The Saxon origins of Geddington’s church, the Church of St Mary Magdalene, have been recorded over the years, but recent developments have come to light and the Revd R T Parker-McGee has kindly shared these with Geddington.net. Father Rob’s article centres on:
The Shrine of Hagius
– Geddington’s Saintly Priest.
In a village as ancient as Geddington, there was most likely a church long before the still visible Saxon portion. In the stonework, it is still possible to see the Saxon arcading on what was the original exterior wall as well as the slope of the original roof structure.
Bones from a Saxon grave were discovered while the floor was being repaired in 1990, and it is thought that these were most likely from a Saxon priest/monk who will have served this church dutifully over 1000 years.
A shrine to Hagius ecclesiac capellanus
(Hagius Chaplain of the Church)
In the Chapel of Our Lady and Most Blessed Sacrament there is a monument to a significant saint-priest called Hagius. An inscription at the base of the monument (now below floor level) and Boughton House archives, claim that Hagius was Chaplain to the Church. He seems to have developed a reputation locally for great holiness and care for the local people. He died whilst celebrating the Eucharist. This is often considered as a significant and saintly way for a priest to die. Hagius quickly became considered locally as a saintly individual. His title, ‘Chaplain of the Church’, suggests that he was appointed by the priory or local monastic house and served the church possibly as early as C1000 (the date is still under investigation). He certainly seems to have been one of the earliest recorded priests of Geddington Church.
It is likely that the effigy you see pictured below dates from 1200 – 1300 A.D. It was not unusual for effigies to be built a few centuries after such individuals had died. St Cuthbert in Durham is a case-in-point.
In this effigy, Hagius’ priestly credentials are evidenced by the chalice, paten and bible which are placed lovingly in his hands. His saintly credentials evidenced by his long neck and tonsure – signs of devout holiness. The shrine of Hagius would have been a place of significant pilgrimage for centuries, as the Holy Water stoup to the left of the priest’s head signifies.
People will have travelled from miles around and visited this shrine, touched his hands and his face and then used the Holy Water to bless themselves before moving on. This is evidenced by its smooth wearing over time. This is because this saintly figure was recognised for his healing and protective credentials.
On the outside of the building there is clear evidence of pilgrims’ markings. In these photos, we can see further evidence that Geddington church was a place of pilgrimage. Pilgrims’ marks on the external walls such as these would often be left outside of significant pilgrimage sites.
Each year the church continues to run a day pilgrimage to the shrine. For further dates, details and services, please visit geddingtonchurch.org.uk.