EBK Activity Sheets


What they were like
  • Escomb Church in County DurhamWhen St. Augustine first brought Christianity to Saxon England, he told everyone that it was a good idea to turn old pagan temples into churches. These might be Saxon temples or old Roman ones.
  • Big tombs in old Roman cemeteries called 'mausolea' (the plural of 'mausoleum') were sometimes turned into churches too. They were like small stone buildings. Wells Cathedral in Somerset started like this. So did St. Martin's Church in Canterbury.
  • Some churches were minsters or parish churches. Others were part of a monastery.
  • Most early Saxon Churches were probably built of wood:
    • They might be single or double roomed buildings.
    • The roofs could be covered in thatch or wooden shingles.
    • Today, a wooden Saxon Church can still be seen at Greensted in Essex!
  • Later Saxon Churches were built of stone. They could be of many different types. Some were quite elaborate:
    • They might be simple single or double roomed buildings, like the wooden ones.
    • However, they might be 'aisled' buildings with columns down the centre and open corridors on either side, like many churches today.
    • Or the side corridors might be replaced by lots of little chapel rooms called 'portici' (the plural of 'porticus').
    • There might also be an apse (a room shaped like half a circle) around the altar. It might have a ring-crypt below it for viewing relics.
    • They might have big towers; or the church might be a tower on its own.
    • The towers might have strange steeples or multi-storeyed pyramid roofs.
    • The roofs could be covered in thatch, wooden shingles or pottery tiles.
    • There were often elaborate carvings on the church walls.
  • Parts of Saxon churches survive in many churches today. Some churches are almostly completely Saxon. Are there any Saxon churches near where you live?
  • Activity Sheet available.


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