Dickinson College Humanities Program in Norwich

Historical Logic and the Survival of Churches

September 21, 2010 · 1 Comment

Seeing churches is an incredible way to see into the past. Why, I asked myself, are there so many hundreds of year old churches still standing in England? Sure there are old buildings standing all over the place, but a vast majority of them are churches. After a little bit of thinking I’ve come up with a few reasons as to why I think very old churches had a better chance of surviving then they did in other places.

Since its founding, England has been one form of Christian or another.  Already, this makes the survival rate of churches much higher then a place like Spain or Turkey, two regions since early times has switched hands from Christian to Muslim and perhaps back again. This great decreases the amount of churches destroyed or converted to mosques. This also means that while Edward I exiled the Jews from England in 1290 and their places of worship were probably destroyed and converted, there would be no reason in the history of England to tear down a church.

As we saw in Westminster, most churches had fortified sections in which to store the vast amounts of wealth that were being collected from the surrounding areas. This initiative to make sure churches could withstand attack could contribute to the stability of these structures. This may not be the same way in other parts of the world where vicious Vikings were not raiding the coasts.

These churches also serve as monuments to who, at any given point in history, were worthy of being commemorated in elaborate monuments within these churches. While well known now, we can see by his burial placement that Sir Christopher Wren did not quite have the status or celebrity that victorious military commanders held. The placement of these tombs and varying degrees of fanciness are a window into what was important to the empire in the past.

Categories: 2010 MatthewG · Churches and Cathedrals

1 response so far ↓

  •   Karl // Sep 23rd 2010 at 16:20

    Is Spain a good comparison. How many churches do we have surviving in tact in London that predate the expulsion of Muslims from Spain?

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