St Chad – Lichfield’s Founding Father

06th March 2019

New public artwork to immortalise city’s founding father and attract modern day pilgrims

A saint, whose popularity founded a city and a cathedral, is to be immortalised in bronze to mark his 1350th anniversary and to be 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.

And on St Chad’s Day – March 2 – the date of his death- Lichfield Cathedral launched the St Chad Statue Appeal to raise £300k to create a three metre bronze statue of their patron saint close to the city centre.

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.

“St Chad was the founding Bishop of Lichfield and his shrine drew, and still draws, thousands of pilgrims and visitors to Lichfield,’ he added.

The current (and 99th) Bishop of Lichfield, the Rt Rev Dr Michael Ipgrave has agreed to be the patron of the Appeal. As part of his enthronement in 2016, Bishop Michael walked the Two Saints Way, a new pilgrim route opened between Chester and Lichfield celebrating St Werburg and St Chad.

He said:

“This new statue welcoming pilgrims and visitors to Lichfield will provide inspiration across the Diocese and further afield as we are all invited to follow Christ in the footsteps of St Chad. 

“Your donations will help to renew the living legacy of our own Saint Chad, the first Bishop of Lichfield in twenty-first century Mercia.”

The bronze statue will be made by Lichfield Cathedral’s artist in residence, sculptor Peter Walker and has already attracted a grant of £50,000 from the Lichfield City Art Fund – a collaboration between Lichfield District Council and the Swinfen Broun Charitable Trust.

Helen Geary, the cathedral’s Director of Fundraising, said: “We are very grateful to the Lichfield City Art Fund for their early investment in creating this new public artwork for the city. With their support and other generous donations, we have already raised £100,000 towards our target and are well on our way to making the statue a reality.”

“It will be a fitting testament to see Chad welcoming and blessing visitors and pilgrims travelling up one of the original pilgrim routes to the cathedral as they have for over 1,000 years,” she added.

The statue of St Chad will be created in Peter Walker’s onsite studio in the Cathedral Close, with opportunities earmarked for the public to see the work in progress.

The aim is to unveil the sculpture by St Chad’s Day 2021.

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 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.

(Thanks to Peter Walker for the photo)