A PREVIOUSLY unknown church, which is believed to be at least
1000 years old, has been unearthed beneath Lincoln Castle.
Archaeologists have described it as a significant find that will
greatly add to knowledge of early Christianity in the area. The
unexpected location, under the castle, however, has posed a
The church, which is Anglo-Saxon, and believed to date from
about the tenth century, was exposed during excavations for a lift
shaft, more than nine feet below today's ground-level.
Experts have always thought that the city's first cathedral,
also built in the tenth century, lies near by, under the present
cathedral, which dates from the Norman Conquest. Experts say that
the new discovery shows signs of being an important high-status
church - possibly a Saxon minster, or part of an adjacent monastery
Lincolnshire County Council's historic-environment manager,
Beryl Lott, said: "This is a very exciting discovery. Our knowledge
of the site between the end of Roman period, and when the castle
was built, is very scant. While the discovery was totally
unexpected, it is well known that other Roman walled towns often
contained some form of high-status use during the Anglo-Saxon
The earliest church in Lincoln was St Paul in the Bail, which
was probably built in the seventh century on the site of the Roman
forum. It was destroyed and rebuilt on several occasions, and its
Victorian successor was finally demolished in 1971.
The work for the lift shaft exposed a limestone coffin with a
lid still mortared in place, and archaeologists hope to insert an
endoscopic camera into the coffin to see what is inside.
Dr Martin Carver, Emeritus Professor of Archaeology at the
University of York, said: "This is a wonderful find. The most
important thing is to get a close look inside.
"The Romans used stone sarcophagi, including Christian ones in
the fourth century AD, and the early Christian English re-used them
in the seventh. But Late Saxon stone coffins are pretty rare. If it
has an occupant, we can bring the toolbox of modern forensic
archaeology to bear, and find out more about them: place of birth,
diet, health, wounds, date of death, and more."
In the wall opposite, the dig uncovered human bones laid in a
niche in the foundation. They were originally wrapped in a finely
woven textile - tiny impressions of the cloth can be seen on the
mortar of the wall. The burial is thought to be a "votive deposit",
and may be the relics of a holy person placed inside the wall to
dedicate the building. Radiocarbon dating will be used to find
their exact date.
The work is part of a £20-million project to restore and promote
the heart of the city in and around Lincoln Cathedral.