Voyage of the Bolero 2 : Postwick

Bathilde Seal Matrix
Copyright British Museum PAS-8709C3

At different times in her life,  Saint Bathilde was a slave, a queen and an abbess; and there’s  a chance that she may have come from Postwick.  Mooring at Postwick Wharf,  we walked to the village to see what we could find of 7th Century community.

First stop was the church. Had we consulted the Exploring Norfolk Churches entry we might have known the church  was only open on Fridays.

A quick tour around the outside, taking in doorways and windows, confirmed the earliest parts of the building dated  back to 13th C, like the entry said.  The beautifully worked flint quoins, suggested they and the walls might have been older.  There was certainly nothing that gave us any clues about the place Bathilde might have known.

What wowed us,  however, was the place of the church in the landscape!  We had caught a glimpse of the 14th C tower as we had come down river. Today it is all but lost amid the trees growing around the church.

 

One imagines that back then, they would have cleared the trees away and it would be clearly visible high on a hill, rising steeply from the marshes below. The view looking up from the hollow way of Leeder Hill, gives a hint of how impressive it would have have appeared!

There is a church recorded in Postwick in the Domesday Book.  Was it on the same site? one wonders.   But the arresting position of the church, overlooking the marsh and river below, had been a constant over Postwick’s long history.  The site may been holy place, possibly a place of burial, from a time before the Christian Conversion.  In which case, the All Saint’s dedication would have given it an autumn equinox annual festival.  That is the time of year when, in the old religion, Balder went down to the underworld and, while the gates were open, you could communicate with the dead.

Surprisingly,  there’s a Roman connection here, as with so much on the Norfolk Saints’ Way.  Pope Gregory’s 597 Letter to Melletus  sets out a policy of replacing pagan festivals with Christian equivalents and re-badging  (the word christening is appropriate) pagan places of worship as  Christian Churches.

It is of interest to note the continuing power of the old religion, reflected in the strange things that still happen on All Hallowes’ Eve; and the contemporary Christian response to replace them with an appropriate alternative with such initiatives as  Light Parties.

 

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