1,000 years of Bury St Edmunds Abbey

15th March 2022

Pilgrimage is at the heart of a year of celebrations to mark 1,000 years of Bury St Edmunds Abbey in honour of the monks who founded it.

The celebrations to mark 1,000 years since King Canute founded the Abbey of St Edmund in 1020 have been delayed from 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic,but this year will be reinstated with pilgrimages featuring as the highlight of an exciting programme of planned events.

In 1020, King Canute had a stone church built for Edmund’s body and thirteen Benedictine monks from St Benet’s at Hulme in Norfolk, and seven from Ely, arrived.

This marked the beginning of the Abbey of St Edmund. It became a site of great pilgrimage and from this stone church the Abbey grew to become one of the richest, largest and most powerful Benedictine monasteries in Medieval England with people coming from all over Europe to visit the Shrine of Saint Edmund, the first Patron Saint of England.

The Cathedral’s 2022 pilgrimages will honour those 20 monks.

The first pilgrimage will set off from Ely Cathedral to walk the 30 miles to St Edmundsbury Cathedral and the second, will retrace the monks’ steps from St Benet’s Abbey in Holme, Norfolk, a pilgrimage of some 80 miles.

Each day will be led by experienced walkers who have ‘tested’ the routes.

The Ely pilgrimage is 4 – 5 April 2022 and will last for two days starting with a Eucharist at 8am for those who want to join, the pilgrimage begins from the steps of the Cathedral West Front, before starting the 15-mile walk to Mildenhall along the River Lark.

St Mary’s will host tea and cake and Evening Prayers at 7.00 pm. Day two is another 15-mile walk, from Mildenhall to Bury St Edmunds where a special Choral Evensong awaits.

There will be a Pilgrimage Day in Bury St Edmunds on 6 April with talks, discussion, and practical information on the history of pilgrimage to Bury St Edmunds and its relevance today with a tour of different locations ending in a short service in the Abbey ruins.

St Benet’s Abbey pilgrimage is 9 – 13 May and will start in the Norfolk broads at Ludham Church before heading to St Benet’s Abbey for a short act of worship. From there, pilgrims will cross the river Bures and walk to Norwich where they spend their first night. Day two sets out on the Boudicca Way to Caistor St Edmund where the night is spent at Dunstan Hall. Day three will cover 24 miles from Dunstan to Diss. On day four, pilgrims make their way to Bardwell before covering the final 15 miles to Bury St Edmunds – and weather permitting, there will be a special Evensong in the Abbey ruins to great them.

There are additional ‘Day Pilgrim’ options for those wishing to join the route for a day.

Abbey 1000 celebrations are being coordinated by the Abbey 1000 Group (which includes St Edmundsbury Cathedral), alongside The Abbey of St Edmund Heritage Partnership.

More information is available on the St Edmundsbury cathedral website here.