Cornish bishop to walk the length of the county on pilgrimage route to celebrate the ancient Celtic saints
The Bishop of St Germans, The Right Rev’d Dr Chris Goldsmith, is to embark upon a Cornish pilgrimage of more than 100 miles – and is urging people to join him.
Bishop Chris will set off from St Germans on Friday, March 31, and will walk cross-country distances of up to 12.5 miles a day on ancient pilgrimage routes that will take him the length and breadth of Cornwall via various churches and sacred sites to St Michael’s Mount, 13 days later.
The bishop will be walking the Cornish Celtic Way, a journey that criss-crosses Cornwall and takes in St Michael’s Way, (Lelant to Marazion), and the Saints’ Way, (Fowey to Padstow), as well as numerous other historic, holy sites.
Bishop Chris will lead the service at St Piran’s Oratory on Sunday, April 9, at 4pm. Otherwise he will be popping into churches along the way in the hope of meeting local worshippers, members of the clergy and stopping for a prayer and a quick cup of tea.
The route he will follow has been designed by the Rev’d Nigel Marns who, as well as being the Rector of the Mounts Bay United Benefice, also spends a day a week working as the pilgrimage facilitator for the Diocese of Truro.
Bishop Chris is no stranger to pilgrimage. He has previously walked 600 miles over a five-week period on the Camino de Santiago in France and northern Spain.
He said: “Pilgrimage may be nothing new but it is once again attracting increasing numbers of people within the Christian Church and beyond. Ancient pilgrimage routes are being rediscovered and new ones are being created across our land. The modern world is rediscovering this ancient wisdom and rebranding it as mindfulness.
“For me, pilgrimage is an experience of body, and mind and spirit. As human beings we are all of these things, and more besides. So we feel most alive and most ourselves when each different aspect of us is engaged in an activity. That for me is what pilgrimage can be.
“There is the joy of walking itself, that simple action for which our bodies have long been designed. Becoming aware of my body, its twinges, aches and pains, the sense of balance and sensation, the feel of the open air on my skin and the sense of progress through a landscape are a life-giving reconnection with nature and with my own physical nature.”
Bishop Chris said when he is walking he becomes more intensely aware of the natural beauty around him, of the wild flowers blossoming in a crevice of a Cornish hedge, and the sound and colours of the sea as it meets the land, for example.
“Add to this the fascination of old ways. Coming to ancient churches hunkered down into the Cornish earth or silhouetted on the distant hillside. Discovering the stories of the holy men and women who lived here and built here and made their mark here remembered in place names and holy wells.
“This gets me thinking about my own life and the mark I may leave. And being outdoors open to the elements with nothing to distance me or shield me from the vagaries of the Cornish weather. That heightens my senses and makes me more attentive to wind and cloud and the changing light.
“And then in the silence and the solitude of the path and of the ancient sanctuary I can listen, truly listen for the whisper of God. That still small personal voice so hard to discern amidst the noise and bustle of ‘normal’ life but here found unexpectedly and delightedly
“That is what pilgrimage means to me and I’m keen to encourage others, both those of us who live in Cornwall and those who come to visit to try it for themselves.”
Bishop Chris is keen to have company of Christians and non-Christians alike as he follows a route that relates to many of the Cornish Celtic saints. He will carry everything he needs with him and accept offers of hospitality along the way, as well as relying on Cornwall’s abundant shops, cafes and eateries.
Rev’d Marns has already walked the route himself, and leads Saturday regular walks along sections of the Cornish Celtic Way. For more information about the Cornish Celtic Way and details of the regular walks with Rev’d Marns go to the website www.cornishcelticway.co.uk
Rev’d Marns said: “The aim of the Cornish Celtic Way is to aid people of all ages who are interested in spirituality to explore and develop their faith in a different way. We believe that having faith isn’t about just going to a place of worship – it’s about getting out and experiencing it in everyday life as well, and taking it into your own hands. We hope that the Cornish Celtic Way will develop spiritual growth and personal reflection through stories of the Celtic saints, Cornwall’s rich history, incredible landscape and the people and communities that will be encountered along the way.”
In his role as the diocesan pilgrimage facilitator, Rev’d Marns has a vision of developing a pilgrimage season during the summer in Cornwall. He and an established team of Cornish Celtic Way walkers, will be organising accompanied walks as well as various kinds of hospitality for visitors to use, including campsites, hostels, B&Bs and hopefully even camping barns and the like.
He is currently completing a book, A Cornish Celtic Way, which will provide an overall guide for this pilgrimage (see www.cornishcelticway.co.uk for updates).
Rev’d Marns said: “The Celtic saints engaged with nature and believed an understanding of God is revealed through it. They risked everything to bring Christianity to Cornwall between 500 and 600AD. The Cornish Celtic Way will guide people to walk in their footsteps, see what they saw and experience places of special significance where the saints had been such as Celtic crosses, standing stones, holy wells and churches.”
BISHOP CHRIS’S ITINERARY
- Friday, March 31: St Germans to Downderry, via Sheviock
- Saturday, April 1: Downderry to Sclerder Abbey, via Looe and Talland
- Sunday, April 2: Sclerder Abbey to Polkerris, via Lansallos, Lanteglos, Polruan, and Fowey
- Monday, April 3: Polkerris to Luxulyan, via Tywardreath and St Blazey
- Tuesday, April 4: Luxulyan to Withiel, via Lanivet
- Wednesday, April 5: Withiel to Little Petherick, via St Issey
- Thursday, April 6: Little Petherick to St Eval, via Padstow, Trevone and St Merryn
- Friday, April 7: St Eval to St Columb Minor, via St Mawgan
- Saturday, April 8: St Columb Minor to Cubert, via Newquay and Crantock
- Sunday, April 9: Cubert to Perranporth, via St Piran’s Oratory
- Monday, April 10: Perranport to Portreath, via St Agnes
- Tuesday, April 11: Portreath to Lelant, via Gwithian, Phillack and St Elwyn
- Wednesday, April 12: Lelant to St Michael’s Mount, via St Ives, Ludgvan and Marazion.
Bishop Chris will be setting off on the trail at 9am each morning and will be pleased to have company.
To find out more information about joining Bishop Chris or to download a copy of the route click here: Join Bishop Chris on the Pilgrimage of Cornwall