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Pilgrimages to kick off Abbey 1000 celebrations at St Edmundsbury Cathedral

A year of celebrations begin in 2022 to mark 1,000 years since the founding of the Abbey of St Edmund in Bury St Edmunds by King Cnut. These celebrations are delayed from 2020, with coronavirus putting a stop to all planned events.

In 1020, King Cnut had a stone church built for Edmund’s body and 13 Benedictine monks from St Benet’s at Hulme in Norfolk, and 7 from Ely, arrived. This was the beginning of the Abbey of St Edmund, 1000 years ago. It became a site of great pilgrimage as people from all over Europe came to visit St Edmund’s shrine.

From this stone church, the Abbey grew and in Medieval times, the Abbey of St Edmund was one of the richest, largest and most powerful Benedictine monasteries in England. People came from all over Europe to visit the Shrine of Saint Edmund, who was the first Patron Saint of England. The Abbey became one of the most famous and wealthy pilgrimage locations in England, visited by royalty.

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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 and spans 30 miles. The second, from St Benet’s Abbey in Holme, Norfolk, spans 80 miles.

Each day will be led by experienced walkers who have recently ‘tested’ the routes. The Ely pilgrimage is 4 - 5 April 2022 and will last for two days. The journey starts at Ely Cathedral where pilgrims are encouraged to join the 8.00 am Eucharist. The pilgrimage begins from the steps of the Cathedral West Front, before starting the 15-mile walk to Mildenhall along the River Lark. St Mary's will host tea and cake and Evening Prayers at 7.00 pm. 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 6 April.

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.

St Benet's Abbey pilgrimage is 9 – 13 May and 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 see the most range with 24 miles covered from Dunstan to Diss. 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.

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

Firm commitment is needed by those wishing to participate by 28 February 2022. More information is available at:

For details of all the Abbey 1000 celebrations visit our Abbey 1000 Guide.

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