Anglo-Saxon skill

The memorial stone of St Ovin (see recent post) was discovered in the 19th century to be in use as a tethering post for livestock. It was rescued by an antiquarian clergyman and placed in Ely Cathedral, where it is an object of veneration.

A similar thing happened to the Saxon font in the church of St Mary at Deerhurst: it was found to have been in use as a drinking vessel for animals. It too was discovered by an antiquarian clergyman in Victorian times and replaced in the church, where it is much admired.

These Saxon artefacts, and the remaining Saxon churches with their round arches are a reminder of a period in history that is now becoming better understood; and the exhibition last year in the British Library called Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms was an unprecedented collection of objects, and especially manuscripts and books, that seems to have astonished visitors, revealing how much has been discovered in recent years about the art and civilisation of pre-Norman Britain—a period that used to be neglected in the teaching of history.

One of many things that the British Library exhibition made apparent was the interchange between England and the Frankish Empire; and the literature about the font at Deerhurst mentions what is often referred to as the Carolingian Renaissance. The art, the skill, the knowledge, the legal institutions and the education, which were already so developed before the Norman invasion, were motivated by something in the circumambient air. Charlemagne was inspiring it all in Western Europe, but the scholars of England and Ireland were an inspiration to Charlemagne.*

It was at Deerhurst where King Canute and King Edmund Ironside met in 1016 to make peace and divide the rule of England between them.

*See earlier post: Writing: Caroline minuscules, etc.