Sacred Spaces and Places in Pre‐Christian and Conversion Period Anglo‐Saxon England

Sarah Semple

in The Oxford Handbook of Anglo-Saxon Archaeology

Published in print March 2011 | ISBN: 9780199212149
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Archaeology

Sacred Spaces and Places in Pre‐Christian and Conversion Period Anglo‐Saxon England

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  • Anglo-Saxon and Medieval Archaeology



This article provides a summary of a lengthier exploration of the numinous and sacred qualities of the natural world in pre-Christian England. Types of natural locale considered to have held sacred or superstitious importance are reviewed. Topographic observation and archaeological evidence are used alongside historical sources and accounts, in a review of evidence for special natural places in the Anglo-Saxon psyche. The article then concentrates on the human-altered landscape, with monument re-use and new monumentality reviewed as evidence for sacred places and religious structures. Some thoughts on three overarching themes: accessibility, identity, and the importance of the longue durée. Springs, wells, rivers, and lakes attracted activity of a ritual or religious nature in the pre-Christian and Conversion period. It highlights the significance of the natural landscape and ancient remains within the beliefs and spiritual perceptions of early medieval communities, before and after the Conversion.

Keywords: England; Anglo-Saxon psyche; sacred places; religious structures; pre-Christian; accessibility; identity; longue durée; Conversion

Article.  8510 words. 

Subjects: Archaeology ; Anglo-Saxon and Medieval Archaeology

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