Cathedral announces programme for national Year of Pilgrimage

A series of events designed to promote and celebrate pilgrimage will take place in Oxford’s Cathedral over the next year as part of a national initiative. The year 2020 has been designated the Year of Cathedrals, Year of Pilgrimage by the Association of English Cathedrals.

These include the inaugural two-day Festival of Christian Pilgrimage in September, and another day-long St Frideswide Pilgrimage in October.

The Festival of Christian Pilgrimage runs from Sunday 13 to Tuesday 15 September. Speakers include the Rt Revd Stephen Cottrell, who was recently appointed Archbishop of York, and the Bishop of Norwich, the Rt Revd Graham Usher, both of whom have written extensively on pilgrimage; and the Revd Dr Dee Dyas, Director of the Centre for Pilgrimage Studies at the University of York.

The Festival is an opportunity for people to take time out to deepen their understanding of pilgrimage in our culture. The two days will be made up of a mix of theological reflection and practical pilgrimage. There will be case studies from those who have created pilgrim paths or led pilgrimages.

The Dean of Christ Church, the Very Revd Professor Martyn Percy, said: “Christian pilgrimage was a staple feature of our life as a nation for many centuries.  Christ Church – and indeed the City of Oxford – first became prominent because of the significance of Saint Frideswide and her shrine. 

“In the 21st century, many Christians are rediscovering the power of pilgrimage, and how it can enhance and transform our spiritual lives and prayer. This Festival is offered to all those seeking to develop their faith as pilgrim people, and an inspiring constellation of speakers have come together for this Festival to help us think through and pray around our journeying. 

“We hope that all who come will be engaged, enriched and empowered in their walk with God, and in the company of other pilgrims seeking and encountering God.”

The following month, the Cathedral will host its second day-long St Frideswide Pilgrimage on Saturday 17 October. Last year, the inaugural pilgrimage attracted more than 500 people from the Diocese of Oxford arriving by four different routes. Around half of these, including a significant number of children, walked distances varying from 80 miles (over several days) to a mile and a half from Iffley Lock.

The events build on a number of initiatives to support pilgrimage at the Cathedral, inspired by the growing interest in pilgrimage in western Europe. Christ Church Cathedral has published a new children’s trail, and Jacqueline Holderness, Christ Church Cathedrals’ Education Officer, has developed a national ‘Pilgrim Passport’ scheme, encouraging people to visit cathedrals across the country.

The Sub Dean of Christ Church, Canon Edmund Newey, said: 'Building on the success of last year's inaugural diocesan pilgrimage for the feast of St Frideswide, patron of the city, county and diocese of Oxford, Christ Church is delighted to be hosting this conference as a key contribution to the national Year of Pilgrimage.’

The Festival of Christian Pilgrimage is supported by Hymns Ancient and Modern, who also support the biennial Church Times Festival of Preaching at Christ Church. Tickets are now on sale for the Festival of Christian Pilgrimage, with discounts for early bird bookings.

For further information or to register interest for the St Frideswide Pilgrimage 2020, keep an eye on our website, www.chch.ox.ac.uk/pilgrimage.