Finding St Wendreda’s relic: Historian makes breakthrough in Fenland church’s ancient mystery
HISTORIAN Trevor Bevis has rung the bells at St Wendreda's in March for 64 years - but one slice of the ancient church's history has always troubled him.
Now, after years of study, the 81-year-old believes he has finally discovered the burial site of St Wendreda's relic - just inches beneath the church floor.
Overlooked by a stained glass window of the saint herself, in the south aisle of the church, a stone slab is marked with a faint 'S' - thought to represent either saint of sanctus - and a tell-tale strip of copper.
Mr Bevis is certain that these subtle markings reveal the final resting place of St Wendreda - solving a secret which has baffled countless historians.
'I have puzzled over this for years,' said Mr Bevis, who published his 118th book earlier this year. 'But now I feel 99 per cent sure that the relic is right here. The other one per cent could only be achieved by digging it up.
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'Having a church with a unique dedication and an outstanding memorial roof is a rare thing in itself, but to have the local saint's final resting place is rarer still.'
St Wendreda, who introduced Christianity to March more than 1,300 years ago, was thought of as a healer by the town's inhabitants.
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Her relic, which was enshrined in gold, was carried into battle by Edmund Ironside in the hope that it would bring him victory and it was later used by King Canute to spread the faith across his Scandinavian kingdoms.
It was returned to March in 1346 but when Henry VIII established the Church of England in 1534, a Royal edict was passed ordering that all relics of the saints should be destroyed.
'It is known in a few instances relics were discreetly hidden from sight,' said Mr Bevis. 'At March the shrine containing Wendreda's mortal remains was dismantled and various images removed and destroyed.
'At a few places in the country relics were interred in the church building, out of sight out of mind.'
And Mr Bevis is now positive that St Wendreda's relic is one of those which 'survived out of respect for the woman whose memory was always held in high esteem in the Fens and far beyond.'
The delighted historian added: 'I shall be burnt at the stake now because I've shown you where she's hidden.'