Off the coast of Northumberland, in the Holy Island of Lindisfarne, a great archaeological discovery has just been made: archaeologists have found the remains of one of Britain’s oldest churches, which might have been built in the mid-7th century. This was the era of the Christianization of Northern and Central England, the result of a monastic expansion in the British isles. The discovery of this church is also important, as it is, most likely, related to the early British monastic communities who produced the most famous early medieval manuscript, the Lindisfarne Gospels.
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As reported in The Independent, “the evidence suggesting that this could be the site of one of Holy Island’s original early Anglo-Saxon period churches (perhaps even one built by the founder of Lindisfarne, St. Aidan) is complex but persuasive,” as the church is built in what experts have called “pre-architectural style.” Archaeologists have, so far, found mostly pieces of broken masonry, but also what might have been the original altar installed by St. Aidan himself or one of his later followers.
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The excavation has also revealed that these pioneer monks chose the most challenging and difficult location to build their church, known in Anglo-Saxon times as “the Precipice”: a rocky promontory facing the palace of St. Oswald of Northumbria, the benefactor of the early monastic movement in Britain. The church, The Independent states, “was constructed just two or three meters from the cliff edge.”