Ruins of St John's Church, Chester. This image is by John Turner and is copyright free
St John's Church just outside Chester was the site of one of the most symbolic moments in England's early history. After centuries of division and fighting, Saxon England finally found peace under the rule of Edgar the Peaceable, 959 - 975. Edgar's coronation was much delayed as Archbishop Dunstan tried to work out a new coronation ritual. Dunstan finally settled on a ritual with strong religious overtones, and Edgar was crowned in Bath in 973. Edgar then sailed to Chester to meet the other British regional kings. These kings are supposed to have rowed Edgar from his palace in Chester along the river Dee to the Church of St John. This boat trip to St John's Church is used by some authors to define the beginning of England as a country. Norman Davis in The Isles, for example, presents early moves towards a united country beginning in Alfred's reign and culminating in Edgar's river trip. It is certainly a powerful image of peace and harmony.
Coins from the reign of Edgar's predecessor Edward the Elder have been found beneath St John's. Saxon crosses also discovered here are on display.
The original Saxon church was greatly extended by the Normans. Building continued until the late thirteenth century. Part of this church was demolished during Henry VIII's dissolution of the monasteries. Although there have been collapses and renovations over the centuries, St John's maintains its symbolic link with England's earliest days.
Directions: St John's Church is in Vicar's Lane, Chester CH1 1SN. Click here for an interactive map centred on St John's Church, Chester.
Opening Times: The church is open daily, though fixed hours do not seem to be set.
telephone: 01244 403634