Day 1, May 1:
Upon our arrival to Edinburgh we will be picked up by our coach and we will transfer to our hotel located a short distance from the Holy Island of Lindisfarne. En route we will stop to visit picturesque ruins of the Melrose Abbey, an ancient Christian Celtic foundation where St. Cuthbert became a monk.
Day 2, May 2:
Today we will visit one of the holiest places in all of the British Isles, the Holy Island of Lindisfarne. The community was founded on the island by an Irish born monk, St. Aidan, about 635 on the request of the Northumrbian King Oswald, who wanted to have a Christian mission nearby for the sake of enlightening his subjects. Irish Monks settled at Lindisfarne and headed a successful mission to North of England and Mercia. Lindisfarne rose in importance to become the center of spiritual life and learning. In the early seventh century, the famous illumined manuscripts were produced here. They are of incredible quality and artistry. The Miracle-worker St. Cuthbert was a monk here, and later the Abbot and Bishop of Lindisfarne. In 793, peaceful monastic life was interrupted by Viking incursion. In fact, that shocking attack on the monastery is considered to be the beginning of the Viking Age. Though the monastery remained at Lindisfarne for another half a century, life was never the same. Due to the constant threat of Viking raids, the monks had to leave the Holy Island in 860. The monastery was renewed under the Normans and later extended. Monastic life here came to a halt during the dissolution of the monasteries under King Henry VIII. We will visit the Holy Island and explore the ruins of the monastic foundation.
Day 3, May 3: Today we will start with exploration of Wearmouth-Jarrow Abbey, a twin-foundation, where Venerable Bede was a monk for most of his life. The Monastery of St. Peter at Monkwearmouth was founded in 674 by Benedict Biscop. Its more Roman foundation was established in this land that was heavily influenced by the Celtic Christian tradition. About ten years later, Benedict founded another monastery, that of St. Paul at Jarrow, where young Bede would be a monk. These monasteries were very closely associated with each other, and from an early point they were considered inseparable twin-foundation. The monasteries were attacked by Vikings more than once, and finally they were completely destroyed and abandoned in 860. Not until after the Norman Conquest did life return to these Saxon ruins. At the site of the Jarrow Monastery there is an interesting archaeological and interactive center which recreates an Anglo-Saxon farm and gives an impression of what monastic properties may have looked like. We plan to visit the Center’s exhibit of various artifacts founded in the territory of the monastery, including the fragments of the oldest known stained glass window which dates to the early seventh century.
From the Abbey we will travel the city of Durham. It was founded by a group of monks from Lindisfarne in 995 AD, who chose this place to settle with the body of St. Cuthebert, their beloved Abbot and Bishop. St. Cuthebert is one of the most important saints of the Anglo-Saxon Church. He became a monk as a young man and was known through his life for his charity, kindness and monastic austerity. He was elected Bishop of Lindisfrane Abbey and toward the end of his life, he retired to his cell where he led hermetical life until he reposed there soon thereafter. His gift of miracles gained him fame as “Wonderworker of Britain” His relics were saved by the monks and carried with the community after Lindisfarne was sacked by Vikings in 875. The monks traveled extensively trying to find a safe haven to reestablish their community and bury the relics of their beloved abbot. Eventually, they settled at the place that later became the city of Durham. Durham is famous for its Norman cathedral and castle, but for us it is interesting for the possibility of venerating the relics of St. Cuthebert. Some of the precious articles associated with his earthly life are on exhibit in the Cathedral’s museum. Another important saint, St. Bede (+735), famous Church author and first English historian, is buried at the Cathedral in Durham.
We will end our day by visiting another precious Saxon remain in a little village of Escomb. Its Saxon church was constructed around 670 and thus was a place of worship for over 13 centuries. Some of the stone came from the ruined Roman fort that was situated in the vicinity. Roman inscriptions in stone can be seen even today. The church still has a consecration cross with typical inscription of the Celtic Church art. It is not known exactly who built the church, but the link from the Escomb Church to the monastic community at Lindisfarne is apparent.
