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Luidhard, Early Anglo Saxon Christianity, and the Curious Case of the St. Martins Hoard


TheTrachyEnjoyer

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(All photographs are my own from when I lived in London in 2021… besides the coins from St Martin Hoard)

This is the oldest continually used church in all of England or the English world, home to St Augustine (not to be confused with his more famous and eloquent counterpart, St Augustine ūüėĆ). The¬†Augustine we are concerned with brought Christianity back to the Anglo Saxons with a Papal mission in 597 AD after the Anglo Saxons reverted to paganism.

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The very first Christian in the area was not St Augustine, however, but a frankish queen named Bertha betrothed to a local king named Æthelberht. Bertha brought her own bishop over when she married her pagan, kentish husband around 580 (the bishop being a certain Liudhard).

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That Liudhard is thought to have minted this coin when he arrived with his queen to Kent, celebrating the event. The legends describe Liudhard as bishop on one side (in the drapery of a roman emperor with diadem) and the reverse features a patriarchal cross. The coin makes quite the statement from Luidhard who presents himself as heir to Rome and Bishop. The symbolism of a diademed ruler and Cross would have been strange and foreign to the Anglo Saxons, as would Luidhard himself be. Rome was a distant but powerful memory for the island at this time and Luidhard played to those factors.

It would appear that literacy and/or minting techniques were forgotten by the date of 580 AD already when this coin is speculated to have been minted. The legend, while accurate, is engraved backwards on the coin. It would seem whatever craftsman made this was unaware that he was carving letters and so no gave no importance to the direction they faced.

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The church of St Martin was an old roman building that the queen and bishop converted into a church so Mass could be celebrated for themselves. The marriage between the frankish queen and kentish king eventually led to the king’s conversion and spread Christianity through out England. Even though the church has been heavily modified throughout the years, the original roman brick remains in areas. This monumental and unornate building served as the catalyst for the conversion of Britain. Because of St Martins Church already existing, proximity to the Continent, and early sponsorship of local kings, the nucleus of English Christianity and the later archbishopic were based in Canterbury, not elsewhere. The medallion/coin was deposited at some point on the church grounds and found a millennium and a half later.

Near by is the abbey of St Augustine, founded to house monastic life near by to St Martins. All of the old kentish kings and bishops of Canterbury were buried here. Augustine himself would find his ultimate resting place here, pictured below.

Edited by TheTrachyEnjoyer
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Outstanding article, @TheTrachyEnjoyer. ¬†Closest coin I have temporally and culturally is a penny or sceat struck in Ribe, Denmark right around AD 700. ¬†Denmark was entirely pagan then as far as we know. ¬†The portrait is considered to be Wotan. ¬†Wikipedia says Adam of Bremen, who was involved in the conversion of the continental Teutons a few centuries later, said Wotan‚Äôs name was derived from the word fury. ‚ÄúWotan, id est furor.‚ÄĚ ¬†This penny is Denmark‚Äôs first coin and is roughly contemporaneous with the English sceats. ¬†

 

 

Edited by Hrefn
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The continuous use of the church for more than 1400years is extraordinary. More so if we take into account that by 600 the island had been deserted by the Roman administration for close to 200 years.

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Nicely written and with great photos. It's quite a place, with the church and abbey just along from Canterbury Cathedral, which is somewhat noteworthy too.

This is the nearest I can get coinwise.

Pale Gold Phase ‚ÄėTwo Emperors‚Äô Thrymsa, 645-675
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Kent. Gold, 13mm, 1.19g. Diademed and draped bust right; pseudo legend around. Two small busts facing; above, Victory with wings enfolding the figures; pellet to each side of Victory’s head (SCBC 767).

There was a mint near the Cathedral that struck coins for 1000 years until Henry VIII shut it down.

Henry III 7c3 Short Cross Penny, 1242
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Canterbury. Silver, 18mm, 1.34g. Crowned facing bust with tiny pellets in curls; HENRICV[S REX]. Voided short cross with quatrefoil in each angle, large initial cross; WILLEM ON CAN (North 980C; S 1356C; Mass - 2084, this coin). Ex J Sazama; JP Mass; WJ Conte; JJ North (bought from Baldwin in 1987); from the Naxos (Greece) Hoard 1969. Henry III's great great grandson, Edward the Black Prince, is buried in Canterbury Cathedral.

There may have been a mint there much longer. For the same reason the Saxons first picked up Christianity in Kent via the Continent, the Celts of Kent were the first to strike coins.

‚ÄėCurly Lion‚Äô Unit, 50-20BC
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Cantii Kingdom. Bronze, 2.45g. Head right, curly hair, encircled by rings and pellets. Lion left, pentagram below (ABC 282). Found Southfleet, Kent, 1992. Portable Antiquities Scheme: CCI-920607.

