SAXON ARCHITECTURE, that style which was prac tised by the Anglo-Saxons during their ascendancy in this country; a style which is exhibited solely in churches, and other ecclesiastical structures, and prevailed from the time of the conversion of the Saxons, to the Norman conquest.
When the Saxons first obtained possession of the country, they were pagans; a barbarous race, much inferior to their predecessors, the Britons, in the cultivation of the civi lized arts. It would appear that they did erect some buildings of importance, as we find Gregory the Great giving permission to St. Augustine to make use of their temples for the purpose of Christian worship; but of what description such buildings were, we have no conception ; nor, indeed, are we certain that they did not employ such build ings as they found already erected in the country, rather than erect new ones for themselves. Be this, however, as it may, we are here only concerned with their Christian edifices. Of' these, the first, occupied by the missionary Augustine, was one at Canterbury, dedicated to St. Martin, which Bertha, the Christian queen of the pagan king, Ethelbert, had been in the habit of using. This, however, was not a Saxon edifice, but probably a church of the ancient Britons which had escaped destruction by their treacherous allies. In reference to this circumstance, the Venerable Bede tells us—" There was, in the east side, near the city, a church dedicated to the honour of St. Martin, formerly built whilst the Romans were still in the island, wherein the queen, who, as has been before said, was a Christian, used to pray. In this they at first began to meet, to sing, to pray, to say mass, to preach, and to baptize ; till, the king being converted to the faith, they had leave granted them more freely to preach and build or repair churches in all places." From this account, it is evident that many churches were erected even in St. Augustine's time, and of the erection of sonic of these we hate authentic records. The first erected was the cathe dral church of Canterbury, built on the site of an old Roman church, and which St. Augustine dedicated under the title of Christ's Church. Adjoining to this, was built a house for the bishop, and a little way out of the city a monastery and a church belonging to it, in honour of St. Peter and St. Paul. This last, however, he did not live, to finish: it was completed by Lawrence, whom he ordained to succeed him as archbishop, after his death.
It is further evident, from the above quotation, that some churches were then standing, which been previously erected by the British Christians : of these. St. Martin's is one, and another probably the cathedral, which is supposed by same to have been originally a Roman church, and to have been no more than repaired by Augustine; lint which. ever be correct, it is certain that a Roman church stood Originally on the same spot, and probably that the remains of it at least still existed at the time we are speaking of. It is very- likely that the materials of the original fabric were worked up in the new erection..
So wonderful was the success of Augustine, that before his death he was enabled to timnd two l)islioprics, the one at London and the other at where, shortly after his decease two cathedrals were erected—that at Londonj being dedicated to St. Paul, and that at Rochester to St. Andrew, by which names the cathedrals standing on the same sites are still known. At the same date, king Sebert also founded the ancient Abbey of Westminster.
Within thirty years from Augustine's death, Paulinus had succeeded in converting to Christianity, Edwin, the king of Northumbria, and became bishop of that province. His see was fixed at York, where Edwin immediately set about building him a church, which we learn was built of timber, and dedicated in the name of St. Peter. From such humble beginnings an 'se the splendid cathedral which now adorns that city. This timber-structure was erected previous to
the baptism of the king ; shortly after that event, however, he took care, by the direction of Paulinus, to build in the same place a larger and nobler church, of stone, within which the smaller building, which he had first erected, was enclosed. During the erection of this building Edwin was assassinated by his pagan subjects, and the church was completed by his successor, Oswald. After this, Paulinus crossed the Humber to preach the gospel at Lincoln, where he succeeded in con verting the reeve or governor of the city, who was a man of considerable wealth, and who undertook the erection of a large and magnificent church• of stone in that place. It was destroyed by the Danes, and afterwards rebuilt by Gilbert de Goure, earl of Lincoln. Paulinus is also said, by historians, to have built the church at Southwell, in Nottinghamshire, which still exists, and in a good state of preservation ; but evidently much of its architecture is of a later date than that' of Paulinus. At the close of the seventh century, St. Chad, bishop of York, built a church at Barton-upon-Humber, where there is still standing an edifice of undoubtedly Saxon character. The successor of St. Chad was a man of some what different stamp, of the name of Wilfred. Active, per severing, and accomplished, he added considerably to the temporal dignity of the church, and was one of the greatest builders amongst the Saxon bishops. He was only thirty five years of age when he entered upon his duties as bishop of York, and one of the first objects to which he gave his attention was the cathedral. He found the church built by Edwin and Oswald in a state of miserable neglect, the old roof dropping with rain-drops, and the windows open to the weather, and giving entrance to the birds, which made their nests inside the building. He repaired it substantially, "roofing it with lead," (being probably of thatch originally) " and prevented the entrance of birds and rain by putting glass into the windows, yet such glass as allowed the light to shine within." He also washed the walls of the old build ing, "and made them, as the prophet says, whiter than snow." St. Wilfred seems to have been the first to introduce the use of glazed windows into England, the light haying been previously admitted into their buildings by openings covered with trellis-work, or with dressed skins of beasts, or sometimes with transparent horn or hair-curtains, Wilfrid had his glass from France ; and Benedict Biscop, at a later period, is said to have brought from the same country artisans, to teach the English the method of its manufacture. Some reputed remains of this church at York, have been discovered beneath the present cathedral. At Ripon, Wilfrid built another church "of polished stone, with columns variously ornamented, and porches ;" but his most famous work is the church at IIexham, which is described in glowing colours by Stephen Eddins, a cotemporary with Bede. He assures us that it had not a rival on this side of the Alps. Deep foun dations, he says, were dug in the ground for the construction of subterraneous chapel, and passages of communication. On these foundations, walls were raised to a prodigious height, and were divided into three stages or stories, supported on square pillars and polished columns of different marbles. The capitals of the pillars and the arcades, and arch-walls of the sanctuary, were adorned with sculpture, paintings, and figures in relief; judiciously coloured ; blue, green, and yellow, being the more predominant hues. The church was surrounded by galleries inside, and divided by inclosures and staircases, so that you might make the circuit of the building, without being seen from below. In the galleries above and below, were chapels dedicated to Our Lady and St. Michael, to apostles, martyrs, and confessors, all provided with the necessary ornaments.