In the late Middle Ages a steady stream of pilgrims would have travelled along an old route between the cathedral cities of Chester and Lichfield. Some of those pilgrims would have been Irish since Chester was the main port for those in the northern half of the island, so the favoured route to Canterbury, or even to Rome or Jerusalem, would have included visiting the shrines of St Werburgh at Chester, St Wulfad in Stone and St Chad in Lichfield.
Now after an interval of almost 500 years, pilgrims are walking these routes again along the Two Saints Way which is a 92 mile pilgrimage route between the cathedral cities of Chester and Lichfield. It has been set up in such a way as to recover some of the aspects that were important in medieval pilgrimage but also to apply them in a contemporary fashion.
Pilgrimage - journeying forward to the ancient future.
In the last twenty years or so has been a revival of interest in the idea and practice of pilgrimage. It’s noticeable that spiritual or faith based tourism is one of the fastest growing segments in the travel industry. The number of pilgrims of all faiths and none walking the famous Camino to Santiago in Spain has increased from a mere 2,500 in 1985 to 216,000 in 2013. A lot of those walkers are young people.
In the UK new and revived pilgrimage routes, such as St Cuthbert's Way from Melrose to the Holy Island of Lindisfarne, have been established and are proving popular as well as benefiting the local economy. The Two Saints Way ties in with the new mood of enthusiasm for the active spirituality of pilgrimage and will set the modern pilgrim on a contemporary quest for ancient wisdom.
Pilgrimage for Wholeness and Healing in Body, Mind and Soul
A major motivation for medieval pilgrims was the idea of going on pilgrimage to seek healing in body, mind and soul. The Two Saints Way Project is recovering that emphasis in a contemporary way by encouraging modern pilgrims to walk with an intentionality about seeking to become healthy in body, mind and soul. We can supply a draft meditation guide to help pilgrims with this.
Reviving pilgrimage customs
During the inaugural pilgrimage, we revived a number of the ancient pilgrimage customs including carrying stones to Stone and walking the last miles from Farewell into Lichfield along Cross in Hand Lane, holding small palm wood crosses in our hands. Then at Lichfield Cathedral our feet were washed in the pedilavium which was probably last used used by pilgrims in this way nearly 500 years ago.
This year a guidebook will be published and that is already available in draft form.
For more information please visit the website www.twosaintsway.co.uk
Marg Hardcastle, Project leader
Two Saints Way Local coordinators