Early Anglo-Saxon beliefs
In Roman Britain, many people had been Christians. The early Anglo-Saxons were pagans. Much like the Vikings of Scandinavia, they believed in many gods. The king of the Anglo-Saxon gods, for example, was Woden - a German version of the Scandinavian god Odin. From his name comes our day of the week Wednesday or 'Woden's day'. Other gods were Thunor, god of thunder; Frige, goddess of love; and Tiw, god of war.
Anglo-Saxons were superstitious. They believed in lucky charms. They thought 'magic' rhymes, potions, stones or jewels would protect them from evil spirits or sickness.
What do graves tell us?
Archaeologists can learn a lot from old burial sites. When Anglo-Saxons died, their bodies were either cremated or buried in a grave. Belongings buried with the dead person, for use in the next life, provide evidence of the jobs people did. Men's graves include knives and spears, which suggests hunting, fighting and farming. Women's graves include tools used for sewing and weaving - showing that women made cloth and clothing. The grave of a king, like the ship-burial at Sutton Hoo, was filled with treasures, weapons and armour. One child's grave in Essex had the bones of a dog in it, perhaps a pet.
Anglo-Saxons become Christians
After the Romans left Britain, Christianity continued in places where Anglo-Saxons did not settle, such as Wales and the west. Christian monks, such as St Patrick (who went to Ireland in the 400s) and St Columba (who went to Scotland from Ireland around 563AD) taught the 'Celtic' form of the Christian religion.
In AD 597 the Pope in Rome decided it was time Anglo-Saxons in southern Britain heard about Christianity. So he sent a monk called Augustine to Kent, to persuade the king to become a Christian. Over the next 100 years, many Anglo-Saxons turned to Christianity. New churches and monasteries were built.
Bede and the Monasteries
Monasteries were centres of learning, where monks and nuns spent their time in prayer, study and worked in fields and workshops. Monasteries were the only schools in Anglo-Saxon England. In the monasteries, monks copied out books by hand and decorated the pages in beautiful colours.
Bede lived in the monastery at Jarrow in Northumbria. He went to live with monks in 680AD when he was just 7 years old. When he grew up, he became a historian. He wrote a book about the history of the Anglo-Saxons, called 'A History of the English Church and People'.
The building where monks live.
A male member of a religious group, living, praying and working together and following a set of rules.
A female member of a religious group, living, praying and working together and following a set of rules.
An English monk and historian. He lived from about 673AD to 735AD.
A person who studies the past.