Journeying Forward to the Ancient Future

Pilgrimage has a very ancient history and has been an important feature of the major world faiths. We know that in the Middle Ages, many pilgrims would have walked between Chester and Lichfield. Some of them would have journeyed on to Canterbury or even as far as Rome, Santiago or Jerusalem itself. But pilgrimage is not just something about the long distant past.

In the last twenty years or so has been a revival of interest in the idea and practice of pilgrimage – spiritual or faith-based tourism is one of the fastest growing segments in the travel industry. The number of pilgrims of all faiths and none walking the famous Camino to Santiago in Spain has increased from a mere 2,491 in 1984 to over 150, 000 walkers annually now. A lot of those walkers are young people.

In the UK new and revived pilgrimage routes, such as St Cuthbert’s Way from Melrose to the Holy Island of Lindisfarne, have been established and are proving popular as well as benefiting the local economy. The Two Saints Way ties in with the new mood of enthusiasm for the active spirituality of pilgrimage and will set the modern pilgrim on a contemporary quest for ancient wisdom.

Pilgrimage for Wholeness and Healing in Body, Mind and Soul

A major motivation for medieval pilgrims was the idea of going on pilgrimage to seek healing in body, mind and soul. The Two Saints Way Project seeks to recover that emphasis in a contemporary way, encouraging modern pilgrims to walk, consciously seeking to become healthy in body, mind and soul. We plan to provide resources for walkers which will give an opportunity for self-reflection and encouragement to move towards positive lifestyle choices. A draft meditation guide is available on request. The project identifies strongly with widespread concerns about health in our society today. One of our slogans is “Walking your way to Health on the Two Saints Way.”

Reviving Some Whacky Customs!

Pilgrims in medieval times did some pretty strange things and we think it is good for people to do those things today if they find them meaningful. For example, pilgrims used to mark their forearms with a cross and we hope to eventually provide a transfer of St Chad’s Cross. However, once pilgrims have completed their journey there is no reason why they may not wish to acquire a permanent tattoo!

Pilgrims used to bring stones to Stone and this custom is being revived now. Pilgrims can leave their stones by the stained glass window of St Wulfad & St Rufin in St Michael & St Wulfad’s Church. The custom symbolises laying down burdens the pilgrim does not want to carry on with in the rest of their lives.

At Lichfield Cathedral there is a pedilavium which was used for footwashing and this custom was also revived during the inaugural pilgrimage. By prior arrangement it will be possible to have your feet washed there at the end of your pilgrimage! Another custom was for pilgrims to sleep by the shrine of St Chad for what was called “the night of dreams” – again there may be possibilities for that to happen once again.

Discovering our Mercian Heritage

The project was conceived in 2008 by Stone resident David Pott and was initially inspired by the foundational story of Stone about the martyrdom of St Wulfad and St Rufin – a legend which also features St Chad and St Werburgh. It is not without significance that the Staffordshire Hoard is also dated from the late seventh century. This pilgrimage route enables walkers to visit the Potteries Museum and provides an excellent opportunity to highlight the Mercian and Anglo Saxon heritage of the region. It is recognised that it is particularly important that the project ties in with developments concerning the Staffordshire Hoard.