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The Anglo-Saxon Parts of the Church of St Wystan at Repton: Chronology and Function

Ordinary Meeting of Fellows (Fellows and Guests Only)

The Anglo-Saxon Parts of the Church of St Wystan at Repton: Chronology and Function

Lecture by Prof Eric Fernie, FSA.

St Wystan's at Repton in Derbyshire was an important site in Anglo-Saxon England and remains so today because of the extensive remains which can be dated to the period. 

The paper consists of two parts, the first of which presents an account of the sequence of building proposed by Martin Biddle in an article of 1986 and Matin and Birthe Kjoelbe Biddle in one of 2001. This begins with the earliest surviving remains in the form of a mausoleum dated to the eighth century, which housed at least one of the kings of Mercia. It moves to the insertion of highly unusual twisted columns and a vault, supporting a chancel above which incorporated the mausoleum into the church. These changes are dated to the second half of the eight century or the first half of the ninth. Then, after Wystan was buried there in 849, it was transformed into a saint's shrine, before the Danish occupation of 873-4. 

The second part consists of Eric Fernie's assesment of these proposals, dwelling in particular on the significance and dating of the columns, vaults and chancel. He argues that there features all sit unhappily with secular burials, so that the period of construction is more likely to be a response to the growth of the cult of Wystan in the years following 849.

This leads to the queyring of 873 as a terminus ante quem for the development of Wystan's cult, and the proposal that there is sufficient evidence to suggest that this should be placed after 917, when Repton was retaken from the Danes. The date brackets would therefore be 849 and some time in the middle of the tenth century, rather that 849 and 873. 

The paper deals with matters of iconography as well as chronology. It also involves comparisons with a number of other buildings and a consideration of the work of Harold Taylor and Richard Gem.

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