A PILGRIM GROWS UP
"He moreover objected the base and low estate and condition of those that were chiefly the Pilgrims of the times in which they lived; also their Ignorance, and want of understanding in all natural science. . . . And I thought again, this Shame tells me what Men are, but it tells me nothing what God or the word of God is." JOHN BUNYAN: The Pilgrim's Progress, Part I.
UNTIL the Dissolution of the Monasteries a century earlier, the Church at which. John Bunyan was christened had been part of a Benedictine convent. Countess Judith, niece of William the Conqueror, had founded it in 1078 -- as an attempt, the villagers believed, to quieten her troubled conscience.
Three years before, she had inadvertently betrayed her husband Waltheof, the Saxon Earl of Northampton, who had secretly taken part in a plot against the Normans. Her endeavours to atone for his judicial murder were apparently unsuccessful, for long after Elstow Abbey had risen to wealth and fame, stories were told of a lady in white who, century after century, haunted the nunnery or flitted, disconsolate, across the village green.
By the time of John's birth, Elstow was already an old village which had seen much history. Tradition said that it had been a camping place for Offa, King of Mercia; and even before the Saxons it was known to the Romans. Its very name recalled the saintly Helena, mother of Constantine the Great, who was reported to have discovered in Palestine the Cross on which Christ was crucified.
The Saxons, adding her name to their own word "Stowe", or "station", produced the combination "Helenstowe", which was later abbreviated -- sometimes with the aspirate, and sometimei without -- to the name generally used in John's day.
Ancient as the village was, it had never known such splendour as the Abbey brought to it. For nearly five hundred years the Abbess, exercising the despotic power of an unopposed local 'magistrate, held sway in Elstow. The Abbey Church, dedicated
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Publication information: Book title: Valiant Pilgrim:The Story of John Bunyan and Puritan England. Contributors: Vera Brittain - Author. Publisher: Macmillan. Place of publication: New York. Publication year: 1950. Page number: 51.
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