There was an abbey at the port of Fécamp as early as 662, although this was destroyed by Viking invasions two centuries later. By 915 William Longsword, son of Rollo, the first Duke of Normany, had chosen Fécamp as the site of a ducal palace and church. His son, Richard I established a new abbey there and Fécamp became a place of miracles and saints.

In the year 1001, when Saint William of Volpiano, the first Abbot, introduced a new style of reformed monasticism at Fécamp, it was much admired by the aristocracy. The Benedictine Abbey attracted immense wealth. Its influence dominated the religious foundations of Normandy and England until the death of William the Conqueror.

Edward the Confessor, King of England, gave several estates in Sussex to Fécamp Abbey. One of these was in Steyning. After the Conquest, when William de Braose built his castle nearby at Bramber, the monks of Fécamp accused him of encroaching on their rights. In 1086 they took their grievances to the court of William the Conqueror, who spent a whole day with his bishops and barons hearing the case. Fécamp was victorious. William de Braose was forced to make several humilliating concessions which particularly undermined the prosperity of his port and castle at Bramber.

(Source: Dudley G. Cary Elwes, in The Family of de Braose 1066-1326 (1883))

The Abbey of Fécamp was dedicated to the Trinity. Its holy relics included the blood of Christ and a bone from the arm of Mary Magdalene. Richard I and Richard II, Dukes of Normandy, are buried in the Abbey Church beneath a single marble tomb stone.

The Abbey Church displays a wealth of religious art. It has also preserved many extravagant chapels built by former abbots and benefactors. We had not thought it possible for so many treasures to survive and the overall impact of Saint Trinity's architecture and its contents is breathtaking.

The Abbey Church stands opposite the ruins of the ducal palace.

The monks of Fécamp were once famous for their Benedictine liqueur. This is now produced commercially and the Palais Benedictine at Fécamp has a range of products for sale, plus an art gallery and museum.

© Lynda Denyer, Steyning, 2000