Book 2, Chapter 6, The End of the Ninth Century – Ancient Towns and Highways
The monasteries, which had been destroyed by the Danes, and were afterwards rebuilt, had their share in this improvement of architecture, as places that were held in greater veneration. The abbeys, however, were not occupied till the following reigns, the Danish wars having occasioned the alteration of the estates designed for the maintenance of the monks, hardly was there a man to be found that was willing to embrace a monastic life, which is a clear evidence, that it was not so much devotion, as the hope of being maintained without working, that filled the religious houses. During the reign of Alfred, the backwardness to a monkish life was so great, that the king was forced to stock the monasteries with foreigners, there being scarce such a thing as a monk in the kingdom.
But after his death, when the estates were returned to the monasteries, the zeal for that way of life began to rouse again. Whereas in Alfred’s days, there were more monasteries than monks, in a few years after the monks were grown BO’ numerous and increased daily in such a manner, that there were not religious houses enough to contain them. The developments of monachism in England will be considered in their proper place in a subsequent chapter, for monachism and the religious system to which it was allied, had too much to do with the national history not to demand very careful and thorough examination.
The seventh century probably produced the first bells, as mentioned by Bede. In the oldest Anglo Saxon buildings they were not enclosed in towers, but placed under a small arch, the ropes passing through holes into the roof of the church, having hand rings of brass, and even of silver. They were originally rung by the Priests themselves, and afterwards by servants, and persons incapable of other offices, as the blind. At certain seasons the choirs of the churches were strewed with hay and at others with sand, on Easter Sunday with ivy leaves, and sometimes with rushes. The doors were locked till the first hour, or prime, and from dinner till vespers, and some of the books in the choir were covered with cloths. It is supposed that many undoubted specimens of Anglo Saxon churches are yet remaining, as those of Tickencote near Stamford in Lincolnshire, part of St. Peter’s at Oxford, part of St. Alban’s Abbey, the southern porch at Shireburn Minster, the towers of Earl’s Barton Church, Northamptonshire, and of Sompting, Sussex, and numerous others.
Chapter 6, Ancient Towns and Highways
Bells and Churches
Chapter 6, Internal Fittings of Houses
Chapter 6, Anglo-Saxon Furniture
Chapter 6, Anglo Saxon Hunting and Travelling
Chapter 6, Anglo-Saxon Language
Categories: Book 2