Flower Festival - 23rd to 25th Sept 2022
We are celebrating the lives of pilgrims and what they bring to us today by hosting a flower festival Travelling Light 23 -25 September 2022. The flower displays will incorporate aspects of pilgrims and pilgrimages over the years and how they impacted thinking.
Download a Poster here - PDF or JPeg
A pilgrimage is often a spiritual journey to a holy place or shrine and there are reports of miracles being performed which drew people like magnets. Churches often had holy relics (bones, garments, or possessions) which carried a mysterious power, could cure ills, provide remission of sins, and even fulfill ambitions.
People go on pilgrimages for many reasons:
They may want to see places where Jesus walked, talked and lived.
They may want to do penance or seek forgiveness
And they may seek healing for an illness or deformity.
They also experienced joy travelling and meeting new people and places and maybe getting fit.
Canterbury was the third most popular pilgrimage in the world after Jerusalem and Rome and it was largely funded by pilgrims and therefore pilgrimages were vital.
Pilgrims mainly walked but some had donkeys or carts and some believed that if the last mile was done bare foot, they were more likely to be forgiven or healed so they left their shoes at slipper houses. These days a bicycle and other modes of travel are used. They had water bottles and simple clothes.
Miracles were recorded by monks using stained glass windows.
Chaucer wrote the famous Canterbury Tales where along the way, each pilgrim told a story to entertain the group and pass the time. One of the tales was the Nun’s Priest’s Tale which was about a fox, a cockerel (Chaunticleer), and his 7 wives, Pertelote being his favourite. The message was “never trust flatterers”.
The shrine of Thomas a Becket in Canterbury Cathedral attracted many pilgrims. His “blood” was sold in small vials and pilgrims believed if they could touch his bones by crawling inside the tomb, they could be cured of blindness, epilepsy or even leprosy. Candles were used to keep watch over his tomb to make sure none of the gifts from the pilgrims were stolen.
At one time, there was a wax chamber in Canterbury Cathedral where candles of all sizes and shapes were made for the Pilgrims to buy. The larger the candle, the more likely they were to be forgiven. This was a huge source of revenue for the Cathedral. Doves and other sacrifices could also be bought – the sacrifice had to be pure and pilgrims could not ensure an animal they might bring for a sacrifice would not become ill on the journey.
Pilgrims set sail from Plymouth in the Mayflower in 1620 and landed in Cape Cod in North America. A year later they held a Thanksgiving Dinner to celebrate the first harvest which they shared with the Native Americans. The Indians showed the pilgrims how to plant the corn by placing a dead fish with the kernel of corn to act as fertilizer.
The scallop shell is the emblem adopted by pilgrims and it is seen on backpacks, paths, walls, doors, and stationery. Baptism is considered the start of the Christian journey, a child’s pilgrimage towards heaven. The shell can be used for eating, drinking water or as a souvenir from the shrine of St James of Compostela (Spain).
John Bunyan wrote “Pilgrim’s Progress” while in prison. It is a dream, which a pilgrim, Christian, experiences while living in the City of Destruction. He is weeping and wondering how to avoid destruction of himself, his family, and his city. His journey involves ups and downs; mountains and valleys, a narrow gate, the Slough of Despair. These symbolize the trials and temptations we face in life. One of the temptations was the offer of three gorgeous daughters: Lust of the Flesh, Lust of the Eyes and Pride of Life. He could marry all three and inherit everything. He managed to resist. At last they reach the River of the Water of Life and pass into the Celestial City: “Behold the city shone like the Sun and Streets were paved with gold…..”
Travelling parties met up in inns along the route and at night they would gather round a large fire. One of the party would tell a story, often a delightful comedy and sometimes a sermon.
And, finally, in the churchyard we see cut-outs of a group of pilgrims on a journey, with different backgrounds but with one aim – “to be a pilgrim”.