Friday, 12 July 2013

Holy Trinity, Bosham

There is a picture of Bosham church in the Bayeux tapestry. It is shown as a square building with a shingled roof, a line of windows and a big doorway flanked by little towers.
Harold, then Earl Godwin of Wessex, strides towards the arched door on his way to mass before embarking on his ill-fated voyage to Normandy where he was captured by William the Bastard...and the rest is history.
The artist who created this compelling image of a pious man going to make his peace with God before embarking on a perilous sea voyage probably had no idea of what Bosham church actually looked like. In those days, few people except aristocrats and sailors travelled further than a few miles from the place they were born. The Canterbury embroiderers seem to have designed a model church based more on jewelled reliquary boxes rather than the real thing.
But we today have little better idea of what Harold's church looked like. The surviving Saxon details - the south door, the tower with its round-headed windows and above all the glorious chancel arch - give clues. But alterations and restorations have changed the church beyond recognition.
You can get an impression of what the Saxon church looked like by standing in the nave and imagining tall walls where the nave arches are, punctured by small round-headed windows like the ones shown in the tapestry. Then imagine the chancel half the length it is today.
The picture that emerges is of a tall, dark mysterious space. Monks of the college that used to stand to the south of the church would be singing and praying most of the day. For us, it is just as far away as Bosham was for those embroiderers in Kent nearly a thousand years ago.