The “Madonna” of Wilmington, East Sussex

My earlier post on traipsing about the Sussex Downs triggered thoughts on one of my favorite places in East Sussex, the church of St Mary and St Peter in Wilmington. You can find this village nestled between the A27 and the Downs. Its most famous feature is the hill drawing, the Long Man of Wilmington, but the church is fascinating.

St. Mary and St. Peter was founded in 1,000 AD and was associated with a Benedictine Priory. In the churchyard looms an ancient yew tree, girded by chains Jacob Marley would envy (or not), which is reputed to be at least 1,000 years old. It’s a big tree.

The church feature that I’m most drawn to is a small carved figure in the chancel wall above an arched window. There’s no clear means of knowing who it represents, but, according to a church note,  some believe it to be an early Norman representation of the Virgin Mary. I find the carving, in its placement and in its simplicity, touching.

Normally, I resist taking photos inside of churches. I decided on this rule while I was in St Peter’s Basilica one day. I was hovering near a side chapel where a priest was saying Mass, and I noticed a fellow tourist snapping pics of the priest and his flock. Despite my own enthusiasm about the scene, that action struck me as intrusive. However, I do own up to taking photos in two churches–St Mary and St Peter, Wilmington and Temple Church, London (the latter prior to Da Vinci Code hysteria. There. Now I can play smug) because there’s something about these two buildings I find extraordinarily compelling. And I like to be reminded of that once in a while.

Author: Jacqueline A. Pollard

City Walker. Photo-taker. Lit PhD.

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