In the biographies of the saints called the Acta Sanctorum which were preserved at the Abbey of Fécamp in Normandy it is said that he was born about 681 A.D., either in Devon or Cornwall, or more probably at Chidham, near Bosham, about 25 miles from Steyning. A birth in Chidham at that date would place him in the right time and area to be preached to by Wilfrid, the Apostle of Sussex (680-685), and would probably make Wilfrid the man who converted and baptised Cuthmann and his parents.
His legend states he was a shepherd who had to care for his paralysed mother after his father's death. When they fell on hard times and were forced to beg from door to door, he built a one-wheeled cart or wheelbarrow (with a rope from the handles over his shoulders taking part of the weight) in which he moved her around with him. They set out east, towards the rising sun, from his home and, even though the rope broke, he improvised a new one from withies, deciding that when that rope broke he would accept it as a sign from God to stop at that place and build a church. The withy rope broke at the place now called Steyning, upon which (according to his biography) he prayed:
"Father Almighty, you have brought my wanderings to an end; now enable me to begin this work. For who am I, Lord, that I should build a house to name? If I rely on myself, it will be of no avail, but it is you who will assist me. You have given me the desire to be a builder; make up for my lack of skill, and bring the work of building this holy house to its completion."
fter building a hut to accommodate his mother and himself, he began work on the church (now St Andrew's, Steyning, which in the 20th century instituted a Cuthmann chapel in his honour), with help from the locals. Whatever date we ascribe to Cuthman, this church was in existence by 857, for we know that King Æthelwulf of Wessex was buried there in that year.
Propers for Cuthmann of Steyning - Hermit and Church Builder
O GOD, who hast brought us near to an innumerable company of Angels, and to the spirits of just men made perfect: Grant us during our pilgrimage to abide in their fellowship, and in our Country to become partakers of their joy; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
The Epistle - Philippians 4:4-9.
The Gospel - St. Luke 6:17-23.
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