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Events Planned to Mark Abbey's 1000th Anniversary

In 2020, Bury St Edmunds will mark the 1,000th anniversary of the founding of its Abbey of St Edmund with a year of celebrations! Take a peak at what's already planned!

In 2020, Bury St Edmunds in Suffolk will celebrate the founding of the Abbey of St Edmund by King Canute 1000 years ago. The anniversary will be marked with a year of special events and activities running from November 2019 culminating on the weekend of St Edmund’s Day, 20 November 2020. 

Key events planned to date are listed below, some are subject to funding, and many more are anticipated as the year progresses:

November 2019

A Night Before Christmas Dinner – Thursday 28 November

A charity fundraising dinner hosted by the Lord Lieutenant of Suffolk, Lady Clare Countess of Euston at St Edmundsbury Cathedral on Thursday, 28 November in aid of the Abbey 1000 chosen charities, namely St Nicholas Hospice Care, St Elizabeth Hospice and EACH (East Anglia’s Children’s Hospices).

February 2020

1000 Years Mosaic community art project at The Arc Shopping Centre

The arc shopping centre is inviting the public to help create a large community mosaic to celebrate the 1000th anniversary. 

People will be asked what they think should be featured in the mosaic and to bring along something to be added as well as create parts of the design. It will be displayed at the arc from February to November with an unveiling of the finished artwork on St Edmund’s Day, 20 November 2020.

April 2020

Abbey of St Edmund Anniversary Tours

Bury St Edmunds Tour Guides will introduce four new tours when the season starts in April dedicated to the Abbey and St Edmund.  They will explore the lives of the Abbots; the legend of St Edmund; specific details of the Abbey and life during monastic times.   

In addition, the daily and special themed tours will continue until 31 October 2020, For more details as they are announced visit www.burystedmundstourguides.org

May 2020

Abbey1000 Town Trail

The teams from Our Bury St Edmunds BID will create an Abbey 1000 Trail around Bury St Edmunds town centre for 2020.

Bury St Edmunds Festival

The annual Bury St Edmunds Festival (15 - 24 May) will honour the 1000th anniversary with two special concerts.

Bury Bach Choir (Handel's Messiah) – Saturday 16 May 

The Bury Bach Choir will perform Handel’s most famous work, Messiah, at St Edmundsbury Cathedral on Saturday evening 16 May accompanied by Norwich Baroque and soprano Fae Evelyn, mezzo-soprano Valerie Reid, tenor Austin Gunn and bass Graeme Danby. One of the best-known choral works in western music, Messiah was first performed in April 1742, with a scriptural text complied by Charles Jennens from the King James Bible and the psalms included in the Book of Common Prayer.  Jennens’ text is an extended reflection on Jesus as the Messiah, providing a fitting contribution to the Abbey 1000 celebrations, having been performed many times in the Cathedral.

St Petersburg Symphony Orchestra – Wednesday 20 May

After many years, St Petersburg Symphony Orchestra will be making a return visit to St Edmundsbury Cathedral on Wednesday 20 May playing a programme of Sibelius, Tchaikovsky and Prokofiev conducted by Ben Palmer, a former pupil of King Edward VI School in Bury St Edmunds. 

Pilgrimage from St Benet’s, Norfolk and Ely – Friday 22 May

Twenty people will be making a three-four day walking pilgrimage from St Benet’s, Norfolk, and Ely, Cambridgeshire, to Bury St Edmunds arriving Friday, 22 May. King Canute founded Benedictine monks at St Benet’s Abbey in 1019; Uvius, the first Abbot at the Abbey of St Edmund (1020-1044) came from St Benet’s accompanied by 20 monks, believed to be 13 from St Benet’s and seven from Ely. 

Gathering of Benedictine monks and nuns in Cathedral and Abbey ruins - Saturday 23 and Sunday 24 May

One hundred Benedictine monks and nuns from communities across Britain, including the Isle of Wight and possibly from abroad, will gather in Bury St Edmunds on 23 and 24 May for the first time in 500 years since the dissolution of the monasteries. 

They will be joined by 400 other people; Rowan Williams, former Archbishop of Canterbury, will also be attending. They will join a procession into the ruins of the Abbey Church; there will also be talks and workshops at St Edmundsbury Cathedral and Ecumenical Vespers with monastic chanting.

Exhibition of Abbey Manuscripts in Cathedral Treasury – Saturday 23 May - Friday 17 July

Seven manuscripts from the Abbey Scriptorium are being reunited for the first time in their place of origin since 1539. Written and decorated by hand by monks in the Abbey, they will be displayed in St Edmundsbury Cathedral Treasury between 23 May and 17 July. The manuscripts are on loan from Pembroke College, Cambridge where they were donated by William Smart (Portreeve of Ipswich) in 1599.

