Lichfield Cathedral is here because Chad was here

28th June 2021

“Lichfield Cathedral is here because Chad was here – he was the reason for the journey.” The Very Revd Adrian Dorber, Dean of Lichfield Cathedral

New 3m bronze statue of St Chad unveiled at Lichfield Cathedral.

A saint, whose popularity founded a city and a cathedral, has been immortalised in bronze and will be raised up and installed to mark his 1350th anniversary and act as a magnet to welcome the modern day pilgrim.

In his day, Chad, the first missional bishop, inspired hundreds of thousands of pilgrims, making Lichfield the third most important medieval pilgrim site in the country after Walsingham and Canterbury.

The Very Revd Adrian Dorber, Dean of Lichfield Cathedral said:

“Lichfield Cathedral is here because Chad was here – he was the reason for the journey.

The 3m bronze statue of Chad has been created by Lichfield Cathedral’s Artist in Residence, sculptor Peter Walker, and will stand in the newly established Hope Garden where, during the pandemic, volunteers planted 50,000 bulbs to flower around the time of St Chad’s Day (2nd March) each year as a gift of remembrance and hope to the city after the pandemic. 

In his hand is a Bible based on actual pages of the St Chad’s Gospels (also known as the Lichfield Gospels) –  an eighth century Gospel Book housed in Lichfield Cathedral. His other hand is raised in blessing. 

The Dean said:

“As we move out of lockdown at the end of a long and difficult pandemic, this new statue will provide a continuing waymark for centuries to come as people navigate their way through life, looking for reliable and friendly guides, whose words and actions were and are all of a piece.”

The statue will be unveiled on Saturday (26 June) as part of a service of commemoration and thanksgiving led by the current Bishop of Lichfield, the Rt Rev Dr Michael Ipgrave, who walked the Two Saints Way, a new pilgrim route opened between Chester and Lichfield celebrating St Werburg and St Chad, as part of his enthronement back in 2016.

He said:

“Thirteen and a half centuries ago, Chad was walking through this part of England sharing the good news of peace, love and hope for all in a divided society. It is to his humble and holy witness that we today owe our Christian life, and it is in his footsteps that we try to follow Christ as we share the gospel in our own time.”

Background …

Chad was a daring missionary bishop who came all the way from Northumbria after being deposed as Bishop of York and was reconsecrated as a bishop to the Mercians. He famously refused to travel by horse – according to Bede’s Ecclesiastical History of the English People – and there was a gentleness, humility and prayerfulness about him that struck a chord in that time of bitter power struggles and hard stamped authority. 

He died three years after his arrival  – he was foretold of his death by angels – according to Bede – and within just a few years, people were claiming miracles were happening by his tomb.

After the Reformation, the shrine at the Cathedral was dismantled. Chad’s bones were spirited away from the Cathedral by a member of the clergy and were kept safe in secret at private homes for nearly 300 years. In 1841 they were enshrined in the new Roman Catholic St Chad’s Cathedral in Birmingham, where they have been ever since – except in 2017 when a group of 100 pilgrims walked from St Chad’s Cathedral to Lichfield Cathedral carrying one of the saint’s relics home for just one day to mark 500 years since the Reformation.

Note: Peter Walker Sculptor’s Chad pictured.