Cornish Pilgrimage

I was the guest of Paul and Sally Nash, Aidan and Hilda Friends, at their cottage by the River Tamar. This separates Cornwall from Devon. On our first evening we drove to the ancient stone circles known as The Hurlers, on Bodmin Moor, before enjoying John Mortimer's play 'A Voyage Round My Father' at the Sterts Open Air Theatre. On Wednesday we skirted the south coast until we reached Rame Head. The little chapel on its summit is thought to be on the site of a much earlier Celtic hermitage. On to St. Germans Church. The first church on this site was established by St. Germanus of Auxerre, who visited Britain in 429. It was he who led the Christian Celts in battle against the invading Saxons with massed shouts of 'Alleluia'. This resulted in the famous 'Alleluia Victory'. Back to the coast until we paused at a little-known Celtic site directly opposite Looe Island. It was a pilgrims' chapel which monks on the isle rather cherished - for if pilgrims could not get to the island because of the tide they could leave their offerings here!

A longer journey on Thursday took us to the place where, according to legend, the boy Jesus first set foot on Britain with his uncle Joseph, of Arimathea. This is St. Just-in-Roseland, an exquisite church and grounds of natural beauty. There is no historical evidence that Jesus came. However, tin-miners (like Joseph) did come, and this has a deep-water inlet that was very likely used by such merchants. On to the north coast and Perranporth, which has become the focus for Cornwall's cultural and spiritual renaissance. A walk across the dunes to the high cross brought us to the site of Saint Piran's hermitage. A misconceived effort to prevent vandalism caused it to be covered in concrete last century. So we prayed at the memorial stone on its top. Thankfully the St. Piran Trust hopes to restore and make more worthy this site. On Saint Piran's Day in March hundreds of pilgrims walk from Perranporth to this shrine, carrying Cornwall's national flag of St. Piran. The white cross on a black background signifies both the white and the black in tin that is mined, and the triumph of light over darkness. We also prayed at the remains of the nearby later Celtic church.

Another day and we voyaged across the large expanse of the Tamar to the place where pilgrims once set off on their long pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostella in Spain. Then we went in the other direction to a little shore-side chapel that marks the site where Saint Indract and his sister arrived from Ireland in the seventh century. The chapel fell into dis-use, but in recent years the parish church has restored and had it re-consecrated. We shared in a liturgy of ths saints and in prayers for the renewal of the spiritual life of Cornwall (Kernow).

Posted at 01:26am on 14th August 2010
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