St Wilfrid and West Sussex
The start of Christianity in SussexWe have a lot to be grateful to St Wilfrid for. Although he died over 1300 years ago in the year 709, you can still see the long term impact of St Wilfrid's work everywhere you go in West Sussex in the form of the magnificent countryside churches - even though these were built some time after his death.
St Wilfrid is credited as the man who introduced Christianity to Pagan Sussex. Without St Wilfrid, some of the first Saxon wooden churches might not have been built and the fine stone buildings which replaced them might not be quite as prolific.
Landing at Selsey Wilfrid was a bishop from Northumbria from a noble family. He had studied all over Europe as a young man. Already a mover and shaker in the world of church politics, he landed on the shoreline of Selsey with the aim of spreading the word of God amongst the local South Saxon people, who worshipped a mixture of Roman and Britannic pagan gods at that time.
The key to his success was the support of the Aethelwealh, the King of the South Saxons, who doubteless saw Christianity as a way of tightening the grip of his power over the people of Sussex.
It is likely that Wilfrid was every bit as much a powerful nobleman as a pious saint in outlook. He was undoubtedly a highly impressive individual whose personality demanded respect and Wilfrid was not afraid of tough tasks like Christianising Sussex either.
After Sussex After five years St Wilfrid had further fish to fry however and moved on to the Midland kingdom of Mercia in 686, leaving Sussex behind. Eventually he returned north to see out the end of his days.
St Wilfrid's memory still plays an important role in local life around Selsey and St Wilfrid's Hospice in Chichester is named after him
- Roman Conquest of Sussex
- The South Saxons in Sussex
- Why St Wilfrid's landing place at Selsey lies under the sea
- West Sussex historical timeline
- Bognor Regis
- Burgess Hill
- East Grinstead
- Haywards Heath