Pilgrimage of Song – Saturday 30 May

A pilgrimage for all who enjoy walking and singing will start at Chevington Village Hall and make its way to St Edmundsbury Cathedral on Saturday, 30 May. A joint event between Cantus Firmus Trust and the Cathedral, the walk is part of an ongoing series of Pilgrimages of Song in Suffolk. Beginning with a workshop to learn the music for the day, the pilgrims will walk from church to church singing a short service at each. 

They will follow the old Abbots’ Way route from Chevington to Bury through Ickworth Park and Horinger before picking up the Edmund Way ending with Compline at the Cathedral and a hot meal in Pilgrim’s Kitchen. Chevington is relevant to the Abbey 1000 as the Abbots once had a retreat centre next to the village church. 

Abbey 1000 Sculpture Exhibition – May – November

A monthly changing display of sculptures will be on display between May and November in the crypt within the Abbey ruins, where the shrine of St Edmund would have stood. 

Schools and artists are being invited to create the artworks on a theme of the story of the Abbey and St Edmund. 

June 2020

The 73rd Aldeburgh Festival Opening Night at St Edmundsbury Cathedral – Friday 12 June

The 73rd Aldeburgh Festival will open at St Edmundsbury Cathedral in Bury St Edmunds, as part of the 1,000th anniversary of the Abbey of St Edmund. This will mark the first ever opening night performance at the Cathedral, as well as the first time that Aldeburgh Festival has opened outside of the Suffolk coastal area in over 50 years.

Kings & Queens – A Weekend Celebration in the arc shopping centre – Saturday 27 and Sunday 28 June

A family weekend at the arc shopping centre on 27-28 June will celebrate all things Kings and Queens related featuring workshops, street entertainment, storytelling, performances, a crown trail, games and more, plus a fancy dress competition and tea party.

July 2020

The Abbey of St Edmund: Artisan and Pilgrimage Exhibition - Moyse’s Hall Museum

A new exhibition is being planned at Moyse’s Hall Museum, subject to funding, which will help tell the story of St Edmund and the Abbey. ‘The Abbey of St Edmund: Artisan and Pilgrimage’ will include original stained glass, new stained glass and original pilgrims’ badges.  There will also be touch screen displays and facial reconstructions from the past together with family workshops and master classes in medieval craft skills.  

Abbey 1000 Community Celebration – Saturday 11 July

Plans are underway for the Abbey 1000 Community Celebration in the Abbey Gardens for families and the wider community of West Suffolk, organised by West Suffolk Council in July. The event will celebrate the best of the area, while enabling people to learn more about the role and significance of the Abbey of St Edmund in the history of West Suffolk.

October 2020 

Noye’s Fludde – Friday 16 and Saturday 17 October

A theatrical production of Noye’s Fludde will be held at St Edmundsbury Cathedral on 16-17 October, subject to funding.  Working with local schools, it will include the story of the damming of Tayfen Brook in 1290 by one of the Abbots, which caused widespread flooding in Bury St Edmunds and a riot by the townspeople. Noye’s Fludde is by Suffolk composer Benjamin Britten.

The Abbey of St Edmund Heritage Partnership and Suffolk Institute of Archaeology & History 2020 Millennium Conference – Saturday 17 October

St Mary's Church will be the venue for the Abbey of St Edmund Heritage Partnership and Suffolk Institute of Archaeology & History conference on Saturday 17 October.

Suffolk Philharmonic Orchestra Concert – Saturday 24 October 

Holst’s Planets Suite rubs shoulders with a brand-new attractive work by Paul Carr for soloists, large choir, and full symphony orchestra, commissioned especially for the Abbey’s anniversary year. Joining Suffolk Philharmonic Orchestra will be Eye Bach Choir and The English Arts Chorale form the nucleus of a large choir open to experienced choral singers from across Suffolk.

November 2020

St Edmund's Day Finale and Spectacle of Light - Friday 20 - Sunday 22 November

Plans are in hand for three evening Spectacle of Light shows on 20, 21 and 22 November projecting images of illuminated manuscripts from the Abbey onto historic buildings plus a light trail through the Abbey ruins in partnership with West Suffolk College. 

2020 Edmund Lecture – Saturday 21 November 

The Millennium Edmund Lecture will be held at St Edmundsbury Cathedral on Saturday, 21 November with a special anniversary guest speaker.


The celebrations are being coordinated by the Abbey 1000 Group, alongside the Abbey of St Edmund Heritage Partnership

The group is made up of organisations in the town that include St Edmundsbury CathedralWest Suffolk CouncilBury St Edmunds Town CouncilOur Bury St Edmunds BID, Bury St Edmunds and Beyond, Theatre Royal Bury St EdmundsGreene KingTreattThe Bury SocietyBury St Edmunds Tour GuidesAshtons Legal and St Edmund’s Church.

The headline sponsors for the anniversary celebrations are: Claas UKTreatt and Greene King.

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