Pilgrimage and England’s Cathedrals Past and Present

Pilgrimage and England’s Cathedrals Past and Present

The Centre for the Study of Christianity and Culture (CSCC) has recently completed a 3 year interdisciplinary research project into pilgrimage past and present, which has produced new and exciting information about why and (more importantly) how people are engaging with sacred places. The results from the four case study cathedrals have significant implications for churches and chapels of all sizes and denominations and offer hard evidence for what people are experiencing now and what they are seeking.

The project looked at identifying and analysing the core dynamics of pilgrimage and sacred sites in England from the 11th to 21st centuries, assessing the growing significance of English Cathedrals as sacred/heritage sites today and inform management of and public engagement with these iconic buildings. This is set against the background of worldwide growth of pilgrimage and increasing importance of sacred sites.

Put more simply the research asked two key questions: Why did pilgrimage matter in the past and why does it still matter today? It focused on the rich histories and contemporary stories of four important English Cathedrals: Canterbury, Durham, Westminster and York.

The findings will provide practical advice on the different ways that cathedrals and churches can offer a meaningful experience to all their visitors.

Have a look at the website where there are some fascinating blogs including one written by Dr Tiina Sepp who undertook the Way of St James between Burgos to Santiago de Compostela first in June 2003 and again in 2004. She found some truth in the saying ‘in summer there are many people and few pilgrim; in winter there are few people, but they are all pilgrims‘. The blog that follows looks at how the weather determined when medieval pilgrims undertook their pilgrimages and that there was, perhaps unsurprisingly a high season between July and September. But then there were also special winter celebrations such as the 15th century celebrations at Canterbury on Thomas Becket’s 29th December feast. ‘For those seeking out meaningful encounters with a saint, then as now, they might find being a winter pilgrim to be a much more fulfilling experience’.