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Description of the First Church (ca AD 169)

1. EARLY tradition has carried the history of this church far higher than that of Canterbury, for we are told that Lucius, king of the Britons, after his conversion to Christianity, (c. AD 164,) did erect from the foundations (or rather rebuild in lieu of a previous temple) the church of the British town of Kaergwent (now called Winchester or Winton). Also that he placed monks there, and erected for their temporary accommodation a small dwelling, with an oratory, refectory and a dormitory, until the great work should be completed.footnote a

This having been effected in the fifth year of the king's conversion, the church was dedicated in honour of the holy Saviour, on the fourth kalend of November, AD 169, and endowed with the possessions that had formerly belonged to the pagan priests. The dimensions of this church are stated, on the authority of the lost work of the British historian Moracius,footnote b to have been 209 passus in length, 80 in breadth, and 92 in altitude. From one extremity of the church across to the other was 180 passus.footnote c

The site of the monastery to the east of the church was 100 passus in length towards the old temple of Concord, and 40 in breadth towards the new temple of Apollo. The north portion was 160 in length, and 98 in breadth. To the west of the church it was 190 in length, and 100 in breadth. To the south 405 in length, and 580 in breadth. On this side was placed the episcopal palace and the offices of the monks.footnote d

Destruction, rebuilding, and conversion to Pagan Temple

2. During the persecution of Diocletian, footnote e AD 266, the monastery of Winchester was destroyed, and reconstructed by the assistance of the oblations of the faithful, in the year 293, when it was dedicated in honour of St. Amphibalus, one of those who suffered under the late persecution. But this church was neither so large as the former, nor was the monastery so extensive as that of King Lucius. From this time it bore the name of the old monastery, " Vetus Coenobium."footnote f When the Saxons obtained the rule over the land, Cerdic, the first king of the west, was crowned at Winchester, and having slain the monks, converted the church of St. Amphibalus into a temple of Dagon, in the year 516.footnote g

St Birinus converts king, new cathedral built (AD 635)

3. Thus it remained for one hundred and forty-two years, until the advent of St. Birinus, the first apostle of the west, who, by the mission of Pope Honorius, came to these regions forty-one years after the coming of St. Augustine, namely, in the year 635, and converted the king Kynegils and all his people to Christianity.footnote h

This king having destroyed the temple of Dagon which Cerdic had erected, began the foundation of the cathedral church of Winchester, which he was prevented by death from completing.footnote i But he granted the whole of the land for the space of seven miles round the city for the establishment of the episcopal seat, and for the maintenance of the monks, who were now, by the advice of Birinus, for the third time established in this place. And having bound his son Kynewald by an oath to complete his intentions, he died in the thirty-first year of his reign, and in the sixth of his conversion, and was buried in the city of Winchester, before the high altar of the church which he had begun to build.

Kynewald succeeded to his father's crown, and completed the fabric of the church of Winchester. In the sixth year of his reign Birinus dedicated this basilica of Christ in honour of the holy and indivisible Trinity.

Early Relics  and Burials at Winchester

Relics of St Birrinus translated to Winchester

4. Meanwhile the seat of the episcopal government had been temporarily established at Dorchester, in Oxfordshire, by King Kynegils, waiting the completion of the works at Winchester, and at Dorchester the body of Birinus was first deposited. But when Hedda, the fourth successor of Birinus in the episcopate, removed the episcopal seat to Winchester in accordance with the original intention of the royal founder, the body of Birinus was translated thither.

