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Prying apart practices

The Isle of Man and northwest England are two key geographic areas in which ecclesiastical sites feature furnished burials and sculpture in or near them. Even prior to the ninth century, these areas had consistent contact around the Irish Sea, interacting and sharing physical items and ideas.11 During the Viking Age, travel

  • 1. St Michael's Church, Workington, Cumbria.
  • 2. Carlisle Cathedral, Carlisle, Cumbria.
  • 3. St Bridget's Church (Brigham Church), Brigham, Cumbria.
  • 4. St Peter's Church and St Patrick's Chapel, Heysham, Lancashire.
  • 5. St Patrick's Church/West Nappin Chapel, Jurby.
  • 6. Kirk Maughold, Maughold.
  • 7. Kirk Michael, Michael.
  • 8. St Patrick's Isle, Peel, German.
  • 9. Kirk Braddan/Old Kirk Braddan, Braddan.
  • 10. Chapel of St )ohn/Balladoyne, St. John's, German.
  • 11. Kirk Malew, Malew.

MAP 2.1 Map and list of ecclesiastical sites discussed (© Graphics: Danica Ramsey-Brimberg and Dirk H. Steinforth).

continued among different settlements, along with the acquirement of certain objects and ideas and the dissemination of others.12 Elements found on sculpture were shared, developing a form of expression not found within Scandinavia but adapted from their areas of settlement.13 Both geographic areas were also areas of Viking-Age settlement with their presence occurring over multiple generations.14 People would have needed to establish themselves within the socio-political systems. Despite assaults related to its wealth and centralised populations by various peoples, the Church continued to be a key player, maintaining its status and influencing leaders.13 The Isle of Man and northwest England are therefore areas that can be compared and contrasted to see the role funerary monuments played in long-term settlement.

While a number of sites have furnished burials or sculpture, eleven sites have likely evidence for ecclesiastical structures concurrent to a furnished grave(s) and sculpture that has Scandinavian influences or influences from the ninth to eleventh centuries. While Knock y Doonee in Andreas and Cronk yn Howe in Lezayre contain furnished burials near keeills, the cross slabs are of an ambiguous date, either predating Viking-Age settlement or having a terminus ante quern in the ninth century.16 Other sites (i.e. St Patrick’s Isle, Maughold, Jurby, and Braddan) feature similar sculpture, but have other pieces dating to the ninth century and after as well.1' In the case of one of the Cronk yn Howe stones (158), the dates of production have been ascribed as early as the Bronze Age to as late as the medieval period, although some point after Christian conversion seems the most likely due to the designs (seventh to twelfth centuries).18 However, due to the unclear nature of this stone and the others, these two sites will not be included.

Several different aspects need to be considered. The dates of the furnished burials, sculptures, and sites need to be explored in depth, as well as their characters and contexts. Such analysis will help to determine whether there are any commonalities between the sites. For example, with sculpture, its type of stone, style, iconography, tentative date, and even discernible parallels to other sculpture will all be taken into consideration. Unfortunately, due to the movement of sculpture over time, their location cannot be included, but the placement of the burials and the ecclesiastical structures can be in the natural and man-made landscape. These can then aid in understanding how much visual impact may have been intended for those who created these different monuments. Through looking at these different aspects, the potential influence of the Viking Age on these ecclesiastical sites and society can be seen and vice versa. Light can then be shed on the gradual process of the groups of peoples acculturating over time and the redefinition of their society in a culturally hybridised environment.

Considering the context

The eleven ecclesiastical sites reveal that relations between the Church and the laity in the Irish Sea area from the ninth to the eleventh centuries were far more complicated than has been portrayed in the past. The sites were chosen carefully,

TABLE 2.1 Table of sites, burials, sculpture, and dates.

Name

Ecclesiastical Number of Dates of furnished

site type furnished burials

burials

1 St Michael’s

Ecclesiastical

centre

4

Church, Workington, Cumbria

2

Carlisle

Cathedral,

Carlisle,

Cumbria

Ecclesiastical

centre

8

3

St Bridget’s Church (Brigham Church), Brigham, Cumbria

Ecclesiastical

centre

1

4

St Peter’s Church and St Patrick’s

Chapel,

Ecclesiastical

centre

2

Late 8th—11th c.*

  • 9th_] |th
  • 9th to early 11th c.

Mid-9'h-10'h c.

Number of sculptures featuring designs or iconography with

Scandinavian elements

Dates of sculptures featuring designs or iconography with Scandinavian elements

Number of sculptures mentioned

Dates of sculptures mentioned

Overall date of sculpture

6

10th—11th c.

10 (at

least)

10th—11th c.

8th-11th c.

1

10th-llth c.

2

Late

8th-l 1th c.

8th-11th c

4

10th-! 1th c.

7

10th—11th c.

8"’-11th c

10'h-llth c. 2 10th- 11th c. 7th—11th c.

{Continued)

The permeating presence of practices 35

TABLE 2.1 (Continued)

Name

Ecclesiastical Number of Dates of furnished

site type furnished burials

burials

Heysham,

Lancashire

5

St Patrick’s Chapel/West Nappin Chapel, Jurby

Keeill

1

Mid-9th

c.

6

Kirk Maughold, Maughold

Ecclesiastical centre

2

Late 9th

c.

7

Kirk Michael, Michael

Keeill

1

9th_nth

c.

8

St Patrick’s

Isle, Peel,

Ecclesiastical centre

7

9th-10th

c.

