Foundations of Early Medieval church unearthed at Lindisfarne

Archaeologists excavating in the Southern part of Lindisfarne island, United Kingdom, have discovered a small rectangular building thought to be part of the largest and earliest Saxon churches in the area, dated to 635 AD.

Excavations at the site (by Jessica Turner & Northumberland County Council)

The small, rectangular building is thought to be a church dating to the 7th century AD – the same period as a previous monastery, which has been founded at the top of this exposed area. The building was constructed of white sandstone that, according to the researchers, would have reflected sunlight particularly well, giving the impression that it was quite literally radiating the purest white light. The very primitive style of the building’s masonry suggests it potentially dates to this period. Archaeologists have also discovered the massive, square foundations of what appears to have been a large signalling tower, measuring 8 metres across with 2.5-metre-thick walls,  on the same promontory. It was believed that the original Anglo-Saxon churches on the island stood at the area presently occupied by the Parish Church and the Priory. Previous excavations on the island revealed a number of rare finds, including the Lindisfarne Gospels, Britain’s most celebrated illuminated manuscript. The island is known as the “Cradle of Christianity” in the North East and is connected to two religious figures of the 7th century – St Aidan and St Cuthbert. The monastery developed into an international centre of learning and craftsmanship, which came into end in late 8th century when the Vikings ransacked the island. A monastery was re-established on the island in the 11th century and a castle later built in the 16th century.

Aerial view of the excavation site (by Diocese of Newcastle)

(after Diocese of Newcastle, ITV, Daily Mail, Independent, Jessica Turner & Northumberland County Council)

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