Thursday, 2 April 2009

Holy trinity, Bosham

Bosham is a lovely village, set on the harbour of the same name, near Chichester, in Sussex. It's a magnet for tourists, with attractive houses that go right down to the harbour. At high tides, the sea laps along the quayside road, a trap for drivers unwary enough to park in the wrong place.

It's also an ancient place: the Romans founded a settlement here, close to their magnificent palace at Fishbourne, and it was from here that King Harold set sail for Normandy on his fateful trip to meet Duke William - more of that later. It is also said to be the place where King Canute tried to hold back the tide.

The church itself is set close to the harbour. It was mentioned by Bede in the eighth century, and St Wilfrid met a group of Irish monks who had settled here in 641 AD. Their leader, Dicul, is said to be buried in the crypt, and the cell in which he lived can be visited.

The present building is largely Saxon, and is one of the most complete of its age in the UK, dating from around 1000 AD. However, the base of the church is probably that of a Roman basilica (from which some 5th century fragments survive) and there are some later additions: the aisles, upper part of the tower and chancel extension date from the 13th century, and there are furnishings and a remarkable marble font dating from the 12th century.

But what the church is really famous for is its depiction in the Bayeaux Tapestry, which shows King Harold worshipping here prior to his journey to Normandy. It shows the chancel arch, which makes it probably the earliest surviving British building depicted in art. That visit set in train the events that would result in the Norman conquest and Harold's death. History indeed!

High Street, Bosham, nr. Chichester, West Sussex PO18 8HX

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