Burials of kings and later bishops

5. King Kynewald, the completor of the fabric, was buried before (or tinder) the high altar.footnote j And of the succeeding bishops of Winchester it is recorded that the following were buried there. footnote k Hedda-" Humfredus and Kinehardus were both buried in the north part of the church in the crypt, as Vigilancius writeth." "Egbladus, Dud and Kynebrithus, all three, lie inhumed in the crypt, 'under the altar of the Virgin Mary; and Almundus, Wyderginnus, Herforthus, and Edmundus in the nave of the church; Edmundus near the door of the choir, as Vigilancius recordeth." "Helmstanus was buried before the high altar, but since in a leaden coffin deposited on the north side of the altar, over the tomb of Bishop Richard Toklyn." footnote l

Bishopdom and Burial of St. Swithun

6. St. Swithun was made bishop of Winchester in the year 852, having previously held the office of prior in that church. He was a diligent builder of churches in places where there were none before, and repaired those that had been destroyed or ruined. He also built a bridge on the east side of the city, and during the work he made a practice of sitting there to watch the workmen, that his presence might stimulate their industry.footnote m He died in the year 863, and was buried, in accordance to his own injunctions, outside the church, in a vile and unworthy place, where his grave was trampled on by every passenger, and received the droppings from the eaves. Afterwards a small and beautiful chapel was erected there to his honour, which, says Rudborne, is still to be seen at the north door of the. nave of the Church.footnote n

Wolstan, describing the place in his metrical eulogium of the saint, says,footnote o that a tower, capped with a roof, and of the greatest magnitude, stood before the lovely entrance of the holy temple. Between this and the sacred nave (aula) of the temple, the body of the saint was interred. And he adds, that out of his extreme humility, he not only thought himself unworthy to be deposited within the church, but that he would not even lie amongst the other graves that received the rays of the rising sun and the noonday warmth, for he commanded his body to be deposited on the western side of that famous nave.

Invasion of Danes and burial of later bishops

7. Two years after the death of Swithun, the Danes entered and ravaged Winchester, and slew the whole of the monks, but the cathedral is not said to have suffered. Tumbertus, however, the second bishop after Swithun, gave the manor of Stusheling to the fabric of the church.footnote p Bishops Frithestanus and Brinstanus were both buried in the north aisle of the church, and Elphegus on the north side of the high altar.footnote q

Bishop Athelwold

Church at Abingdon

8. Bishop Athelwold was too great a promoter of ecclesiastical architecture to be dismissed with a summary notice. He, while a monk at Winchester, having by his piety recommended himself to Edgiva, queen of Edward the Elder, and mother of the reigning king Eadred, was by him appointed to the abbacy of Abingdon, a place where of old a small monastery had been established, but which was now deserted. There, however, the king was desirous of founding a new monastery, which he and his mother richly endowed." And the king himself came on a certain day to this monastery to give orders and arrange the structure of the buildings; with his own hands he measured all the foundations, and himself commanded in what manner the walls should be made; when this was done the abbot requested him to dine in his hospitium. And the king, in the joy of his heart, sat down with a large party of his nobles from Northumberland, who happened to be with him. He called for abundance of hydromel, and, having, locked the doors, lest any of the party should evade their due share of the royal potations, they drank merrily till the evening". footnote r "Nevertheless, the abbot did not begin to erect the projected works in the days of King Eadred, for that king was suddenly removed from this life on the ninth kalend of December. But during the reign of his glorious son and successor Eadgar, the abbot completed an honourable temple dedicated to the Virgin Mary."footnote s

Gifts of King Eadred to Winchester

9. King Eadred proved himself an especial admirer and friend of the 'old cenobium' of Winchester-witness the ornaments which were by his orders made for that place; a golden cross, a golden altar, and many others, which, with a liberal hand, he there bestowed in honour of the blessed Apostles Peter and Paul. Had he lived he intended to have adorned the eastern apse of the church of Winchester with gilded tiles."footnote t

Athelwold injured, became bishop

10. - The holy Athelwold was a great builder of churches, and of various other works, both while he was abbot, and after he became bishop of Winchester," and, like his friend and contemporary Dunstan, was himself a workman. - Hence the malignity of the adversary endeavoured to compass his destruction; for, on a certain day, when the holy man was working at construction, a great post fell upon him and knocked him into a pit, breaking nearly all his ribs on one side, so that, had it not been for the pit, he would have been crushed to pieces."footnote u

After this he was elected by King Eadgar to the episcopate of Winchester, and consecrated there in the year 963.

