Pilgrims to walk miles to market town for abbey's 1,000th anniversary

The statue of St Edmund in Bury St Edmunds

The statue of St Edmund in Bury St Edmunds, at the cathedral green - Credit: Andy Abbott

Two pilgrimages have been announced by St Edmundsbury Cathedral to mark 1,000 years since the founding of the Abbey of St Edmund in Bury St Edmunds.

Celebrations to mark this milestone are happening this year after being delayed from 2020, as coronavirus put a stop to all planned events.

The abbey began 1,000 years ago when in 1020 King Canute had a stone church built for the body of the King of East Anglia, Edmund, and 13 Benedictine monks arrived from St Benet’s at Hulme in Norfolk and seven from Ely.

The ruins of the Abbey of St Edmunds, which celebrates its 1000th anniversary in 2020 Picture: TOM

The ruins of the Abbey of St Edmunds, which reaches its 1000th anniversary in 2020 - Credit: Tom Soper

It became a site of great pilgrimage as people from all over Europe came to visit St Edmund’s shrine and it was one of the richest, largest and most powerful Benedictine monasteries in England.

The cathedral’s 2022 pilgrimages honour those 20 monks who came from St Benet’s and Ely, and the many pilgrims who later came to the abbey during the Middle Ages.

The first pilgrimage is from Ely Cathedral to St Edmundsbury Cathedral in Bury St Edmunds from April 4-5 and spans 30 miles.

The inside of St Edmundsbury Cathedral in Bury St Edmunds

The inside of St Edmundsbury Cathedral in Bury St Edmunds - Credit: Archant

The journey starts at Ely Cathedral where pilgrims are encouraged to join the 8am Eucharist.

The pilgrimage begins from the steps of the cathedral West Front, before starting the 15-mile walk to Mildenhall along the River Lark.

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St Mary's will host tea and cake and evening prayers at 7pm.

Day two is another 15-mile walk, from Mildenhall to Bury St Edmunds where a special choral evensong awaits.

Pilgrims are encouraged to stay and join for Pilgrimage Day in Bury St Edmunds on April 6

Pilgrimage Day is a day of talks, discussion, and practical information on the history of pilgrimage to Bury St Edmunds and its relevance today. Throughout the day, attendees will move to different locations for each part of the programme, culminating in a short service in the abbey ruins.

Abbey 1000 group. A Monk statue has been comissioned at Abbey gardens as part of the Bury 1000 celeb

The Abbey 1000 group. A monk statue was commissioned as part of the 1000th anniversary celebrations - Credit: Charlotte Bond

The second pilgrimage, from St Benet’s Abbey in Holme, Norfolk, spans 80 miles and will take place from May 9-13.

It 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 see 24 miles covered from Dunstan to Diss.

The abbey ruins in the abbey gardens 

The abbey ruins in the abbey gardens - Credit: Archant

On day four, pilgrims make their way to Bardwell before covering the final 15 miles to Bury St Edmunds on the last day. If whether permits, 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.

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

Firm commitment is needed by those wishing to take part by February 28. More information is available on the website.

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