A Christian Inscription from Chesterholm

Joined: August 22nd, 2006, 9:29 pm

February 15th, 2010, 1:15 am #1

It's well-known that a community survived at Vindolanda long after the end of Roman rule. Some amazing recent finds have driven the point home! But the first evidence was discovered well over a century ago. In Archaeologia Aeliana, Series 2, Volume 13 (1889), the legendary J. C. Bruce announced the chance discovery of the now-famous "Brigomaglos" stone. His report is below. (You can read it in its entirety, including a follow-up comparison of a similar stone found in Scotland, at http://www.archive.org/stream/archaeolo ... 2/mode/2up.)

A Christian Inscription from Chesterholm ;
by Dr. Bruce, V.P.
[read on the 27th November, 1889].
I have great pleasure in introducing to the notice of the Society the fragment of a Roman inscription differing in character from any that have previously come under our notice.

Mr. Blair and I when accompanying the party of excursionists of the British Association to the Roman wall, noticed, as we hastily passed the station of Vindolana (Chesterholm), a heap of stones lying in front of the kitchen door of the cottage there. We saw that one of them was inscribed, and that the letters had a Roman aspect. Being unable to bear it away with us we sent word to Mr. Clayton that the stone was there, as well as another, having carved on it in bold relief the figure of a boar, the badge of the twentieth legion.
Mr. Clayton had them brought at once to Chesters, where we subsequently took the opportunity of examining them. The letters on the stone are very boldly cut, though ruder than usual. The inscription is —
(hic) iacit
. . . . . CVS.
‘Brigomaglos lies [here].’
The letter W in the first line has doubtless been intended for an M (in short, the one is but the other upside down), and the first letter in the second has been intended for an I, though it has a horizontal stroke at the bottom giving the appearance of an L turned the wrong way.

The inscription being new to me, I sent a copy and a paper impression of it, to Professor Hubner of Berlin, who has written largely upon inscriptions of this character.

In his reply to me he gives a full description of the stone, which it will be sufficient for our present purpose that I transcribe.

‘The other inscription, that of Vindolana, is a sepulchral one [of] the sort I have collected in the Inscriptiones Britanniae Christianae. I do not positively affirm that the man was a Christian, but the name Brigomaglos is a British one like Brohomaglus1, Senemaglus1, Vendumaglus1, etc., used in the inscriptions from the fifth century downwards. HIC IACIT (for IACET) is the usual formula in these sepulchral inscriptions. Line 3 may have contained another name of the deceased or his origin. This is the first stone of the class found in the North, except the Scotch Catstane from Cramond, though several have been found in Wales. From the form of the letters and from the termination of the name OS instead of VS, I am disposed to think it is of a relatively high antiquity. It differs sensibly from the pagan Roman inscriptions of the same epoch.’

On making enquiries at Chesters respecting the spot where this stone was discovered, I was told that it was found at a short distance to the north-east of the station of Vindolana, and had apparently been removed from its original position for the purpose of forming part of the materials used in the construction of a raised carriage road long since abandoned. A few days ago some repairs being required in the cottage at Ohesterholm, this and some other stones were gathered together for the use of the masons, when fortunately the value of this inscription was detected.

Doubtless Christianity was brought to Britain by the Christian members of the Roman army. We have some negative evidence of its diffusion in Roman times in the stones found in the Roman stations ; and the historic page yields us some direct evidence in the accounts which it gives us of the martyrs who suffered in the time of Diocletian. Still the proofs as to its prevalence in early British times are very scanty. The slaughter and the subjection of the inhabitants of the island by the heathen Saxons, and the feud that existed between the survivors of the British Church and the Saxons after they adopted Christianity probably led to the neglect and consequent loss of the memorials of the early introduction of Christianity into Britain. Hence a special interest attaches to the Vindolana inscription, fragmentary though it is. Perhaps if search were made others might be found in the same neighbourhood.

1Corp. Brit. Christ., Nos. 64, 92, 112, 157, and 158.
Last edited by SacoHarry on February 15th, 2010, 1:25 am, edited 4 times in total.