 

 

Edited by John Conduitt
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22 hours ago, Hrefn said:

image.jpeg.4df6b5cb089ad51fa8ea8f05f89fcd0a.jpegimage.png.39515f87c3765869d4a05f91c2c947e6.png

Outstanding article, @TheTrachyEnjoyer. ¬†Closest coin I have temporally and culturally is a penny or sceat struck in Ribe, Denmark right around AD 700. ¬†Denmark was entirely pagan then as far as we know. ¬†The portrait is considered to be Wotan. ¬†Wikipedia says Adam of Bremen, who was involved in the conversion of the continental Teutons a few centuries later, said Wotan‚Äôs name was derived from the word fury. ‚ÄúWotan, id est furor.‚ÄĚ ¬†This penny is Denmark‚Äôs first coin and is roughly contemporaneous with the English sceats. ¬†

 

 

That is a fantastic sceatta or sceat (Series X). If the coin shows Wodan, it is curious why the design shows, what appears to be crosses. Even if these signs were not meant to be Christian crosses, they would have been interpreted as such by Christians. In any case, these coins circulated in a trade nexus around the North Sea, that included England, Frisia (the Rhine mouth) and parts of Jutland.

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49 minutes ago, Tejas said:

That is a fantastic sceatta or sceat (Series X). If the coin shows Wodan, it is curious why the design shows, what appears to be crosses. Even if these signs were not meant to be Christian crosses, they would have been interpreted as such by Christians. In any case, these coins circulated in a trade nexus around the North Sea, that included England, Frisia (the Rhine mouth) and parts of Jutland.

@Tejas, as with many things ancient and historical, it is impossible to be completely certain.  I think the best argument against the crosses being Christian is the very pagan nature of Ribe at the time.  Perhaps you are familiar with the Ribe skull fragment?  It is difficult to reconcile protective amulets invoking Odin being made from human skulls and sold in the marketplace, with a strong Christian presence sufficient to monopolize local coin production.  Coin production usually implies some degree of political dominance, and if that were the case, I think pagan skull amulets would have been one of the first things to go.  

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ribe_skull_fragment

St. Ansgar was still a century in the future, and his initial missionary foray in Jutland was essentially a failure.  

Edited by Hrefn
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On 10/21/2023 at 7:30 PM, Hrefn said:

@Tejas, as with many things ancient and historical, it is impossible to be completely certain.  I think the best argument against the crosses being Christian is the very pagan nature of Ribe at the time.  Perhaps you are familiar with the Ribe skull fragment?  It is difficult to reconcile protective amulets invoking Odin being made from human skulls and sold in the marketplace, with a strong Christian presence sufficient to monopolize local coin production.  Coin production usually implies some degree of political dominance, and if that were the case, I think pagan skull amulets would have been one of the first things to go.  

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ribe_skull_fragment

St. Ansgar was still a century in the future, and his initial missionary foray in Jutland was essentially a failure.  

The region was almost certainly pagan by the time the coin was minted. However, we should not dismiss the possibility of religious syncretism here as well, as both pagans and Christians would likely use these coins in trade. In Haithabu (Hedeby), northern Germany a mould was found, which was used to cast both Thor's hammer amulets and Christian crosses. Hence, the craftsman who used the mould probably dealt in amulets for both pagans and Christians, which would all visit a bustling trade place like Hedeby.

As I said these coins were not primarily made for circulation in Denmark, but they were used in trade with England and Frisia. Indeed,  most of the existing Series X sceattas come from the large hoards in Frisia (Hallum, Terwispel and Domburg), which by far outnumber those found in Denmark, i.e. at Ribe. 

 

 

 

Edited by Tejas
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I know we have said it before, but as a reminder an excellent discussion is in Gannon, Anna. The Iconography of Early Anglo-Saxon Coinage, Sixth to Eight Centuries. (Oxford, 2003).

From the Numiswiki description: ix, 230 pages, numerous illustrations. This is the first scholarly art-historical appraisal of Anglo-Saxon coinage, from its inception in the late sixth century to Offa 's second reform of the penny c.792. Outside numismatic circles, this material has largely been ignored because of its complexity, yet artistically this is the most vibrant period of English coinage, with die-cutters showing flair and innovation and employing hundreds of different designs in their work. By analyzing the iconography of the early coinage, this book intends to introduce its rich legacy to a wide audience. Anna Gannon divides the designs of the coins into four main categories: busts (including attributes and drapery), human figures, animals and geometrical patterns, presenting prototypes, sources of the repertoire and parallels with contemporary visual arts for each motif. The comparisons demonstrate the central role of coins in the eclectic visual culture of the time, with the advantages of official sanctioning and wide circulation to support and diffuse new ideas and images. The sources of the motifs clarify the relationship between the many designs of the complex Secondary phase (c.710-50). Contemporary literature and theological writings often offer the key to the interpretation of motifs, hinting at a universal preoccupation with religious themes. The richness of designs and display of learning point to a sophisticated patronage with access to exotic prototypes, excellent craftsmanship and wealth; it is likely that minsters, as rich, learned, and well-organized institutions, were behind some of the coinage. After the economic crises of the mid-eighth century this flamboyant iconography was swept away: with the notable exception of the coins of Offa, still displaying exciting designs of high quality and inventiveness, reformed issues bore royal names and titles, and strove towards uniformity.

