An ancient teenager and her Cross

Archaeologists have discovered the grave of a 16-year-old girl dating from just 50 years or so after the first Christian missionaries came to “Angle-land.”  She was wearing a magnificent golden and bejeweled cross.  From Medievalists.net:

One of the earliest Anglo-Saxon Christian burial sites in Britain has been discovered in a village outside Cambridge. The grave of a teenage girl from the mid 7th century AD has an extraordinary combination of two extremely rare finds: a ‘bed burial’ and an early Christian artefact in the form of a stunning gold and garnet cross.

The girl, aged around 16, was buried on an ornamental bed – a very limited Anglo-Saxon practice of the mid to later 7th century – with a pectoral Christian cross on her chest, that had probably been sewn onto her clothing. Fashioned from gold and intricately set with cut garnets, only the fifth of its kind ever to be found, the artefact dates this grave to the very early years of the English Church, probably between 650 and 680 AD.

In 597 AD, the pope dispatched St Augustine to England on a mission to convert the pagan Anglo-Saxon kings; a process that was not completed for many decades. Using the latest scientific techniques to analyse this exceptional find could result in a greater understanding of this pivotal period in British history, and the spread of Christianity in eastern England in the Anglo-Saxon period.

Was this teenage girl an early Christian convert, a standard-bearer for the new God? “Christian conversion began at the top and percolated down,” says Dr Sam Lucy, a specialist in Anglo-Saxon burial from Newnham College, University of Cambridge.

“To be buried in this elaborate way with such a valuable artefact tells us that this girl was undoubtedly high status, probably nobility or even royalty. This cross is the kind of material culture that was in circulation at the highest level of society. The best known example of the pectoral cross was that found in the coffin of St Cuthbert now in Durham Cathedral.”

“That this is a bed burial is remarkable in itself – the fifteenth ever uncovered in the UK, and only the fourth in the last twenty years – add to that a beautifully made Christian cross and you have a truly astonishing discovery,” says Alison Dickens, who led the excavation for the University’s Archaeological Unit.

via Archaeologists discover 7th-century Anglo-Saxon teenager with golden cross.

HT:  James Kushiner

The rise and fall of the Berlin Wall

Saturday marks the 50th anniversary of the construction of the Berlin Wall, which divided the city–and by extension Germany and Europe itself–between Communism and freedom.  You have simply got to read this account by the Lutheran journalist Uwe Siemon-Netto, who not only saw the wall built and torn down, but was himself with his family personally caught up in the division between East and West.  Most notable in his account is the role Christianity and specifically Lutheranism played in the tearing down of the wall and the fall of Communism.  Alas, though, he says, the Christian revival under Communist persecution has faded, as the former East Germany, now that it is free, has become godless to the core.  But read what he has to say:  Uwe Siemon-Netto’s Blog: And the wall fell down flat.

HT:  Jordan J. Ballor

Not too much Islam, too little Christianity

Lutheran pastor’s kid Angela Merkel, now the chancellor of Germany, had some striking things to say about the immigration debate in that country:

Chancellor Angela Merkel urged Germans debating Muslim integration to stand up more for Christian values, saying Monday the country suffered not from “too much Islam” but “too little Christianity.”

Addressing her Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party, she said she took the current public debate in Germany on Islam and immigration very seriously. As part of this debate, she said last month that multiculturalism there had utterly failed.

Some of her conservative allies have gone further, calling for an end to immigration from “foreign cultures” — a reference to Muslim countries like Turkey — and more pressure on immigrants to integrate into German society.

Merkel told the CDU annual conference in Karlsruhe that the debate about immigration “especially by those of the Muslim faith” was an opportunity for the ruling party to stand up confidently for its convictions.

“We don’t have too much Islam, we have too little Christianity. We have too few discussions about the Christian view of mankind,” she said to applause from the hall.

via Merkel: Germany doesn’t have “too much Islam” but “too little Christianity” | Analysis & Opinion |.

Christendom

While I was in France and Germany, I was most struck by how in the cities and towns the center of the community is still, to this day, the cathedral or the church. This is true of both Strasbourg, France, with its Roman Catholic cathedral, and Heidelberg, Germany, with its Lutheran church. They dominate the central square. Around these churches and in their shadow are sidewalk cafes where people are talking and enjoying themselves; there are artists and musicians; people buying and selling, pursuing romance, and being part of a community. This makes a striking image of life in its abundance presided over by the Christian faith.

I am aware that many, if not most of the people gathered around the cathedral squares are no longer Christian believers. But still. It is surely significant that no one gathers around the modernist buildings that these towns also feature. In Cologne, a television tower with a spire that ascends to the heavens, the top of which features a revolving restaurant, which must have been quite impressive a few decades ago, though at the center of its own square, is all but abandoned and the restaurant has gone out of business. The civilization of Europe still, at least by habit, revolves around its Christian heritage. Even in the buildings around the squares, so old and quaint, often dating from the 17th century back into the medieval days, have a human scale and an aesthetic dimension quite lacking in modernist, postmodernists, and the commercial buildings of today.

This speaks of the concept of “Christendom,” a civilization informed by the Christian faith. There was a time when every citizen of the town would have been a member of the church. Everyone would have been baptized. In fact, even in secularist Europe today, most people when they were infants were baptized. Perhaps it is in theological traditions that practice infant baptism and that have served as “state churches”–Roman Catholicism, Anglicanism, Lutheranism, the Reformed–that have the most positive theologies of culture. At any rate, I am aware that some Christians today think the very notion of Christendom is impossible. Only individuals, they say, not cultures, can be Christians. The church is intrinsically alien from the world. The church that embraces the world or seeks to guide it becomes worldly. Some people think there can be a Christian society, but that only come from the church’s exercise of political power. This is the position of some Christians and, ironically, many secularists. Cultural influence, that of salt in food and light in dark places, is more elusive.

Do you think Christendom is possible, even as an ideal? Can there be a Christendom in which even non-Christians can find a haven, just as non-believers too prefer to gather in the shadow of gothic spires?


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