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Birinus and the Church at Wing

  • Eric Fletcher


The recent archaeological revelation that the pre-Conquest church of Wing in Buckinghamshire, on the confines of Wessex and Mercia, dates from the seventh century, has prompted an inquiry into the missionary activities of St Birinus. The archaeological evidence has established that the church of All Saints, Wing, was of basilican pattern, with a shallow apse above a crypt containing a ‘confessio,’ or chamber for relics, immediately under the altar. As in the arrangement of the church plans associated with the Canterbury mission of St Augustine, a small square altar at Wing was built on the chord of the apse, and not at the eastern end of the church. The construction of the crypt indicates that, following Roman tradition, there were passages descending from the nave to the crypt, and an aperture low down at the eastern side of the ‘confessio,’ enabling worshippers in a kneeling position to revere the shrine.



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Page 127 of note 1 Cf.Hardy, T.D., Descriptive Catalogue of Materials relating to the History of Great Britain and Ireland (RS), 1862, 1, 236 , referring to the Vita Sancti Birini Episcopi et Confessoris, probably by Goscelin, and to other works. Cf. also SirHoworth, Henry, Golden Days of English Church History, London 1917, 1, 3546 . Père Grosjean reviewing a more recent book by T. Varley, S. Birinus and Wessex: From Odin to Christ, Winchester 1934, observes that ‘certain parts of Mr Varley’s book depend more on imagination than on truth’: Analecta Bollandiana, LIII (1935), 147.

Page 128 of note 1 Plummer, C., ed. Venerabilis Bedae Opera Historica, Oxford 1896, 11, 142 .

Page 129 of note 1 Gregorovius, F., History of the City of Rome (English translation), London 1902, 11, 118 ff. Extant letters of Pope Honorius testify to his enthusiasm for promoting missionary work.

Page 130 of note 1 See appendix to ‘La date du Colloque de Whitby’, Analecta Bollandiana, LXXVIII (1960), 269.

Page 130 of note 2 Eddius, ch. xiv, in Raine, J. (ed.), Historians of the Church of York and its Archbishops (RS), 1 (1879); translation by Colgrave, B., The Life of Bishop Wilfrid by Eddius Stephanus, Cambridge 1927 .

Birinus and the Church at Wing

  • Eric Fletcher


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