Orthodox Christian Eastern England

Foreword: For the Orthodox Christian Faith, the Coming King and the People of God in Eastern England, Essex, Suffolk, Norfolk and the Isle of Ely

Today, in this period of the last coming of Orthodoxy in the twenty-first century, Orthodox centres are being established in the large towns and cities of Eastern England. Today’s examples are not being inspired from Ireland (itself inspired from Jerusalem via Egypt), but from Holy Rus (itself inspired from Jerusalem via New Rome), but otherwise all remains the same. On this tenth anniversary of the establishment of our church in Colchester, we understand that we have only just begun. Much remains to be done and, building on the foundations of old, we ask God’s blessing on ourselves. Below we recall the history of our Orthodox Eastern England, our present and our hopes for the future.

Our Background

There were certainly Orthodox Christians in what later became Eastern England (East Anglia and Essex) as early as the third century, if not before. A notable centre for them was the first Roman capital of Britain in Camulodunum (Colchester), which may have had its own bishop at that time. As proof the foundations of an early fourth century Orthodox church and its cemetery were uncovered here only in the 1980s.

However, the four ancient Orthodox centres of what had come to be Eastern England were established in the apostolic period of the first coming of Orthodoxy in the seventh century. The Faith came in the same way as the Eastern English had settled – by sea and waterway, around the coasts and along the many rivers. Whereas the foundations in Essex came about through the Apostle of Essex, St Cedd (pronounced ‘Ched’), the other foundations had been due, directly and indirectly, to St Felix, Apostle of East Anglia. This was centuries before the territorial divisions of East Anglia and the terms Suffolk, Norfolk and the Isle of Ely came into existence.

An icon of St. Felix of East Anglia An icon of St. Felix of East Anglia
Although St Cedd was English and St Felix Burgundian and they spoke very similar languages, their missions to Eastern England were both Irish-inspired. Coming as a missionary from Burgundy in France in 630 and probably consecrated by Archbishop Honorius of Canterbury to preach in East Anglia, Bishop Felix has been inspired by the Irish St Columban. It was he who had founded the monastery at Luxeuil in Burgundy, where St Felix had met his sponsor St Sigebert, the future King of East Anglia. In England Bishop Felix also certainly met the Irish missionary Bishop Aidan from the Irish-founded monastery of Lindisfarne. And the Irish-speaking Bishop Cedd, arriving in Essex a generation later in 653, had learned his Orthodoxy from the same St Aidan of Lindisfarne. Here is what they began in each of the four parts of Eastern England.

  1. Suffolk

This was the first region to be evangelized, from the southern diocesan centre founded in c. 630 by St Felix in the Roman coastal fortress known as Burgh. This centre was called Domnoc – probably from the Irish word Domnach, meaning the Lord’s house – and now identified as Felixstowe, so called in memory of the monastery of St Felix. Domnoc was near the estuary of the River Deben which led to the East Anglian royal palace at Rendlesham. This was near the royal burial site at Sutton Hoo and not far from the port of Dunwich (meaning perhaps ‘the port in the dunes’).

Ruins of Bury St. Edmunds Monastery, Suffolk (photo by Irina Lapa) Ruins of Bury St. Edmunds Monastery, Suffolk (photo by Irina Lapa)

All these sites where St Felix was active are in what is now Suffolk, where he probably also founded a church along the River Stour in Sudbury. His diocesan centre was abandoned during the heathen invasion in 869 and transferred to Hoxne in the far north of Suffolk in c. 900, precisely where St Edmund, King of East Anglia, had been martyred in 869. This is represented today by Bury St Edmunds in Suffolk, where St Felix probably founded a monastery and is near the geographical centre of Eastern England. The fact that Suffolk was the first region in the east to be evangelized and where so many churches were built led to it being called ‘Salig Suffolk’ or Holy Suffolk.

Local Saints

Sts Sigebert (+ c. 636), Felix (+ c. 647), Jurmin (+ 654), Botolph (+ 680), Edmund (+ 869).

Holy Places

Iken, Hoxne.

Present (in bold) & Projected Orthodox Parishes in Urban Centres

Bury St Edmunds, Ipswich, Lowestoft, Felixstowe.

  1. Norfolk

Icon of St. Aidan, with life. Icon of St. Aidan, with life.
This centre was founded in c. 630 by St Felix in South Elmham (called ‘the old minster’), now in north Suffolk and established as a diocesan centre in 673. Nearby there was a church at Rumburgh dedicated to St Felix and two localities called Flixton, which also witness to his presence. St Felix was aided by an Irish monk sent to him perhaps by St Aidan. This was St Fursey (with Sts Dicul, later at Dickleburgh, and Sts Foillan and Ultan), who founded a monastery in c. 631 on an inlet from the coast in the Roman fortress at Burgh (Burgh Castle, now in the far north of Suffolk).

St Felix was very active in what is now Norfolk, founding churches along the river systems in the east at Reedham and Loddon, and in the north-west at Babingley, Shernborne and perhaps Flitcham. In 955 the centre in South Elmham was transferred to what is now Norfolk to a place which was called North Elmham in memory of its origin. The centre then briefly went to Thetford and today is represented by Norwich.

Local Saints

Sts Felix (+ c. 647), Fursey (+ 650), Withburgh (+ c. 743), Edmund (+ 869), Walstan (+ 1016).

Holy Places

East Dereham, Bawburgh.

Present (in bold) & Projected Orthodox Parishes in Urban Centres

Norwich, King’s Lynn.