Day 4, May 4
From Durham we will continue through the North Yorkshire Moors to the Whitby Abbey. Some magnificent ruins mark the spot of the abbey that once played a significant role in the history of the Anglo-Saxon Church. Whitby Abbey was founded by the Anglo-Saxon King Oswiu in 657. The monastery was home to two monastic communities – male and female and was headed by Abbess Hilda. While she was still Abbess, a famous council took place at Whitby where churchmen discussed the dates of Pascha, as well as differences in rituals observed in Celtic and Roman tradition. As a result of this council, the Anglo-Saxon Church universally adopted Roman Paschal and Roman liturgical practice. In 867 the Abbey was sacked by the Vikings and was renewed only under the Norman rule when it was rededicated to St. Peter and St. Hilda, the first abbess of the Monastery.
In the afternoon we will explore another historically important English city. York was founded by the Romans in 71 AD with the name Eboracum, the capital for Britania Inferior. It is here that that the Roman legions proclaimed Constantine the Great as Emperor. After the arrival of the Angles, the settlement was renamed Eoferwic and renamed again as Jorvik after the Viking occupation in 866. The current name of the city appears around year 1000 A.D. York played an important role throughout Anglo-Saxon history, headed by several saintly bishops and kings. York was destroyed on numerous occasions. Despite that, some important historical fragments remain from each era. Of great interest is the recreation of the Viking world, which provides visitors with an experience of that period.
Day 5, May 5 Today we will have a lengthy transfer south to the important historical city of Lincoln.
On our way we will stop at Beverley to venerate the saintly Bishop John. St. John, an Angle Bishop who occupied, at different times, the sees of Hexhman and York. He was granted the gift of wonderworking and many miracles have been attributed to him during his lifetime and after his death. Some years before his repose, St. John retired to Beverly’s monastic foundation which he established. He stayed there until his death. His relics are entombed in the Minster of Beverly, although they were moved and reburied during the numerous reconstructions that Minster underwent during its history.
Most of the ruins in Lincoln belong to post-Saxon Era; however, evidence of the Saxon structures and Roman settlements can be found in the area. Christian tradition can be firmly traced in Lincoln from the mid-seventh century, when it is mentioned that saintly Bishop Paulinus of York visited one of the town officials. There is debate over whether a Christian community was in this Roman colony as early as fourth century. The main attraction of the city is the gigantic, yet majestic, cathedral whose construction began at the end of the eleventh century. We will plan to arrive to Walsingham in time for some refreshment and supper.
Day 6, May 6 This Sunday we will start with the Liturgy at one of the Orthodox Altars in the town of Walsingham, home of the most important Medieval Marian Shrine in all of England.
The history of the site begins with a vision that a devout woman saw in year 1061. Our Lady appeared to a Saxon noblewoman directing her to build a replica of Her house. That shrine will become a priory and an important place of pilgrimage till the dissolution of the abbey during the English Reformation in 1538. At the end of 19th century tradition of the pilgrimage was renewed and was growing through the 20th century more popular. Currently there are three orthodox places of worship in Walsingham and we plan to participate in the Divine Liturgy at one of them. Later in the day, we will transfer to the city of Colchester.
Day 7, May 7
Today we will explore the historical center of Colchester, the first known Roman city in all of England and the birth place of Holy Equal to the Apostle Empress Helen. Some ruins of the 4th century church were excavated within the city premises, and we plan to see these precious remains along with some other important historical places in town.
Church of St. Michael and of all Saints located just outside the city boundaries Colchester. But it is definitely a very unique place. The wall paintings inside the church that show very strong Byzantine influence are the real attraction here. They were discovered and restored under the 20th century when the later whitewash was removed from the walls. The artistic ensemble of frescoes inside the church, considered to be one of the best in England. From here we will continue to the Church of St. Andrew’s at Greensted. St. Andrew the Apostle, who was spoken of in the Gospel, is believed to have visited the British Isles and preached the Good News. The Church of St. Andrew is one of the world’s oldest wooden structures still standing, and the oldest wooden church in existence. For nearly 1200 years it has been a place of Christian worship. The original foundation most likely dates to the mid-seventh century and is associated with the missionary work of St. Cedd. According to tradition, the body of St. Edmund the Martyr was brought here before being transferred to the town of Bury St. Edmunds. From Greensted we will travel to the Chapel of St. Peter-on-the-Wall, one of the oldest Christian churches in England still in use. The chapel dates to 654 A.D. and is believed to have been built by St. Cedd out of the remains of an abandoned Roman fort. During the Medieval Era, it fell into obscurity and most likely has maintained its original appearance. We will finish our day with a visit to the Orthodox Monastery of St. John the Baptist in Essex, established by Archimandrite Sophronius Saharov, the spiritual child and successor of St. Silouan the Athonite.
