The above is a copy of an old postcard showing St Nicholas Bramber
“The oldest Norman Church in Sussex”
An image of how the bridge over Bramber and Beeding may have looked.
The building on the bridge is the monks chapel named after Mary Magdalane.
Bramber Castle as it may have looked.
In the bottom left corner the church and bridge can be seen.
St Nicholas Bramber church as it looks today.
The Norman Church
In 1170 William the Conqueror made his friend Lanfranc Archbishop of Canterbury, with the job of reforming and organising the English church.
William could be hard and ruthless – but he admired and trusted Lanfranc as a monk of great faith and ability.
Norman arches in Winchester Cathedral
The old Saxon diocese (areas under a bishop’s care) were changed to make them easier to manage, and a grand new cathedral was built to be the spiritual centre for each. In Winchester the new Norman cathedral still has the biggest nave in Europe and it was built beside the old Saxon building. When it was finished, the bones of Saint Swithun were moved with great ceremony to a new shrine – and then the old building was knocked down. Big new churches were built in every town and village and few of the little Saxon churches have survived.
Norman font in Winchester Cathedral
Archbishop Lanfranc reformed the leadership of the English churches and monasteries, bringing four bishops and twenty-two abbots from Normandy to replace those who were not living as they should. Good English bishops were left in place – two (Ethelwig and Wulfstan) even became saints. ‘Canon’ law was brought over from the continent to guide church life.
Saxon and Norman priests wore brightly coloured robes, very different from the plain black we usually see today. Many English priests were also married (they were all supposed to be celibate – unmarried). That was something Lanfranc did not manage to change!
Archbishop Lanfranc died at Canterbury in 1089
The nave in Chichester Cathedral
Photograph by Mike Strange