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Church of St. Mary
by Stephanie James
T H E C H U R C H O F S T. M A R Y
The Church of St. Mary in Sompting is one of
the most striking examples of Anglo-Saxon
architecture in all of England. Its primary
distinguishing feature is the Rhenish Helm
or Rhineland Helmet of the tower. This is
the only known example of this style with roots
in the Anglo-Saxon period. See the detailed
essay for more information.
The date of construction is not
known, but the church was mentioned in the
Domesday Book compiled under the direction of
William the Conqueror in 1086. By 1154 the
church had been granted to the Order of the
Temple of Solomon in Jerusalem, more commonly
known as the Knights Templar.
The Knights Templar rebuilt the nave
and chancel on the original Saxon plan. They also
added the present north and south transepts in
By 1324 a series of political events put the
Order of theKnights of the Temple of
Jerusalem in a precarious political position.
The Pope had formally dissolved the Templar Order
and decreed that their property must be
transferred to another order of Crusaders. In
1324 Edward II formally transferred the property
of the Knights Templar to the Order of the
Knights of the Hospital of St. John of Jerusalem,
often known as the Knights of St. Johnor
the Hospitallers. By 1540 the tides had
turned against the Hospitallers. The Reformation
Parliament of Henry VIII dissolved the Order of
the Hospital of St. John in 1540. The much of the
Church at Sompting fell into ruin.
In 1963 Major G.N. Tristram
presented the patronage of the Church of St. Mary
to the re-founded order of the Hospital of St.
& Historical Discussion