Foundations of Athelwold

11. " At Winton he repaired and endowed a monastery of nuns, originally founded by Ethelswytha, mother of Edward the Elder, in honour of the Blessed Virgin. He purchased, and for no small sum, a certain spot called Ely, where there had been originally a monastery of Etheldreda, Saint and Virgin, which, having been destroyed by the Danes, the place had become royal property. Here he established monks, and instituted Brythnothus, the prepositus of the old monastery of Wynton, abbot, erecting buildings there. Also he bought of King Edgar a place then called Medamstede, but since named Burgh.footnote v Here he consecrated a basilica, in honour of St. Peter, furnished with all its proper edifices, and established monks there, with Eadulphus for their abbot, who afterwards succeeded St. Oswald as archbishop of York. Thirdly, and at no less expense, he acquired a place, which, from the abundance of briars that grew about it, was called Thorneia; and there he established monks, with Godmannus for their abbot, about the year of grace 970, as it is recorded by Johannes in his "Historia^ Aurea'."footnote x

Athelwold expels canons, Translates relics of Saints

12. - In the days of King Edgar the holy father Athelwold translated the blessed Birinus, the first apostle of the west, and placed him in a comely scrinium, made of silver and gold: for when St. Hedda, bishop of Winchester, removed the body of the holy father Birinus from Dorchester, he buried it in the church of Winchester, on the north side of the high altar, and it was not translated 'more sanctorum' until the time of Athelwold, as Vigilancius writeth, and as it is also said in the legend which is read in the church of Winchester on the octave of the translation of St. Birinus. Moreover, after Athelwold had, with the consent of King Edgar, expelled the canons and replaced them with monks, he, admonished by a divine revelation, removed St. Swithun, the especial patron of the church of Winton, from his mean sepulchre, and placed him with all honour in a 'scrinium' of gold and silver, of the richest workmanship, the gift of King Edgar.

The saint was thus translated in the hundred and tenth year of his rest. And for his glory, so great was the concourse of people, and so numerous and frequent the miracles, that the like had never been witnessed in England; for so long as the canons inhabited the church of Winchester, St. Swithun performed no miracles, but the moment they were ejected the miracles began, as Vigilanclus testifieth, and also Lantfredus. St. Athelwold also translated the bodies of Saints Frythestane, Brinstan, and Elphege, together with the holy virgin Edburga, daughter of Edward the Elder."footnote y

Rebuilding of Cathedral begun,miracle

13. - When the holy man had earnestly set about the rebuilding of the old church (of Winchester), he commanded the brethren to assist in the works, together with the artificers and workmen. Thus the labourers emulating one another the building gradually rose aloft, sustained on every side by many oratories intended for those who would ask help from the saints. It happened one day, while the brethren were standing, with the masons at the very top of the temple, that one of them., by name Godus, fell from the highest point to the ground, but lie immediately arose unhurt, and when he had crossed himself and wondered how he came there, he ascended in sight of the spectators to the place he had left, and taking up his trowel went on with his work." footnote z

Dedication of Cathedral and Death of Athelwold

14. In the year of the Lord 980, and on the 13th kalend of November (Oct. 20,) the church of the old cenobium at Wynton was dedicated by nine bishops, of whom the first and principal were Archbishop Dunstan, and the holy Bishop Athelwold, in presence of King Etheldred, and of nearly every duke, abbot, and noble of England. footnote a The church was dedicated in honour of the Apostles Peter and Paul. footnote b At this point of the history the biographer Wolstan, quitting prose, gives vent to his enthusiasm in a poem, of which more below.