Day 8, May 8
Today we will explore Canterbury, primatial see of the English Church. We will begin our exploration with the historical Church of St. Martin. It is believed that St. Augustine, the sixth-century Latin (Roman) missionary to Britain, worshiped in this church along with his Continental helpers. The church already existed prior to his coming and there is a speculation that this building, more precisely the surviving Roman part of it, was originally a Christian place of worship or part of the funerary Christian chapel. For this reason it was turned into church for the sake of Frankish Christian Queen Bertha, who married pagan King Ethelbert of Kent on the condition that she be allowed to continue the practice her Christian Faith.
Not too far from St. Martin’s Church, but already outside the city walls, St. Augustine established a monastery soon after his arrival in 597. From the onset it was intended to be the burial place for the Bishops of Canterbury and converted kings of Kent. The site was expanded and rebuilt several times. Most of its Anglo-Saxon foundations are now covered by the later Norman structure. However, some of the remains of a very early Saxon church of St. Pancras are still the present to this day. The foundation of the Cathedral in Canterbury is also associated with the name of St. Augustine. It was an important bishophoric from the very beginning and was expanded and enlarged on several occasions prior to the Norman invasion. Following the Norman conquest a new church was erected. The present structure is a beautiful representation of the English Gothic style. It was erected over a period of the fourteenth through sixteenth centuries and partly in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Canterbury Cathedral was the see of several saintly bishops. Among the most famous are St. Theodore (+~690), St Dunstan, Archbishop of Canterbury (+ 988), and St. Alphege, the Martyr (+ 1012). From Canterbury we will continue to Folkestone to venerate relics of a saintly Saxon princess, St. Eanswythe, who established a convent after choosing virginity over an opportunity to marry the Northumbrian King. Her relics were translated to the current church in the twelfth century. The relics were re-discovered in nineteenth century and examined in 1980. Experts confirmed the find as St. Eanswythe’s relics because they fit what is known about the saint from her hagiographical account.
Day 9, May 9
This morning we will explore the city of Winchester, the old capital of England. The settlement on this place is known from ancient pre-Roman times. It became the Saxon capital in the seventh century. St. Swithun was Bishop of Winchester in the ninth century. Winchester was the capital of Wessex, and then England until the Norman Conquest – after the conquest the capital was moved to London. Alfred is the only English king who would be given popular historical title “the Great”. He is renown for many good deeds on behalf of his people and his religious zeal and dedication. He is buried beside the Cathedral in Winchester. We will explore the sites of Winchester that are associated with him and other saintly figures of the Anglo-Saxon Epoch. After lunch we will visit an Orthodox Monastery of St. Edward the Martyr in Woking, Surrey. King Edward was killed in 979, after being a king for only four years and while being still a very young man. Continuing policy of his father, he supported the Church and Monastic reform that would enable Church to prosper. Such policy angered his rivals and they decided to eliminate righteous ruler. First miracles associated with his relics were recorded shortly after his death. In 20th century Orthodox were given a providential chance to become the guardians of his precious remains.
Day 10, May 10
In the morning we will travel to visit the Cathedral and Abbey Church of St. Alban. According to tradition, this monumental Church was erected over earlier humble structures that were built on the site where St. Alban was beheaded. St. Alban suffered during the Roman persecution in the third century A.D. and was England’s first saint. Venerable Bede testifies that the place of his martyrdom was a shrine of great importance, which drew multitudes to be healed and consoled. Most of the relics of St. Alban were lost during the Reformation with the exception of a few pieces that survived on the Continent where they had been sent as a gift. In recent times a relic of St. Alban has been returned to the Cathedral and we will have an opportunity to venerate it in honor of one of England’s patron saints.
We will finish our day in the university town of Oxford. After some general sightseeing we will venerate the relics of Oxford’s patroness, St. Frideswide (+735), in Christ Church Cathedral. St. Frideswide was a Saxon princess who escaped marriage by enclosing herself in cell, from which a convent eventually grew.
Day 11, May 11 This morning we will transfer to the airport in London for departure home. Our pilgrimage is over till next time.
Important: the itinerary may be adjusted to satisfy the interests of the group to the best extent possible; i.e. services, rest, additional time spent in the most significant places Accessibility of some of the monuments is also subject to weather conditions and restoration works
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Europe England Scotland Spiritual Odyssey Pilgrimage/Spirituality Archeology/History