It's really interesting that any coin with copies the motifs of 4th century Roman thru Byzantine coinage could certainly include a cross.

 

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@Tejas, your observations on the likelihood of religious pluralism, if not syncretism on a stricter level, are, I Think (<--why don't we have the 'strike-out' option?) have to guess, spot on.  I was reminded a bit earlier of that Viking Age (Americanism alert:) mold that you mentioned, from juvenile history books; your explication of the context and implications is better than I could have done.  

More broadly, this thread, among others here about Sceattas (you know who you are), has really opened my mind to the cultural and ethnic contiguity (often consanguity) of Germanic populations over a broad range of countries bordering the North Sea, going all the way back to the early phases of 'Anglo-Saxon' settlement in England.    

Kindly pardon my pedantry: for one easy instance, the English epic poem, Beowulf, whose oldest extant manuscript is as late as the reign of AEthelred II (later 10th -early 11th centuries), is likely to have been composed as early as the beginning of the the 8th century, much nearer to the period of @TheTrachyEnjoyer's OPs.  The manuscript (vis. oral transmission, which surely was a contributing factor to the poem's survival) already conveys the cultural memory that Anglo-Saxons had of their pagan Scandinavian origins over the interval. 

(...And, Dang, I Need the alliteration in the poem itself!  It was the Old English poetic equivalent of rhyming.  I've seen one modern translation that consistently recreated this very thing.  It's neither Tolkien, nor Seamus Heany.  If someone could help out with which one I might be yammering about, you would receive my ardent gratitude.)

 

Edited by JeandAcre
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On 10/22/2023 at 11:38 PM, JeandAcre said:

....

 The manuscript (vis. oral transmission, which surely was a contributing factor to the poem's survival) already conveys the cultural memory that Anglo-Saxons had of their pagan Scandinavian origins over the interval. 

 

In general, the Anglo-Saxons were not of Scandinavian origin. The Anglo-Saxon lanuage is clearly a west Germanic language, and its closest relatives could be found along the Dutch and German North Sea cost. 

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Thank you, @Tejas, for pointing out the deficiencies in my characterization of the Anglo-Saxons.  I should have been clearer on the fact that, aggregately, they were of Scandinavian, lower German and Frisian origin.  Apparently, the finer ethnographic details remain a point of speculation.

But it's no less clear that there was a significant Scandinavian component.  Of the three traditionally primary tribal groups, the 'Saxons' clearly refer to Saxony, as the 'Jutes' refer to Jutland.  Meanwhile, Beowulf is unmistakably set in Scandinavia. 

What strikes me most is the remarkable level of cultural (for instance, religious) and even linguistic consonance across the whole Germanic range from Scandinavia to Frisia, especially in (consistently) pre-Christian times.  (Witness Wotan appearing on Frisian sceattas.)  Still later, the largely Danish Vikings who settled in eastern England were able to communicate, on an elementary but  functional level, with the established Anglo-Saxon population.  Much as speakers of Welsh and Breton have been noted as being able to do.  In the case of the Vikings and Anglo-Saxons, it's worth noting that in its earlier phases, Old English surely had its own regional variations within what is now England.

This map, while based on older secondary sources, and irreducibly speculative other than in its broader outline, also relies on Bede's early 8th-century Ecclesiastical History. 

File:Anglo.Saxon.migration.5th.cen.jpg

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Anglo.Saxon.migration.5th.cen.jpg

The map is from this (unusually good) Wiki article.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anglo-Saxon_settlement_of_Britain#See_also

Which, to its credit, echoes @Tejas's implicit caveat about slipping into the facile generalities of early-20th-century 'cultural history;' pointing out recent scholarship which counters most of what I just got through saying above. 

But I think there's room for a balance between getting moony about the apparent cultural unity across so broad a linguistic range (I found it surprising in the first place, which is why it's hard for me to shut about), and emphasizing the distinctness of each of the narrower cultural and linguistic contexts.  Dare I suggest that it may be a matter of undeniable, but, in a meaningful sense, nuanced distinctions?   ...Before I let this sink further into the level of mere semantics, if not rhetoric (for instance, by way of the word, 'variations'), it's probably time to give this a rest.  But thank you, @Tejas, for your substantive and valuable observations.

 

 

Edited by JeandAcre
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