Tuesday 28 September 2010

Sacred mounds and burial grounds

One of the places I visited while I was in Sussex last week was the church of St Peter and St Paul in Hellingly.

I was intrigued by a description of it in a tourist information leaflet, which said the church was built on a raised circular Saxon burial ground called a cric.

According to the leaflet: "The circular form of the burial ground is believed to represent the Celtic symbol of immortality and was raised above ground to keep the dead dry."

It was a beautiful day when I visited. The sun was out, the sky was blue and I had the churchyard all to myself to soak up the atmosphere - which was beautifully peaceful.

After walking the bounds of the cric, I went inside the church - which, unfortunately, was considerably less peaceful as a woman wearing bright yellow pyjamas and a pair of Crocswas noisily vacuuming the nave.

I guess the dust needed to be kept in its rightful place, but it wasn't really conducive to quiet contemplation so I left and sat outside on a bench in the sunlight to whisper a few words in honour of the ancient dead who rested there.

If you are thinking of visiting the area, Hellingly is on the Cuckoo Trail, a lovely walk on the site of a closed railway line through the Sussex countryside.



Unknown said...

I admit that besides the Anthropology of Religion class I took in college, I'm woefully ignorant of church history. But I do wonder why this particular spot was chosen. Was some virtue seen in taking advantage of sites already known as being holy? Was the church built to drive out the "evil pagan influence" of the place? Perhaps it was just a site the locals knew well and was chosen for pragmatic reasons? It's terribly interesting speculation.

Badwitch said...

Pope Gregory (540 - 604)ordered churches to be built on the sites of pagan temples, which is one of the reasons that some sacred sites show continuous history of use for religious purposes. I don't know if that was the case with this burial ground, however.

queenbeebear said...

It is possible rthat the Saxon Burial Mounds in Greenwich Park were reused. The continuity of the sacred place being maintaned.