THE SAXON CATHEDRAL AT CANTERBURY
There were six altars in the Saxon Church mentioned by Edmer, and all were provided with relics in his day; at what date the earliest were brought to Canterbury Cathedral it is impossible to say now, but the first notice we have is that of Archbishop Plegmund (890-914) who, it is said,
"journeyed to Rome and bought the blessed martyr Blasius for a great sum of gold and silver. He brought the body with him when he returned to Canterbury and placed it there in Christ Church" (Gervase).
The Christian usage in the matter of relics dates from very early times, but it was not till after the Conversion of Constantine (307) that relics were placed under altars, nor till after the second Council of Nicea (787) that the possession of relics was necessary to the consecration of churches. Rather less than midway between these dates must have seen the birth of St. Austin, and it was probably fifty years afterwards when he was in France, he found some persons "worshipping a body which they supposed to be that of St. Sixtus." He wrote to Rome asking Gregory for some genuine relics of the martyr, who, granting his request, gave him this direction:
"The relics which you have asked for are to be buried by themselves, that the place in which the aforesaid body lies may be altogether closed up, and the people not suffered to desert the certain and worship the uncertain."
This advice was given on account of certain spurious relics which from the beginning of the fifth century had fraudulently begun to be practised upon the people. Constantine had been the first who ventured to move the bodies of saints, contrary to the spirit of the Ante-Nicene Church, and within five hundred years afterwards we find the practice universal. It must be left a matter of uncertainty in view of absolutely no evidence whatever existing as to when the relics mentioned by Edmer were placed in the altars of the Saxon Church, or from whence they were obtained.
St. Wilfrid (709) and St. Audoen (640) have been mentioned (see pp. 33, 34 and 35); it now remains to notice those probably acquired
- Gre. M. Epist. xii. 31.
- Dict. of Christian Antiquities, Smith & Cheetham, p. 1772.