gets incidental mention, so we know they knew all about it. But it just wasn't important, at least not when compared to the horse's mouth, as it were.

And I personally think that was the root cause of why they had to go.
Back to top Go down
https://reshistorica.historyboard.net
nordmann
Nobiles Barbariæ
avatar

Posts : 5747
Join date : 2011-12-25

PostSubject: Re: Confused Christian History - the Norfolk Find   Thu 05 Jan 2017, 13:33

I've been looking for other examples of how "official" British Christian history may be contradicted by the archaeological evidence, or even where the evidence as such seems to have been wrongly or loosely interpreted in order to suit the "official" version. I have found numerous examples of both but one case in particular deserves a mention if only due to its artistic value alone.

In 1963 the local blacksmith in Hinton St Mary, John White, discovered this mosaic under land adjoining his Dorset village premises. It was excavated professionally and eventually removed, becoming for 40 years a major exhibit in the British Museum in London. Besides being one of the best preserved examples of Roman floor mosaic discovered in Britain it also had a remarkable claim to distinction - the central motif being no less than the first depiction of Jesus Christ ever found in such a context in this particular province of ancient Rome, the unmistakable "chi-rho" monogram featuring prominently in the image.



There is some confusion about its original context in that the building in which it was originally housed could not itself be further excavated, so we don't know whether it had graced the floor of a villa, a more modest dwelling, or even a church. The mosaic covers two adjoining rooms, which may mean it was therefore a triclinium, or dining room (the most public room in any large Roman house where guests were literally invited to admire the expensive decor). However regardless of its context its overt symbolism and sheer size certainly does not hint at any secret devotion to Christianity on the part of its owner, that much is clear.

The blatant depiction of a Roman-style "shaved" Christ, in close proximity to some other less obvious but certainly pagan symbolism (hunting scenes, Bellerophon slaying the Chimera from Roman mythology, etc), has led to what I would consider some rather obvious departures from normal archaeological interpretation when applied to this fantastic find.



The crucial aspect to any interpretation in an historical context of a recovered artefact is of course the dating of it, and in the case of early British Christianity even more so. For some years the official accounts dated this "for stylistic reasons" to the 4th century. This of course is a very safe assessment - the official version of Christian ecclesiastical history is that the 4th century began with British Christians subject to Diocletian persecution (Britain's only four early church martyrs all occurred within five years of the first decade according to later hagiographical "histories"). Then, in 312 CE, the rules suddenly changed, and by 314 CE Britain was sending numerous bishops from all its metropolitan sees (ironically established by Diocletian) to international Church Councils, such as at Arles as mentioned previously. Having this mosaic "stylistically" dated to a non-descript period after this event certainly therefore rocks no one's boat in terms of contradicting this account.

However this is not how dating actually works in normal archaeological practice, and especially for structures. Stylistic interpretation, such as applies to pottery forms etc, are useful. However even with pottery such considerations are applied in concert with other aspects to an artefact's probable origin and date, such as its material composition. In the case of floors, be they mosaic or simply compacted gravel, it is such material found below or within the artefactual remains which are generally used to denote the time the floor was laid, and none more so than coins.

In the case of Hinton St Mary such dating evidence was recovered and recorded, and though it may not feature prominently even in the British Museum's general description of its acquisition (you will note that they have placed "early" 4th century in brackets in recent times when citing its date so at least are heading in the right direction) this evidence, as recorded by the excavators, pointed to a construction date of "no earlier than 270 CE" (the original assessment as published at the time). This was based, amongst other corroborative artefacts, on coins issued during the secessionist Gallic emperor Victorinus's reign being found in the composite supporting the mosaic, a period in which Britain temporarily left the Roman empire by default in the second half of the 260s and in which these coins, soon to be declared counterfeit, were for a while the only legal tender. In fact as far as dating goes it seldom gets more exact than this - the coins disappeared as suddenly as they had emerged, so to have one to accidentally drop in any building site is normally taken as a sure indication of the event having occurred within this very narrow and exact time scale. In fact "no earlier than" should really be "probably not later than" as by 271 CE it would have been a brave soul indeed who retained such a coin about their person to drop at all.

But not in this case. Instead we are invited to assume that "stylistic" considerations override this otherwise conclusive data used for dating such excavated artefacts. But that of course begs the question of exactly what "style" is being alluded to in this instance? It is certainly not the artistic style, which - with the sole exception of the emblamata's subject - would actually point to an even earlier assessment of date in most cases. The depiction of symbolic wind deities, for example, corresponds nicely with similar motifs from 2nd and 3rd century mosaics found in the Isle of Wight and elsewhere, and seem to have had particular relevance to these island provincials who, it must be considered, would have probably had even more reason and occasion to respect the divine agents of maritime fortune than most Romans of the period.

Instead however we are given other interpretations. The winds are symbolic of "the evangelists", I have read in theological texts referring to the artefact. The death of the Chimera is "good slaying evil" etc. The hunting scenes, with no obvious Christian context, remain hunting scenes, I notice. I notice also that several theological texts refer to it as being from 360 CE, a peculiarly specific date never even alluded to as a possibility by any archaeological assessment during excavation or afterwards, but one which meme-like has set fast and proliferated in theologians' minds.

Artistic licence and interpretation however is not the issue here. It is the apparently wilful intention to post-date the artefact to a point which fits the accepted narrative rather than to actually consider the implications of the data as adduced through normal archaeological practice which strikes me as significant. As I said, I have found other examples, but this one in particular seems to stand out.

