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    Abstract

    ORIENTATION OF CHURCHEs.—In a lecture on “The Orientation of Churches,” recently delivered to the members of the Sidmouth Literary Society, the Rev. John Griffith paid a whole-hearted tribute to the work of Sir Norman Lockyer in the study of stone circles from the astronomical point of view. His attention was first directed to the subject by an article by Sir Norman on “The Agricultural Divisions of the Year” in NATURE, in which it was pointed out that the orientations of stone circles grouped themselves around February, May, August, and November. This ‘farmer's year’ was based upon a division of the year with which he himself had been familiar from boyhood and, as he had at once pointed out to Sir Norman, coincided with the Celtic divisions of the year of tradition and folklore; while English fairs, as dated at the beginning of the last century, clustered around these four points. These facts indicate a continuous calendrical usage from the present day back to the stone age, over a period of 4000 years. Stimulated by this result of the application of astronomical methods to the study of ancient monuments, Mr. Griffith has devoted himself to investigating the orientation of the older churches of Great Britain and has obtained similar results. He finds that, allowing for a difference of five days in the calendar between the twelfth century, when most of those churches were built, and the present day, there appears to be evidence of dedication to a popular saint, who often differs from the official patron saint. In Wales the choice is generally limited to four saints, Mary, Michael, Peter, and John the Baptist, while everywhere the feast of St. James with St. Philip on Mayday is popular as occupying a seat which, since the dawn of traditional history, has been held by one pagan deity or another.

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