Year of Pilgrimage Re-Imagined

17th June 2020

A unique project offering a one-day pilgrimage route to every Church of England cathedral is being reimagined and relaunched for a world slowly emerging from lockdown.

Pilgrimage re-imagined for an emerging post lockdown world

This week the collaboration between the Association of English Cathedrals and British Pilgrimage Trust, forged for 2020 Year of Cathedrals Year of Pilgrimage, launched new circular pilgrim routes exploring over 25 cathedral cities and the stories that made them.

The routes are all circular and specifically designed to comply with the guidance to avoid non-essential travel on public transport as the country begins to emerge from lockdown and cathedrals start the journey back to re-opening. The new routes bring the cities into sharp focus, emphasising a heightened sense of place and history, to encourage pilgrims to explore what makes the cathedral integral to the lives of the people there.

The Very Revd Adrian Dorber, who chairs the Association of English Cathedrals said:

“During lockdown we’ve all become more familiar with home territory but this initiative invites us to take a purposeful walk around our cities and look at the faith, beliefs and stories of human endeavour that shape them still. As our cathedrals begin to re-open and offer prayerful hospitality to all comers I’m delighted to endorse this initiative and encourage everyone to take a look at local treasures.”

For example, a 3.5 mile circular route designed for Wakefield Cathedral takes in the city’s Hepworth Museum – an award-winning contemporary art gallery named after Barbara Hepworth, one of the 20th century’s most important artists who was born and brought up in Wakefield – and the city’s Grade 1 listed Chantry Chapel, the oldest and most ornate of the five surviving bridge chapels in England. And Blackburn Cathedral’s circular route visits the Cotton Exchange and other places associated with its cotton trade heritage featured in the Netflix series The English Game. These places all play an important part in each city’s story – past and present.

New circular pilgrimage routes for Birmingham, Bradford and Liverpool cathedrals celebrate the cultural and religious diversity of those cities, taking in mosques, temples, synagogues, a Hindu mandir, a Buddhist vihara and a Sikh gurdwara, while Canterbury’s new route visits 20 of its holy and heritage pilgrim places in just 4 miles.

Dr Guy Hayward, co founder of the British Pilgrimage Trust said:

“To place our cathedrals in their city’s context creates a potentially richer experience for our pilgrims. These circular routes around cathedral cities help all of us get to know our cities better, and we want our cathedrals to be seen as so much more than places of worship, to see them in the context of their cities, both historically, and in relation to other faiths and those of no faith at all.

“Cathedrals are the most searched for pilgrim destinations on our website and offer something for everyone – especially in these uncertain and challenging times.

“We want to encourage tourists back into England’s cities that have been empty for so long now, and show them that we can all be pilgrims, and that spiritual travel is about to flourish once again,” he said.

Dr Dee Dyas, Reader in the History of Christianity and Director of the Centre for Pilgrimage Studies at York University, added: “Recent events have shown that our journeys through life can suddenly take unexpected, unwelcome turns. Cathedrals offer peaceful stopping places along the way where we can pause, find comfort, have hope renewed, and think about new ways forward.