Call to Action: Walking & Pilgrimages

20 February 2012

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St Martha's Hill on the Pilgrims Way, Surrey, England. Photography by Colin Smith.St Martha's Hill on the Pilgrims Way, Surrey, England. Photography by Colin Smith.

The versatility of the UK’s places of worship has truly revealed itself on the blog over the last few weeks. We’ve seen how they can be homes for hidden art, creative community spaces, and places to ponder the meaning of the after-life – often all at the same time. This week we’re looking beyond particular religious sites, and trying to take in the landscape that surrounds them as we follow the UK’s old and new pilgrimage routes.

Beautiful St Nicholas church in Compton, on the Pilgrims' Way. Photography by Pete Reed.

As we travel across the UK and explore new hidden places we can often forget that we are following well-worn paths that link one ancient holy site to the next. This is exactly what dawned on me one day in Winchester, a town that I have been visiting all my life, but whose holy heritage I had not fully appreciated. It is in fact a hotspot for pilgrimage routes – its Cathedral not only marks the starting point for the famous Pilgrims’ Way that runs from Winchester to Canterbury, but also for the route that medieval pilgrims travelled from St Swithun’s shrine in Winchester Cathedral to Mont St Michel in Normandy, France. Today it is a site of pilgrimage of a different sort – Jane Austen fans make the journey to Winchester Cathedral to pay their respects at her grave, tourists try to work out which part of the building featured in the 2005 The Da Vinci Code film, and art-pilgrims descend into the Cathedral’s crypt to marvel at unique Anthony Gormley sculptures. Although these journeys may seem worlds apart from the medieval pilgrimages of the past, they all involve special encounters with places of worship, and an opportunity to visit other beautiful heritage sites and landscapes during the journey.

'Sound II Revisited' by Anthony Gormley in the flooded crypt of Winchester Cathedral. Photography by David Spender.

So whether they are spiritual pilgrimages or just simply your favourite walks, tell us about your personal journeys and the places of worship you have encountered along the way.

Happy discovering!

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