1. History St Margaret of Antioch


Welcome to the Parish Church of St Margaret.  In the village of Rottingdean in the City of Brighton and Hove.

For well over a thousand years Rottingdean’s village green, pond, five public houses and of course its iconic windmill have attracted many visitors including French invaders and smugglers. By entering through the church door today you have followed countless thousands who have made the same journey.  For centuries men, women and children have entered these portals to praise and worship God.  To bring their children to be baptized, to marry their beloved and to bury their dead.  They come to pray for all sorts and conditions.  

The church was not originally named St Margaret of Antioch.  Men returning from the Crusades brought with them tales of Margaret and as a result a cult developed around her. Churches soon began to be named after her.

Actually very little was known of Margaret before the eleventh century.  Legend has it that she was left motherless at an early age. Her father was a priest named Theodosius, but she was actually raised by a foster mother. This woman was a Christian peasant and under her influence the child also became a follower of Christ. 

Margaret was a poor girl living under pagan rule and this put her Christian faith to the test.  Olybrius, the pagan governor seeing her grace and beauty while she was tending her sheep, fell in love with her.  She was carried away to his house, where she professed herself a Christian.  No amount of threats could shake her faith.  Finally Olybrius lost patience with her and she was subjected to long torture and thrown into a dungeon.  There the devil presented himself to her in the form of a hideous dragon, endeavouring to frighten her from her faith.  She remained strong, and advanced before him with a cross in her hand and effectively overcame him.  Through all her suffering she spoke to the people unceasingly of her Saviour and his love.  Olybrius finally summoned the whole city to attend her trial, hoping the publicity would subdue her.  Her answer to all his bribes, was to declare her joy in finding God.  To silence her they took her beyond the outside of the town where they beheaded her.

To many St Margaret became the feminine counterpart of St George, and is generally represented piercing a dragon with a long cross or spear, or, as in the beautiful window in this church, standing with one foot upon a dragon – purity triumphant.

When Margaret’s name and legend were brought from the East by the first crusaders, so greatly was she venerated in England that no less than 238 churches have been dedicated to her.  The most famous being the Church of St Margaret, Westminster, the Parish Church to the British Houses of Parliament in London.

She is considered by many to be the Patron Saint of pregnancy and childbirth.

St Margaret’s ‘feast day’ is celebrated with prayers and thanksgiving on July 20th each year in church.

Standing at the step leading to the high altar, you will be facing the large east window.  Now turn to your left.  You will see a window portraying St Margaret of Antioch.  This is one of the seven beautiful painted glass windows in the church by Sir Edward Burne-Jones, of whom more later.

The Latin inscription under St Margaret’s window translates as follows:

Painted o’er my Chancel bright,
 Three Archangels shed their light,
 Ever watching: on the right
Stands the Virgin sainted.
 With Gods Mother face to face
Trusting in her guardian grace 
Now I, Margaret, take my place,
 In this lancet painted.