Athelwold died at Beaddington, sixty miles from Winchester, in the kalends of August, and in the year of the Incarnation 984, in the twenty-second of his episcopate, and under the reign of Ethelred. His body was conveyed. to the church of the Apostles Peter and Paul at Winchester, and buried in the crypt on the south side of the holy altar. footnote cBut twelve years afterwards, his successor Elphege (the same who became archbishop of Canterbury, and was slain by the Danes) was induced, by miracles, to translate the body of Athelwold, and place it in the choir of the church. This was performed on the fourth idus of September.footnote d

Description of Cathedral begun by Athelwold and completed by Elphenge

15. The poetical description which Wolstan has given us of the church and monastery of Winchester at this period is so curious, that it will be necessary to analyse it, and translate those portions that really afford information of the kind that may be useful for our present purpose. The greatest part of it consists of inflated and pompous expatiation upon the wondrous qualities of the work, or of the persons engaged upon it. About seventy lines of it occur in the life of St. Athelwold. But the entire work is a poem of three hundred and thirty lines, in the form of an epistle to the Bishop Elphege, who succeeded to St. Athelwold. As the work of a contemporary writer its information is highly valuable.footnote e

16. The poem opens with a long exordium addressed to the Bishop Elphege, in which, after telling him how highly the monastery is graced by his worth, and exalted by the various ornaments which he has bestowed upon it within and without, it proceeds to state that the ..said monastery had been rebuilt or renovated by his predecessor Athelwold:

" He built all these dwelling places with strong walls. He covered them with roofs, and clothed them with beauty. He brought hither sweet floods of water abounding with fish; the runnings off of the pond penetrate all the recesses of the buildings, and gently murmuring cleanse the whole cenobium.footnote f

" He repaired the courts (atria) of that old temple with lofty walls and new roofs; and strengthened it on the north sides and on the south sides with solid aisles (porticibus) and various arches.

" He added also many chapels, with sacred altars, that distract attention from the threshold of the church, so that a stranger walking in the courts is at a loss where to turn, seeing on all sides doors open to him without any certain path. He stands with wondering eyes, fascinated with the fine roofs of the intricate structure, until some experienced guide conducts him to the portals of the farthest vestibule. Here, marvelling, he crosses himself, and knows not how to quit, so dazzling is the construction, and so brilliant the variety of the fabric that sustains this ancient church, which that devout father himself strengthened, roofed, endowed and dedicated."

About fifty lines are now given to the dedication of the church, and the prodigious feasting, the eating and drinking, which accompanied it. King Ethelred, and nine bishops, whose names are enumerated, footnote g were present. In the first copy of the poem a tenth bishop, Poca, is added, who is said upon this occasion to have done little and drank much.

Et tandem decim as POCA venit Episcopus illuc
Nulla laboris agens, pocula multa bibens." Mab. 622.

Most of the nobility of England were present, and such a dedication had never been seen in the land as that which now was celebrated in the old monastery of St. Peter at Winton.footnote h

17. With the dedication of the church the first copy of the poem (in the life of St. Athelwold) closes, but in the second copy, which, as above mentioned, is addressed in the form of an epistle to Bishop Elphege, more than two hundred lines are added in description of the works which that bishop carried on to complete his predecessor's plan.

"Thus the inspired bishop (Athelwold) fulfilled before the Lord many vows. For he laid a foundation eastward, so that an apse (porticus) might there be built to the Deity. And having laid a foundation he erected a new temple, but being removed from this world was unable to complete it."footnote i

You" (Elphege, his successor) " have diligently carried on the work commenced. Above all, you have taken care to add the secret crypts, which subtle ingenuity had so contrived , that whoever entered them for the first time would be at a loss which way to turn. Within, secret recesses lie on every side; their outer covering is manifest, but their eaves within are hidden. Their entrances and exits stand open, but a stranger looking in (from without) sees only darkness and shadow, although they really receive a borrowed light from the sun."-- Their structure supports the holy altar and the venerable relics of the saints, and in many ways their upper surface is useful, bearing things without, and covering those that are within. Moreover, you have here constructed such organs that the like were never seen."

