January 5, 2022 1.00 pm This story is over 22 months old

BBC Two archaeology show visits Lincolnshire Fens to explore possible site of Saint Guthlac

Saint Guthlac is believed to have traded his riches to live like a hermit

Lincolnshire featured on a fascinating archaeology programme on the BBC this week, as excavators sought to find evidence of the existence of a monk turned hermit who became somewhat of an iconic figure in Christianity.

Digging for Britain, which aired on BBC Two on Tuesday, January 4 and is hosted by Alice Roberts, included a visit to Crowland in the Lincolnshire Fens, where it is believed that the Christian Saint Guthlac resided during his special pilgrimage closer to God.

Historians say that Guthlac achieved celebrity status in the Christian community in the seventh century, after denouncing his riches as a monk, and opting to live instead as a hermit; choosing Lincolnshire as the location for this.

Digging for Britain went to Crowland in Lincolnshire for a segment. | Photo: BBC

Despite there being very little hard evidence of his life in Crowland, it is understood that he did this to seek a closer connection with God, eating tiny bits of bread at a time and drinking muddy water as the ultimate sacrifice of his wealth.

The BBC programme visited the site in Crowland where Archaeologist Hugh Willmott has been eagerly searching for any unique discoveries that might help confirm Guthlac’s existence here in Lincolnshire, some 1,300 years after his death.

Hugh Willmott has been hunting for evidence of Guthlac’s hermit lifestyle in Crowland. | Photo: BBC

Willmott said on Digging for Britain: “We know from historical sources that Guthlac came to Crowland in 699, and lived in splendid isolation.

“This site is quite a desolate wasteland, so it’s ideal to seek solitude from the world.”

There have been plenty of unique finds along the way. | Photo: BBC

Hugh and his team of excavators have been forensically sifting through the area to find any evidence to connect Guthlac’s existence to our county, with fairly typical Anglo-Saxon pottery being found, as well as worked flint and other prehistoric activity.

One of the supervisors on the dig, Duncan Wright, uncovered what he believed to be the foundations of a large structure, possible a medieval church built in honour of Guthlac following his death in 714.

It has been suggested that this may be the foundations of a large structure, dating back to around the time of Guthlac’s death in the early 8th century. | Photo: BBC

Guthlac’s presence can still be felt in Crowland to this day, with people travelling from far and wide to see his shrine, a monument being built for him shortly after his passing, and Crowland Abbey being designed in his memory.

Historians on the programme described Crowland as a “roadmap to divinity” in the eyes of Guthlac at this time, as they sought after the reasons behind his holy journey of riches to rags in the name of God.

The tale of Saint Guthlac is synonymous with the Lincolnshire Fens. | Photo: BBC

You can watch the full episode of Digging for Britain, featuring the discoveries at Crowland, as well as a 1,600-year-old Roman mosaic under a crop farm in Rutland, on BBC iPlayer.