Sutton Hoo burial site.
Archaeology,  History

Lost Temple of Sutton Hoo King Unearthed: A New Glimpse into the Past

In a remarkable archaeological breakthrough, the remains of a 1,400-year-old temple, believed to have been commissioned by King Redwald of Sutton Hoo, have been discovered in Suffolk.

The Venerable Bede, a revered monk and historian, documented that King Redwald, who passed away in AD 625, constructed a unique temple featuring altars dedicated to both Christian and pagan deities. This monarch, entombed in a ship at Sutton Hoo, represented the first East Anglian king to embrace Christianity while maintaining ties to other faiths.

The temple’s existence became shrouded in mystery over time, but recent excavations by volunteers from Rendlesham Revealed, a community archaeology project, suggest they may have uncovered the elusive structure in Rendlesham, near King Redwald’s burial site.

With its distinctive and robust foundations, the building stands 10 meters long and five meters wide, hinting at a purpose beyond the ordinary. Professor Christopher Scull of Cardiff University and University College London suggests its similarity to structures recognized as temples or cult houses in England, pointing to its potential use for pre-Christian worship by East Anglian kings.

A replica of the Sutton Hoo helmet produced for the British Museum by the Royal Armouries
A replica of the Sutton Hoo helmet produced for the British Museum by the Royal Armouries. Photo by Gernot Keller (Own work), CC BY-SA 2.5.

King Redwald’s reign, noted in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle as that of a bretwalda or “Britain-ruler,” lasted from around 599 until his demise. Linked to the Sutton Hoo ship burial, he is considered the probable occupant.

Excavations this summer not only revealed the potential temple but also unveiled evidence of fine metalworking associated with royal activities, including a mold for casting a decorative horse harness akin to findings at Sutton Hoo. The site’s historical significance extends to a vast royal compound surrounded by a nearly one-mile-long ditch, offering a glimpse into the wealth and sophistication of the East Anglian society ruled by these early kings.

As we peer through the lens of archaeology, Rendlesham continues to yield secrets from a bygone era, showcasing human settlement and activity spanning over 6,000 years. The newly uncovered temple stands as a testament to the intricate tapestry of history woven into the landscape.

Source: The Telegraph · by Sarah Knapton · November 22, 2023

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Brenda Neece, DPhil (Oxon), is a cellist, organologist, writer, and teacher specializing in the history of the cello.