Wednesday, March 03, 2010


A lot of folk have been having a gander at this story and taking a stab at the decipherment. What I haven't seen mentioned yet is what should be an obvious "huh?"

> "What is believed to be the first ever example of English in a British church has been discovered.
Tim Tatton Brown, the cathedral's consultant archaeologist, explained: 'The Cathedral's conservators quite unexpectedly found some beautifully written English text behind the Henry Hyde Monument on the cathedral's south aisle wall when the monument was temporarily removed as part of the on-going schedule of work.
"And what the experts now think is that this could be the first example of English written in a church context - scholars were executed for translating the bible into English at that tune.

Source: The Telegraph, 2010 March01<<

Frankly, I have been puzzled by that remark. Certainly even if we are restricting the comment to only inscriptional evidence in English churches, we have the Bewcastle and Ruthwell crosses, the inscription on the Brussels Cross, or the Old English inscription on the wall of a church in Breamore, among several others that could be pointed to. If we are only looking to Middle English or early Modern there's the English inscription at Newland from circa 1457, and another almost a century earlier from Cawston. That leaves aside the large number of homilies in both Old and Middle English that would have been written and preached in a "church context" and so on, much less other kinds of texts in Old, Middle, and early Modern English in church contexts of various kinds.

It seems an odd comment. The only context I can think of where it *might* be true is that it is the first English *writing* as opposed to inscription in a church sanctuary. That isn't what the article says, but that actually might be true. Thoughts?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I also have been wondering about that. Tim Tatton-Brown is no amateur and should know better than this so I presume that the article-writers in their various places have misunderstood him. The other criterion may be that it is the earliest English Gothic writing; I don't know if that could be true but it seems a lot more plausible to me.