It also stands out for quite another reason alas. Should you now wish to go to the British Museum to admire this fantastic artefact I am afraid you are already too late. While doing up the joint a few years ago the museum authorities, in their so-called wisdom, decided it was time to hack the thing to pieces. The emblamata, now chopped from its context with all the skill, taste and dexterity normally associated with a chainsaw massacre and sitting within a small frame as pictured above, is all you'll get to see now, along with a few other chunks in boxes, and the rest only if you break into their storage facilities. An account of this vandalism, as well as the images above, can be found here on Gary Drostle's blog about all things mosaic..

They say they'll glue it all back together again when they get more space ...
Back to top Go down
https://reshistorica.historyboard.net
nordmann
Nobiles Barbariæ
avatar

Posts : 5747
Join date : 2011-12-25

PostSubject: Re: Confused Christian History - the Norfolk Find   Thu 05 Jan 2017, 15:55

While remaining just within Dorset one can also consider the well documented excavations at Poundbury Camp, a municipally administered cemetery belonging to Durnovaria (present day Dorchester). Bear in mind that this being a cemetery run by the civil authorities there would have been rules regarding who was qualified to be buried there and in what manner they should be buried. In all about 1400 graves have been identified over the years and this image below represents the topography of these finds with considerable accuracy:



Note the alignment of the vast majority of the graves depicted (north on the map points just above centre right).

This has been interpreted in two ways as far as I can see and both interpretations, it is obvious, tend to intentionally imply that the accepted Christian history of Britain should not be questioned. The first and weakest interpretation is that a practice of interment over existing graves means that the excavated remains are all 4th century or later. This however is not quite supported by other material evidence firmly dating many of these graves to the third century, and some even to as early as the second century CE. The second interpretation one often encounters, one that acknowledges the antiquity of the older graves, is that what this cemetery shows is that Romano-British Christians, in adopting a practice of east-west alignment, were in fact emulating a practice previously adopted by pagans. There is however no corroborative data to back up such an assumption - demonstratively pagan burials of the period do not show such a pattern at all.

What both interpretations pointedly ignore however - and to me this is in fact a crucial part of any such assessment - is that this cemetery was not an incidental affair in which the local population could choose to bury their dead in any old manner they wished. Moreover the rules were enforced by civic authorities. What the image suggests therefore is not only a Christian practice pre-dating (and by a considerable period) the assumed diffusion of Christianity throughout Romano-British society but also pretty good evidence that at least a version of Christianity actually enjoyed some dominance within that community from a date much earlier than is generally credited as possible, and to the extent that it has become in fact the "official" faith system in operation. Poundbury is by no means the only example of this either.

Behind these interpretations lies another dilemma for archaeologists, especially those who wish the evidence to conform to the standard narrative. Which criteria should be used to denote a "Christian" burial is itself a thorny subject, and in fact one which affects interpretation of graves right up to the tenth century and beyond. While interment, body disposition, absence of grave goods and alignment are the preferred criteria, a problem arises with the proliferation of seemingly pagan elements that also occur in the form of inscriptions, deposited grave goods, non cemetery location etc. If these extra criteria disqualify burials from being Christian prior to 313 CE then they should also do the same for a considerable period afterwards. Conversely, if they do not do so after 313 CE then a huge unanswered question remains as to exactly what criteria is then being used to disqualify them prior to this seminal date in the official ecclesiastical account of that religion's history. Is it simply a refusal to countenance any historical version of events other than the one as set out by Gildas and Bede, both of whom were intent on portraying a heathen Saxon land in need of rescue by the church, though not quite for the same reasons and at different points in time in relation to the Augustine intervention? Where they agreed however was in downplaying any conceivable importance to Christianity's role within sub-Roman British society, and to prosecute this agenda it was of course necessary, in the absence of any significant purging of Christianity which could be credibly invented (and would probably have been strongly contested in Gildas's time), to minimise or ignore any such importance it held in society prior to that era. The effect is to admit to the presence of Christians but to play down their numbers and even dismiss them as not being really proper Christians anyway but only ever having been a sort of compromised version, at least until taken into hand by Rome - an aspiration on Gildas's part at his time of writing and a matter of historical record according to Bede writing later.

The compromise conclusion from the artefactual record adopted by many in recent years, though still heavily influenced by these archaic assessments, is that what we are seeing from the data is evidence of a "hybrid" faith, and to an extent this could indeed be the case, though really only if the faith in question is being judged according to modern definitions of what Christianity might be. It is itself an assumption that precludes the rather more obvious conclusion as indicated by the same evidence that for these people this was Christianity, a faith which at that stage did not itself preclude adoption of elements from previous belief systems and in fact might only have been regarded as the real deal when it did. Rather than its "hybridity" indicating a half-adopted or diluted Christian belief the fusion of the faiths into one - in Romano-British eyes - might well have been what defined its validity as a true faith in the first place. At least in that respect it conformed to what had always been judged "religious" in the past where assimilation of previous notions of divinity had long been the norm. If that is the case then Roman Britain, based on the archaeological evidence, was probably the most officially Christian society on earth at that point in time, prior not only to Augustine's arrival but in fact even prior to when the bulk of rest of the Roman world was in fact aware of it, let alone allowed or enforced to adopt it.
Back to top Go down
https://reshistorica.historyboard.net
 

Confused Christian History - the Norfolk Find

View previous topic View next topic Back to top 
Page 2 of 2Go to page : Previous  1, 2

Permissions in this forum:You cannot reply to topics in this forum
Res Historica History Forum :: The history of ideas ... :: Religion and superstition-