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13 12 The OLD ChURCh first in Britain the small round oratory built of wattles was held in great veneration, and during the 5th or 6th century a rectangular wooden church was built around it which became known as the old church vetusta ecclesia. In about 625 Paulinus, a companion of st Augustine, encased this with leadcovered boards, so that what was left of the old wattle hut was supposedly preserved within. such was its sanctity that it drew pilgrims from all over Britain and Ireland and, indeed, the monastic community here was similar in ways to others of the early celtic church at clonmacnoise and on Iona. However, Glastonbury was unique in its foundation and dedication. Its first chronicler, William of Malmesbury, was so impressed by the sanctity of the old church in 1129 that he wrote of it in awe saying that it spread an air of reverence throughout the whole country. this was the most holy, the most famous and the most revered sanctuary in england, housing many relics and sacred objects which pilgrims could glimpse or touch. A stone pillar was erected in the 6th century to mark the north south line delimiting the eastern extent of the old church since further building had by then been added to the east. Above Frederick Bligh Bond s painting of St Joseph s first Christian settlement. Bond envisaged twelve monks huts arranged around a circular church see opposite. Circular churches were not unusual in early Christianity. The equally ancient Ethiopian Orthodox Church still has circular churches today. Above and right William Barnes two wood engravings of the Old Church prior to its encasing in lead in 625. Long after the Old Church perished, a brass plaque in Latin was attached to a stone pillar indicating the sacred dimensions of the Old Church and its exact position vital clues to a sacred foundation pattern to which we shall return later.
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