Vetusta Monumenta: Ancient Monuments, a Digital Edition

Plates 2.39-2.40: Font in Winchester Cathedral (Original Explanatory Account)


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VOL. II. Plates XXXIX. XL.


THIS venerable monument of Christian antiquity in Britain in form and material very much resembles one of the same kind in Lincoln Cathedral.

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[de-]termined to settle here; and such was the progress of his preaching, that in a short time he converted to the Christian faith not only the common people and the nobility, but the king himself, who at the time was Kinigils, and baptized him with numbers of his subjects. At this solemnity, Oswald, king of Northumberland, assisted, who shortly after married Kinigils’ daughter. These are the short accounts our historians give of Birinus’s first arrival, A.D. 6351.

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The church which is seen close to the bishop may be that of Dorchester, where Birinus sat till his death. Though no such front is to be seen at present at Dorchester1, it still boasts one of the handsomest parochial churches in the kingdom.

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has transmitted to us. But in the decollation story, which is represented on the font and in the mullions of the windows, we shall find Mr. Warton mistaken in referring it to Birinus, who ended his days in peace among his new converts, and was buried in his cathedral church at Dorchester.

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other figure, with both his hands raised up, as if in admiration, must be the master of the vessel, who, together with his crew were converted to Christianity by this miracle; for the account tells us they were before Pagans.

I own I am unable to explain the remaining part of the sculpture on this side, by any incidents I have yet met with in the history of this saint. It is not, however, to be concluded that it does not appertain to it.”

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reliefs on the square sides of that font are three griffins passant on one of them. Whether the material is of foreign or English growth must be left to naturalists: If the former, which seems not necessary, the workmanship, at least, may be accounted our own.

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The font in Dorchester church is a curiosity, but of what age I do not pretend to determine. It is made entirely of lead, adorned with figures of the twelve Apostles in relief.

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