Several weeks ago, when Karin and I were visiting Jeff and Kimberly Saward, we went to see The Chapel of St. Peter-on-the-Wall in Bradwell-on-Sea in Essex. It is on the coast about half way between the Southend-on-Sea on the north bank of the Thames where it opens to the sea, and Port of Harwich where the ferries leave for the Hook of Holland and Esjberg in Denmark.
This tiny chapel on the edge of the coast in Essex was built, as the sign says, by St. Cedd from the ruins of a wall built by the Romans. He was schooled up the coast in Lindesfarne, spoke Latin, Saxon and Celtic, and was called by King Sigbert to build a chapel there in 654 CE that is called (Glastonbury Abbey fans take note) "the deepest living root of the church in this country."
St Peter's on the Wall St Cedd
I think because the Glastonbury Abbey no longer holds regular services there, this building built in 654 CE is the oldest standing chapel in England. Part of the reason why it is still standing is that for a long time, it wasn't used as a chapel, but as a barn (see the filled in hole that was the barn door on the right-hand side of the building). But is a place of worship once again.
The Earth Energies were - as this blind man looking at the Sacred Space Elephant would expect - a dome/blind spring with five veins under the altar, and a number of energy leys (3½) crossing at the alter as well. But is it St. Cedd himself who most caught my interest. First, St. Cedd brought Christianity to the East Saxons. I believe I've written before that my father and I were both named Sigfrid. We were named after St. Sigfrid, a patron Saint of Sweden, who converted the first Viking King of Sweden to Christianity at Gamla Uppsala. I learned only about five years ago that this same Sigfrid had previously been a monk in Glastonbury Abbey. So here is the "St. Sigfrid" of the East Saxons being called there by a King named "Sigbert" to convert the East Saxons heathens. Hmm ... Coincidence?
There is one final bit to this story of St. Cedd. Coming from Lindesfarne, one might appropriately assume that Cedd had feet in both Celtic and Roman Christianity. As he spoke so many languages, it turns out that he acted as the interpreter at the Synod of Whitby, though as H. Malcom Carter, author of the pamphlet about this tiny chapel says, he "adhered to Canterbury and to Rome, and the authority of the Celtic Church retreated northward."* Apparently, as a translator in this most crucial meeting between the Celtic Church and Rome, while an interpreter should have been impartial, St. Cedd was not exactly unbiased. One more clue: he named his chapel "St. Peter on the Wall." What a Roman rock!
Somerset BA6 8JE
*Carter, H. Malcom. 2007. The Fort of Othona and the Chapel of St. Peter-on-the-Wall, Bradwell-on-Sea. Published in Bradwell-on-Sea: St. Peter's Chapel Committee. Originally published in 1966. pg 7.