Thirty lines are now given to a most curious description of the organs, which, however, not being to our present purpose, I shall pass over.footnote k

" Moreover you have added a lofty temple, in which continual day remains, without night," (to wit,) "a sparkling tower that reflects from heaven the first rays of the rising sun. It has five compartments pierced by open windows, and on all four sides as many ways are open. The lofty peaks of the tower are capped with pointed roofs, and are adorned with various and sinuous vaults, curved with well-skilled contrivance." " Above these stands a rod with golden balls, and at the top a mighty golden cock which boldly turns its face to every wind that blows."
footnote l

No less than twenty-six lines are bestowed upon the conceits that this last contrivance suggests, and then we come  to another dedication at which eight bishops, including Elphegus himself, were present.footnote m The king, however, is not mentioned. The church was dedicated to SS. Peter and Paul, as especial patrons. The remainder of the poem is principally devoted to the merits of the saints whose relics are there preserved, and similar topics.footnote n

Winchester under the Danes

18. It appears that Winchester happily escaped the ravages of the Danes at the end of the tenth century. King Canute was a great benefactor to this church, as to many others, and it is said that after the well-known reproof to his courtiers on the sea shore at Southampton, he declined to wear his crown in future, and actually placed it on the head of the crucified image which stood before the high altar of the cathedral of Winchester.footnote o He gave also lands called Hille, a large feretrum for the relics of St. Birinus, a silver candelabrum with six branches, such as are now counted most valuable when only made of brass, and two bells. footnote p He was buried in the old monastery at Wynton in regal fashion (AD 1035). Always, bishop of Winchester, died in 1047, and was first buried in the crypt on the south side of the high altar, but is now (says John of Exeter) placed in a leaden sarcophagus above the door of that crypt on the left hand.footnote q Bishop Stigand, out of the gifts of Queen Emma, constructed a great cross with two images of Mary and John, which he gave to Winchester church, together with a beam amply covered with gold and silver. It was placed in the rood-loft (pulpitum). He was buried in the year 1069 at Winchester, in a leaden sarcophagus, on the south side of the high altarfootnote r

Early Norman Rebuilding of Cathedral

19. Walkelin, the first bishop of Winchester after the Norman Conquest, was appointed to that see in the year 1070. He was a Norman by birth, and related to the Conqueror. His brother Simeon was first made prior of Winchester and then abbot of Ely (A.D. 1082)-.footnote s

In the year 1079, Bishop Walkelin began to rebuild the church of Winton from the foundations;footnote t and (in 1086) the king was induced to grant him, for the completion of the church which he had begun, as much wood from the forest of Hanepinges" footnote u as his carpenters could take in four days and night-,. But the bishop collected an innumerable troop of carpenters, and within the assigned time cut down the whole wood, and carried it off to Winchester. Presently after, the king passing by Hanepinges, was struck with amazement, and cried out, Am I bewitched? or have I taken leave of my senses P Had I not once a most delectable wood in this spot ? But when he understood the truth, he was violently enraged. Then the bishop put on a shabby vestment, and made his way to the king's feet, humbly begging to resign the episcopate, and merely requesting that he might retain his royal friendship and chaplaincy. And the king was appeased, only observing, " I was as much too liberal in my grant as you were too greedy in availing yourself of it."

20. In the year 1093, in the presence of nearly all the bishops and abbots of England, the monks removed from the old church (monasterium) of Winchester to the new one, with great rejoicing and glory, on the sixth idus of April footnote x(April 8). And on the feast of Swithun (July 15) they made a procession from the new church to the old, and brought thence the feretrum of St. Swithun, which they placed with all honour in the new church. And on the following day the bishop's men first began to pull down the old church, and it was all pulled down in that year except one apse (porticus) and the great altar. footnote y In the next year, 1094, relic of St. Swithun and of many other saints were found under the altar of the old church.footnote z

21. The venerable Walkelin, of pious memory, died in the year 1098. He greatly improved the church of Winton in devotion, in the number of its monks, and in the buildings of the house. footnote a He caused the tower of Winton church to be made as it is still to be seen, footnote b and rebuilt it, with its four columns, from the foundations in the middle of the choir. footnote cHis venerable body is buried in the nave of the church, before the steps under the rood-loft (pulpitum), in which stands the silver cross of Stigand, with the two great silver images; and he lies at the feet of William Gyffard, bishop of Winchester, having over him a marble stone, with these verses engraved thereon :

Praesul Walklynus istic requiescit humatus
Tempore Willelmi Conquestoris cathedratusfootnote d

