Volume V | Chapter 7 | The Non-Runic InscriptionsNext Back to catalogue index
by John Higgitt

In comparison with the areas surveyed in the previous four volumes in this series, Lincolnshire preserves very few inscriptions on stone of the Anglo-Saxon or of the immediately post-Conquest periods. The two inscriptions that certainly dated from before the Conquest (Caistor 1 and Unknown Provenance 1) are both lost and it is not certain that Unknown Provenance 1 was carved in stone rather than painted onto plaster. The surviving inscriptions in the Anglo-Saxon tradition (Lincoln St Mary-le-Wigford 6 and Stow 6) both probably date from shortly after the Conquest. All four seem to have been architectural inscriptions concerned, among other things, to show in whose honour a church was dedicated. Few conclusions can be drawn from such a limited body of material.

To judge from the early engravings, the lost inscribed panel from Caistor (Caistor 1; Ills. 79–80) was probably a wall inscription recording details of an ecclesiastical dedication such as still survives from late seventh-century Jarrow. The language was Latin and the clearest element of the text is the widely used dedicatory formula in honore (Higgitt 1979, 347, 368–70). The Old English name, probably some form of Egbert, in the previous line cannot certainly be linked with a known individual but probably commemorated a patron or the presiding bishop. The engravings seem to have copied the distinctive lettering of the Caistor inscription remarkably accurately. It was plainly a fine example of the Insular decorative capitals that enjoyed a vogue from the later seventh to the earlier ninth century, both as a manuscript display script and in inscriptions (Higgitt 1994). The epigraphic use of decorative capitals was much commoner in Northumbria than elsewhere. The decorative capitals of the Caistor inscription have much in common with manuscript display script and they suggest the influence of a centre of manuscript production at Caistor itself or nearby.

Unknown Provenance 1 (Appendix C) seems to have been a 12-line Latin verse inscription inscribed in the apse of a church in the time of Bishop Cyneberht of Lindsey, who died in 732. It constituted a poetic record of the dedication of a church to the apostles and of its building by Bishop Cyneberht as a cathedral church. Although the verses might have been carved, they could equally have been painted onto plaster. The text is known through a later copy of a manuscript drawn up in the eighth century. If the ascription of these verses to Bede in the Urbana manuscript fragment is correct, it is further evidence, along with the Caistor lettering, of an openness to Northumbrian epigraphic influence in pre-Viking Lindsey. Both the calligraphic lettering of Caistor and the learned verses of Unknown Provenance reflect the world of clerical, and particularly monastic, literacy.

Lincoln St Mary-le-Wigford 6 (Ills. 273–5) and Stow 6 (Ill. 358) are both architectural inscriptions in Old English. They share the formula to lofe (to love), a vernacular equivalent to in honore. The architectural context of the Lincoln inscription and the orthography of Stow (Okasha 1985) both suggest post-Conquest dates, though they seem to be a continuation of the late Anglo-Saxon tradition of dedication and patronage inscriptions in the vernacular, several of which remain on the other side of the Humber in Yorkshire (Higgitt 1991, 46–7). Most of these inscriptions are associated with sundials and Stow seems to have been particularly similar in form to the circular inscribed sundial at Aldbrough (Lang 1991, 123). Although Lincoln and Stow both apparently displayed details of the dedications of churches, the emphasis is much more secular than at Caistor and Unknown Provenance 1 three or more centuries earlier. The language is now English; and Lincoln resembles mid eleventh-century Kirkdale in opening with the name of the secular patron. As in many late Anglo-Saxon inscriptions the lettering on Lincoln and Stow is informal and lacks the refinement of most pre-Viking inscriptions. Lincoln and Stow were set on the exteriors of their churches and addressed the outside world in the vernacular; the Latin inscriptions at Caistor and Unknown Provenance seem to address more exclusively clerical communities, probably from within their churches.

Next Back to catalogue index