The Early Christian Landscape of East Anglia

The Early Christian Landscape of East Anglia

1, Ely Cathedral and its towers rise above the surrounding landscape, so that it has long been known as the “Ship of the Fens”
Ely Cathedral

by

RICHARD HOGGETT
This paper explores aspects of the historical and archaeological evidence for the coming of Christianity to Anglo-Saxon East Anglia with a particular focus on the wide-scale restructuring of the landscape that the conversion precipitated. In order to establish the historical framework within which these events sit, it begins with an examination of the evidence presented by Bede in the Historia Ecclesiastica. Bede draws our attention to some of the ecclesiastical sites established by the early churchmen; a broader consideration of the conversion-period landscape reveals many important sites that are not mentioned in the surviving historical sources. In particular, disused Roman enclosures and topographically distinct locations can be demonstrated to have been of particular significance to the conversion process. The coming of Christianity also caused a great upheaval in the sites chosen for cemeteries, argued to be a direct result of a changing attitude towards the dead, which resulted in the integration of cemeteries and settlements during the Middle Saxon period.
Finally, this paper offers some suggestions about how we might take the study of the conversion-period landscape further.
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