  1. Essex

Today’s Essex (previously this had included much of what is now London) was evangelized from the diocesan centre founded soon after 653 by St Cedd. This ‘cathedral on the marshes’, most of which still stands today, is on the east coast of Essex in the former Roman fortress of Othona (Ythanceaster) which is now called Bradwell-on-Sea. St Cedd was active elsewhere around the coasts of Essex but today’s Orthodox centre is in Colchester, founded on St Edmund’s Feast exactly ten years ago.

Local Saints

Sts Cedd (+ 664) and Osyth (+ c. 700).

Holy Place

Bradwell on Sea.

Present (in bold) & Projected Orthodox Parishes in Urban Centres

Colchester, Southend, Harlow.

  1. The Isle of Ely (today the Marches of Eastern Cambridgeshire)

An Orthodox icon of St. Etheldreda (Aethelthryth, Audrey) of Ely An Orthodox icon of St. Etheldreda (Aethelthryth, Audrey) of Ely
This was evangelized from the monastery founded by St Felix in Soham, today in eastern Cambridgeshire, and from nearby Exning on the western edge of Suffolk, the birthplace of St Felix’s spiritual daughter, St Audrey. However, it was only in 673 that she founded the monastery in Ely, possibly on the site of a chapel founded by St Felix earlier. Ely came to be the centre of a diocese in 1109.

Local Saints

Sts Felix (+ c. 647), Owin (+ c. 670), Audrey (+ 679), Huna (+ 690), Wendreda (+ 8 c.).

Holy Place with a relic of St Audrey


Present (in bold) & Projected Orthodox Parishes in Urban Centres

Wisbech, Ely.

Used with permission.
See also
The Synaxis of All Saints of Britain and Ireland The Synaxis of All Saints of Britain and Ireland
Archpriest Andrew Phillips
The Synaxis of All Saints of Britain and Ireland The Synaxis of All Saints of Britain and Ireland.
Archpriest Andrew Phillips
On August 21, 2007, the Holy Synod of the Russian Church officially approved the veneration of all the saints who shone forth in the lands of Britain and Ireland, blessing the annual celebration of their memory on the third Sunday after Pentecost. This feast is in honor of all the saints who lived in England, Ireland, Wales and Scotland until 1054, when most of Western Europe tragically broke away from the One Church.
“The Choice is in Our Hands.” An Interview With Archpriest Andrew Phillips “The Choice is in Our Hands.” An Interview With Archpriest Andrew Phillips
Dimitry Lapa
“The Choice is in Our Hands.” An Interview With Archpriest Andrew Phillips “The Choice is in Our Hands.” An Interview With Archpriest Andrew Phillips
Archpriest Andrew Phillips, Dmitry Lapa
It is no good us Russian Orthodox saying, “It cannot happen here.” Remember the Tower in Siloam. “Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.” (Luke 13, 4-5). If we do not go to Church, at least attempt to live a Church life, the same thing will happen to us, our children and grandchildren.
Orthodox Christianity and the Old English Church Orthodox Christianity and the Old English Church
Archrpriest Andrew Phillips
Orthodox Christianity and the Old English Church Orthodox Christianity and the Old English Church
Archpriest Andrew Phillips
In an age where unity is so much sought after, it is thus our task to present to the reader some little part of the unity of that Christian Commonwealth, as it can be seen in the history of Anglo-Saxon England, most particularly at its beginning and at its ending. This we do with the wish that one day this former Commonwealth will be spiritually drawn together once more.
Debbie Berry2/8/2019 6:05 pm
Hi there,

Where is God's love in all of these discussions? This is all so worldly and fearful, what has happened to the practice of loving our neighbours and our 'enemies'? Know thyself and judge not lest you be judged as wanting. We should all pray for one another, forgive and forget and be thankful for our time here on earth that gives us the opportunity to grow spiritually, instead of growing in worldly ignorance.

God bless us all,

Your sister in Christ,

Debbie x
Rdr A ndreas Moran12/29/2018 9:25 pm
Apologies for commenting off topic, but I must ask Anthony if he is serious in asserting that both world wars and the poisonings in Salisbury were caused by Britain? And does he not realise that if Cyprus had not been under British rule in WWII it would have been taken by the Nazis with all the consequences which would surely have followed?
Anon.12/28/2018 11:05 pm
Surely you have not forgotten the atrocities of the papists? Were we "western white men", as you call us, simply supposed to lay on our bellies and wait to be murdered? NO! We fought back! Our men like Prince Wilhelm the Silent and others led armies of starving, shoeless peasants with pikes against the might of the papist Hapsburgs and secured liberty for their children through their heroic sacrifice! Perhaps you ought to read a little about the suffering of the Carpathian-Russians before being so smug! I, as an American, would fight the English with every bone in my body if it became necessary, but to imply they were on par with the Papist dragon is simply disingenuous.
Rdr Andreas Moran12/28/2018 9:03 pm
Responding to Anthony, as someone of Irish descent, I can say that the Irish suffered far more from the English over 700 years than Cyprus did in 80 years. He should know that the ruling elites of countries are not the people, and no country on earth is ‘holy and Orthodox’. And why, having attained independence, did so many Cypriots come to Britain if it as awful as he says? As to the article, readers should know that the East of England has had the light of Orthodoxy for some years, and Orthodox churches have long existed in or near almost all of the places the author lists as having churches of his jurisdiction planted there or where it is proposed they be planted.
Anthony12/27/2018 9:08 pm
Hi all! I have to admit it's always a great struggle for me to imagine a country like England having ever been holy and Orthodox. They have to be one of the most poisonous nations on this earth today. I think however, that we Orthodox can learn a great deal from the Englesi, and how dangerous apostasy can be, simply by observing how a once-holy nation could fall to such lows - colonisation, two world wars, and yes the Skripals. Not to mention the fact that their institutionalised ''church'' was founded by a murderer and adulterer by the name of Henry. Oh Henry. How truly sad.
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