Sophie and I love pottering about in old churches, so much history can be found within and in their graveyards. We also love a certain café in Northumberland, and as lunch is also an important part of our day we decided to do a few churches around the area thus enabling our visitations to the aforementioned café.
Saint Maurice. This was a first for us, Saint Peter and Saint Paul’s churches are all over the shop up here, but this was the first time we heard of a Saint Maurice, you possibly have, but I’ll do a little bit on him in case you haven’t.
The History Bit ☕️ 🍪
Maurice was an Egyptian military leader who headed the legendary Theban Legion of Rome in the 3rd century. Now right there I’m thinking really? Maurice n’est pas Français?? But apparently not. He was born in 250 AD in Thebes, Luxor as it now is and joined the Roman Army at some point when he grew up. He must have been a good soldier as he ended up commander of the Theban legion which meant he was boss of 1000 other soldiers. Somewhere along the line (I know, vague, but we are talking ancient times here peeps) he became a Christian, which wasn’t his best idea as Christianity was in it’s infancy and Rome considered it a great threat to their empire. Still, he wasn’t all holier than thou and was happy enough being pals with pagans as well. Anyhoo, his legion was sent to Gaul (a huge swathe of Western Europe) to assist Emperor Maximian defeat a revolt by the peasants.
Mo and his men,entirely composed of Christians, were sent off to clear the Great Saint Barnard Pass through the Swiss Alps, and before going into battle, they were instructed to offer sacrifices to the pagan gods and pay homage to the emperor. That didn’t go down well and whilst Mo pledged his men’s military allegiance to Rome, he also said service to God superseded all else, and that to engage in wanton slaughter was inconceivable to Christian soldiers. To cap it off he and his men refused to worship the Roman gods. When Emperor Maxi-boy ordered them to harass some local Christians, they refused that as well.
Not surprisingly Maxi-boy was well naffed off with Mo and his not so merry men, and ordered the unit to be punished. In Roman terms that meant the killing of every tenth soldier in the legion, which was known as Decimation. More orders got refused, and another decimation was carried out, and then Maxi got really naffed off and had the whole legion wiped out. This occurred in a place in Switzerland known then as Agaunum, and is now Saint~Maurice, and the Abbey of St.Maurice stands on the site.
So reads the earliest account of the martyrdom of the Theban Legion, contained in the public letter which Bishop Eucherius of Lyon (c. 434–450), addressed to his fellow bishop, Salvius.
Maurice is the patron saint of the Duchy of Savoy (France) and of the Valais (Switzerland) as well as of soldiers, swordsmiths, armies, and infantrymen. He is also the patron saint of weavers and dyers. Manresa (Spain), Piedmont (Italy), Montalbano Jonico (Italy), Schiavi di Abruzzo (Italy), Stadtsulza (Germany) and Coburg (Germany) have chosen St. Maurice as their patron saint as well. St Maurice is also the patron saint of the Brotherhood of Blackheads, a historical military order of unmarried merchants 😳 in present-day Estonia and Latvia. He is also the patron saint of the town of Coburg in Bavaria, Germany. He is shown there as a man of colour especially on manhole covers (strange) as well as on the city coat of arms. There he is called “Coburger Mohr” (“Coburg Moor”).
The picture up there is of a 13th century statue of him in Magdeburg Cathedral, Germany.
In the 12th century Ceolwulf, the Saxon king of Northumbria, granted the hamlet of Eglingham to the monastery at Lindisfarne. A church was built on the site of St.Maurice’s of which only the chancel arch remains today. In the 18th century restoration was carried out by John Green who built the Theatre Royal in Newcastle.
Firstly though we looked around the grave yard for old souls.
The west tower is 13th Century and two ancient bells occupy the belfry; one, formerly from Old Bewick Church, is dated 1489.
Inside there are some very old features,
The octagonal font at the back of the nave is perhaps the church’s oldest feature and thought to be the work of William Butement. It is dated 1663 with the initials C.R. (probably referring to Charles II). It bears several masons’ marks and inscriptions.
There are some nice stained glass windows, the East window is by William Wales, dated 1908 and depicts the transformation of Christ
and a memorial window for the Collingwood family.
Vice Admiral Cuthbert Collingwood, 1st Baron Collingwood (26 September 1748 – 7 March 1810) was an admiral of the Royal Navy, notable as a partner with Lord Nelson in several of the British victories of the Napoleonic Wars, and frequently as Nelson’s successor in commands. He was born in Newcastle so there are statues and roads and buildings etc all over the shop up here, and any family association is up for grabs, especially as they’re all military chaps.
That will do I think. It is so peaceful to wander around these old churches, and marvelling at what they could accomplish architecturally speaking 3 or 4 hundred years ago. We love to see graves from the 1700’s and are amazed when someone is buried at an old age, as in William Shell above. Dying at age 84 was some feat for that time! More often we come across young people as in Mary Bickerford who only got to 13 yrs old.
stay tooned for next time when we’ll be popping up the road to Holy Trinity Church.
all pictures clickable to embiggen.