Rædwald Hoo?

The Sutton Hoo excavation of 1939 was the most incredible archaeological find in England. Inside a large burial mound was the remains of a ship, as well as various treasures, including the iconic helmet, above, now in the British Museum. It looks like a classic pagan burial, being in a mound rather than a church, though there are a couple of silver spoons included in the treasure which may say ‘Saulus’ and ‘Paulus’, highlighting the apostle’s conversion, and therefore hinting at the occupant’s own. Or perhaps the spoons were just included for their bullion value. It is a little ambiguous, which persuades Michael Wood, and others, that the burial might belong to Rædwald, an early Anglo-Saxon king of East Anglia.

Rædwald officially converted to Christianity, but his commitment was light. He had an altar to Christ built in his temple, while retaining the altar to his pagan gods. The Venerable Bede considered him an apostate, and this pagan-style tomb with the inclusion of a few possible Christian artefacts inside may be a fitting picture of the man’s faith.

Whoever’s the tomb is (and in the absence of a body, some question whether Sutton Hoo’s ‘Mound 1’ is even a tomb at all), he now waits to stand before the One whom he either served or ignored, or for whose affection he shared with unworthy, pagan deities. It isn’t the quality of the tomb that counts, nor the lifetime’s accrual of wealth. The length of the funeral, the eloquence of the tributes, the fondess of the memories- none of these really matter. Of import alone is what you did with Jesus Christ.

He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life. 1 John 5:12

Let’s hope that the man who once wore or owned this helmet went from a Saul to a Paul.