Sunday, December 12, 2010

This ancient holy island

I've been thinking about an article I read in the local paper recently, which discussed the creation of 'The Strood' - which is the causeway that links Mersea Island with the island of Great Britain. I now discover that the article can be found on the Mersea Museum website here, and it references an academic article that can be found here (pdf).

Key points:

- the Strood was not built by the Romans, but by the Anglo-Saxons;
- it can be fairly firmly dated, to between 684 and 702 AD;
- the creation of the Strood would have been a major engineering project which "suggests the presence on the island of a sufficiently important feature to merit such a structure and also a substantial financial expenditure on the part of somebody or some organisation able to afford it";
- Essex at this time was an independent Kingdom (and so it should be again!);
- the King of Essex at the relevant time was Saint Sebbi;
- we know that the Anglo-Saxons founded a Minster church, of Benedictine character (linked with Rouen if memory serves) on the Island, probably in the 'early 8th century';

all leading to the slightly speculative conclusion "What can be more likely than that the saintly King Sebbi took a personal interest in the construction of the minster church at Mersea?"

A Minster church, of Benedictine character, founded by one who was "much addicted to religious actions, almsgiving, and frequent prayer".

I find it remarkable how a place can have a particular spirit - and, unknowing of all this, it's uncanny how it ties in to what I've been pursuing in the benefice over the last couple of years, especially my sense that the Rule of St Benedict provides all that the parish needs.

So. Society of Saint Sebbi anyone? (Feast day is August 29 - clashes with Greenbelt!!)


  1. sounds like a good idea except that members of the society would have to have SoSS after their names!
    I'm interested in that period of history. Has there ever been archeological investigation of the Strood?

  2. Yes! - see the link for the gory details. By the way, Mersea council think that they are the 'second oldest institution' on the island - behind the school!! Even the Methodist church is older than that (150 next year), let alone a 1300 year old church... (present building only goes back to about 1046 though)

  3. Essex at this time was an independent Kingdom (and so it should be again!)

    I don't think you'll find much opposition from the rest of us :-)


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