S KYNEBURGA, CASTOR, HUNTS
Few places in England have such evidence for the continuity of human settlement and of Christian worship as does Castor. In Roman times, the garrison town of Durobrivae stood nearby. In 1975, ploughing at Water Newton, just down the road, unearthed what is simply the earliest Christian silver discovered anywhere in the Roman Empire, dating from the 4th century. Some Roman bricks from the settlement are reused in the N transept of Castor church, which stands on a site associated with the convent established here by the 7th century Saxon princesses Kyneburgha and Kyneswitha, the church later becoming a Saxon minster. The church itself sits on top of a Roman palace.
The core of what we see today is Norman, dominated by the splendid central tower (1); the dedication of the building on April 17th 1124 is commemorated in an inscription over the priest’s door in the chancel. Not as important historically, but finer as sculpture is the Saxon carving of Christ in Majesty over the entrance to the porch (2). Inside the spacious and uncluttered church you look up to the recoloured angels of c. 1450 in the roof and then cross over to the end of the N aisle for the altar and reconstituted shrine of Kyneburgha. Right next to them is an 8th century carving of St Mark (3), itself once possibly part of the shrine.
We all know about St Augustine leading his mission to England, landing in 597, which provided the springboard for its reconversion. We often hear about the Celtic church he found in parts of the country on his arrival, but it is easy to overlook the fact that Christianity came here much earlier through individual Christians who were Roman traders or soldiers.
Map Reference: TL 125985