Plan to create Cluniac banner to celebrate importance of Lewes Priory

Cluniac banner launch at St John the Bpatist Church in Lewes.
Cluniac banner launch at St John the Bpatist Church in Lewes.

An exciting project to create a banner which will bring together images of the Cluniac sites in the United Kingdom was launched in Lewes this week.

The Mayor of Lewes Dr Michael Turner and mayoress Anne Turner were at St John the Baptist Church in Southover to announce the plan on Tuesday April 21.

It was inspired by embroidered banners from Cluniac sites in France and Switzerland seen by members of the Lewes Priory Trust in Cluny, France, last September.

The trust has been developing links with other Cluniac sites in Europe.

Lewes Priory, which now lies in ruins after it was dissolved by Henry VIII in the 16th century, was once one of the most important sites in the Cluniac network of priories established throughout Europe in medieval times.

A generous grant has been provided by Lewes Town Council and support has come from the East Sussex Federation of Women’s Institutes.

Dr Turner said: “Lewes Town Council are pleased to support the WI and Lewes Priory Trust in their embroidery project following on from the 1264 Battle of Lewes embroidery.

“The banner will make yet another significant contribution to Lewes history and will also be a further attraction for tourists to our historic town.”

The launch venue of St John the Baptist Church in Southover High Street was once the guesthouse of Lewes Priory.

Chairman of the Lewes Priory Trust Sy Morse Brown said: “We are grateful for the support of the town council.

“This project is an opportunity for people to be involved in creating a work of art that will bring together for the first time, images of the Cluniac sites in the UK and reinforce the pre-eminence of Lewes Priory.

“The banner will be used at events locally and nationally and will cement the relationship between Lewes Priory and other UK Cluniac sites.”

Volunteers are needed to work cross stitch squares.

All materials and patterns will be supplied by the project organisers.

If you are interested in taking part email or call 01273 483462.

St John the Baptist Church in Southover was built in the 12th century as a hospice for the priory.

It only became a parish church in the 13th century.

The church contains the 12th century tombstone of Gundrada de Warenne, joint-founder of Lewes Priory, which was uncovered while building the railway through Lewes during the 19th century.

Cluniac monks from France arrived in Lewes in the 11th century where they established the first Cluniac priory in England. The Priory survived for 450 years until the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1537. At this time it owned more than 20,000 acres in Sussex with other lands elsewhere, was the patron of 19 parish churches in the county and owned two houses for the poor in Lewes. Today stone from the Priory has been used around Lewes in other buildings, such as Southover Grange, while its ruins just off Cockshut Road have been turned into park which is open to the public.