Gemían

Number of sculptures featuring designs or iconography with Scandinavian elements

Dates of sculptures featuring designs or iconography with Scandinavian elements

Number of sculptures mentioned

Dates of sculptures mentioned

Overall date of sculpture

6

9th-10'h c.

6

9th—11th c.

Pre-Scandinavian to 10th c.

6

9th-11th c.

7

9th_ 12th c.

7th c. to late 12th c.

10

10th—12th c.

10

10th-11th c.

10th-12th c.

3

10th-11th c.

6

8th-11th c.

9th-12th c.

36 Danica Ramsey-Brimberg

  • 9
  • 10

Kirk Braddan,

Braddan

Chapel of

St John,

Keeill

Keeill

  • 1
  • 3

p

9th-11th c.

  • 6
  • 1
  • 9th—10th c.
  • 10th c.
  • 6
  • 1
  • 9th to late 10th c.
  • 10th c.

Pre-Scandinavian to 10th c.

Prehistoric?

to 10th c.

11

St John’s, German

Kirk Malew,

Keeill

1

p

1

10th c.

1

10th c.

10th c.

Malew

* The one tentatively with several grave goods was radiocarbon dated though to the seventh-ninth centuries.

The permeating presence of practices 37

just as much as the grave construction and placement as well as the sculpture iconography and design were. While many other ecclesiastical sites feature sculpture dated to this time period, these feature furnished burials and contemporary sculpture together, encapsulating the idea of a multicultural society in which different aspects were valued equally.

Funerary monuments were erected at these sites that already held significant meaning in the landscape and were associated with those holding power and status. The sites chosen were also nodes of communication within the man-made and natural landscape. Brigham, Workington, Heysham, Jurby, Maughold, Michael, and St Patrick’s Isle are located at coastal locations, and in the case of Workington and St Patrick’s Isle, they are also located at estuaries, which were critical junctures.19 As a result, the ecclesiastical sites would have easily been seen by those travelling by water. Although not directly on the water, Malew is placed near the Silverburn River and would have been visible to those travelling along it.2" In addition, Carlisle was on a Roman road still being used and is at a crossing point of the River Eden, while St John’s and Braddan are located along the major roadway from Douglas to Peel.21 These locations would have been prominent to anyone taking these land routes. Carlisle, Brigham, Workington, Heysham, and St Patrick’s Isle were also areas of settlement, and St Patrick’s Isle and St John’s were both key monuments within the Manx-Scandinavian political landscape.22 The sites were also all conspicuous on the terrain with the churches and cemeteries being placed either on a raised plateau or hill or on a consistently flat plain, meaning that these structures would have been distinguished in the distance.23 All of these ecclesiastical sites continued in use long after the eleventh century, developing into cathedrals (St Patrick’s Isle and Carlisle), monasteries (Brigham, Heysham, Carlisle, possibly Workington, and possibly Maughold), parish churches (Workington, Brigham, Heysham, Maughold, Michael, Jurby, Malew, Braddan, and St John’s), and a national church (St John’s). They maintained importance, even rising in status. Choosing these sites was no accident, the physical landscape was taken into consideration as well as their social significances.

The furnished graves vary in composition and with regard to their situation to the ecclesiastical buildings. However, a few trends are discernible. All of the burials with known skeletal remains were extended inhumations, orientated west to east with some variations, following practices concurrently used in the cemetery or at other ecclesiastically-affiliated cemeteries.24 The majority of furnished graves did not contain weapons, but rather grave goods linked to personal dress (including knives), occupations, and coins.23 On the north side of St Patrick’s Church and near St Patrick’s Chapel in Heysham, a furnished grave with skeletal remains and a corroded iron spearhead was found underneath a hogback, which may have served as a grave cover.26 While a spear was used as a weapon, it was the only grave good, and it may have had a spiritual connotation or been a status symbol.27 Within northwest England, only one of the sites (St Michael’s Church in Workington) featured a grave with a sword, but it was located on the opposite side of the river on the Oysterbanks of West Seaton and outside the lands of the ecclesiastical complex, but within visual eyeline and close proximity.28 The burials at Maughold and St John’s each contained a sword and are in a liminal location, on the periphery of the cemetery.29 Unfortunately, very little is known about the discover)' of each of the swords at Jurby, Braddan, and Malew.30 The discovery' at Braddan is known though to have been made on the north side of the church, placing it visibly near the contemporary road.31 A grave with multiple weapons (a sword, a spear, and a shield) was placed in the cemetery of Balladoyne, which is near the lands around St John’s and may have had a close relationship with the keeill.32 Despite its possible use as a secondary burial ground, its distance away from the keeill on the periphery may have deemed these inclusions permissible. Furnished graves were therefore acceptable in an ecclesiastical context during the Viking Age, yet certain parameters were set as to what they could be and how they affected one’s positioning in relation to the church and the other graves. The majority of burials appear to be singular occurrences, but multiple furnished graves can be found at Carlisle, Workington, Heysham, St John’s, St Patrick’s Isle, and Maughold.33 All of these locations were prominent either in the ecclesiastical and/ or political landscape. They represented areas where people may have wanted to display power and where clerics may have been willing to negotiate terms with who brought financial capital to the area. While a full in-depth discussion of the burials is beyond the scope of this piece, the evidence is illuminating. The burials tended to reflect local practices, aside from the grave goods, but even those were carefully crafted to convey a particular impression.

 
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