King William Rufus Buried, and the Tower Falls

22. When King William Rufus was slain by the arrow of Walter Tirrel in the New Forest, (AD 1100,) his body was brought to Winchester, and buried in the cathedral church, in the middle of the choir. footnote e It was laid in the ground within the limits of the tower, in the presence of many nobles, but with the tears of few. Some years afterwards (namely, in the year 1107footnote f) the tower fell, which many thought to have been a judgment for his sins; and because that it was a grievous wrong to bury in that sacred place one who all his life had been profane and sensual, and who died without the Christian viaticum-thus Rudborne. Malmesbury cautiously declines to give an opinion upon this matter, because, as he says, it may have been after all that the structure would have fallen from the instability of its workmanship, whether the body had been buried there or not.footnote g

23. "But now (says Rudborne) an apparent contradiction arises, for it is written in the archives of the church of Wynton, that Bishop Walkelin built the tower in question. But he died in the eleventh year of King Rufus, (about two years before that monarch;) and the tower does not appear to have fallen after it was erected by Walkelin ; it is of the strongest construction, and is to this day, in the opinion of masons, the very firmest of this kind of tower in all England. The answer to this is, that the truth of those who say that the tower fell for the sins of Rufus, is thus to be explained. That Walkelyn did not build the tower during, his life, but that after his death the old tower of the church having fallen after the king was buried within it, it was rebuilt out of the great funds which Walkelyn left to this church. And that as it was built with his money, although after his death, vet his name was associated with it as the founder. This is the opinion of the author of the Concordance of English History, under the letter V, who wrote much concerning the church of Winchester, iii which he had been educated." I shall discuss this opinion in the next chapter, after describing the present state of the tower and adjacent parts of the church.

Relics during time of Bishop  Henry of Blois

24. In the year 1111 the relics of St. Athelwold were taken from the old feretrum and placed in a new one, in presence of the queen, and of three bishops, and five abbots. footnote h And in 1150 the relics of the holy confessors Birinus, Swithun, Edda, Birstan, and Elfege, were translated.footnote i

But in the time of Henry de Blois, who held this see from 1129 to 1171, there appears from the several passages that follow to have been a general translation of the bodies of the old kings and bishops, probably from the site of the old Saxon crypt. " The Christian kings of the West Saxons buried in the church of Wynton were Kyngils, Kynewald his son, ,who completed the work of the church which his father began, and was buried under (or before) the high altar, Estuin, Kentwyn, Athellard, brother of Queen Fretheswythe, and Kenulph, whose bodies were buried together in the eastern crypt, as Vigilantius recordeth in his 'Basilica Petri.' Afterwards, in the days of Henry of Blois, these were translated, but not knowing which were kings and which were bishops, because there were no inscriptions over the monuments, the aforesaid Henry placed in leaden sarcophagi kings and bishops, bishops and kings, all mixed together, as it is recorded in the book of the acts of Bishops William and Henry, by Robert, prior of Winton."footnote k

" Matilda queen of England, commonly called Molde the good Queen, died in 1118, and was buried at Winchester in the old monastery, where this epitaph is to be seen on -a marble stone over the place of her burial in the eastern crypt. ' Here lieth Matilda the Queen, daughter of Margaret Queen of Scotland, and wife of King Henry the First, called by the English Molde the good Queen.' Nevertheless, in certain other monasteries of England a tomb may be seen to her as if she were buried there, although her true place of sepulture is in the old monastery of Winton. Her bones, however, were translated by Henry of Blois, and placed in a leaden sarcophagus, together with those of the noble Queen Frytheswyda, the mother of St. Frytheswyda, over the place which is called The Holy Hole." Moreover, "Edmund, the first-born of King Alfred, was buried in the old monastery of Wynton, as appears from the marble stone of his tomb, which lies still on the north of the altar where matutinal or capitular mass is celebrated. And the epitaph written thereon is Here lieth Edmund the King, son of King Aldred. But his bones are now translated to a certain sarcophagus placed over the Holy Hole, as it is written in the book of the acts of the Bishops William and Henry."footnote l

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