You know those days. Normal days. Days when you head into town to wander or shop, or just to get out of the house for a while and be somewhere different. Days when you're travelling in on the Metro - or the bus, because most of you don't have a Metro to travel on. Days when the Metro stops at a station. And you suddenly decide that going to town isn't the best idea and that what would really suit at that moment is to make a quick pilgrimage somewhere. And so you get off the Metro, or the bus, on the spur of the moment. And you walk to a pilgrimage site.
You know those days. Doesn't everyone have those days?
Now in my case I'm fortunate. It can be a quick pilgrimage. Because a short walk from Ilford Road Station is Jesmond Dene, a place I've visited quite often but not yet blogged about. And above Jesmond Dene is a site of pilgrimage. So it's easily accessible for me. This is no fifty mile pilgrimage walk to a shrine hidden in the wilderness. Or a well planned trek to Santiago de Compostela This is easy. It's the lazy person's pilgrimage.
Nevertheless, of the two pilgrim spots I'd only ever been to one before. It was only quite recently that I learned exactly where the other one was. Destination one was this place:
I walked to it a different route than I'd done before. To save time. Yes, it's really the lazy person's pilgrimage. I took the road route, which is normally a quiet road but at present it's much quieter than usual due to being closed to traffic. From the main road to the chapel I only passed one person. Nearing the chapel you come to the Banqueting House. You can't just walk through the door. But it does look amazing inside I hope that the place does get restored and put to good use. Take a look through this video from 2011, walking through the front door and down to the hall. On the wall of the banqueting hall is this, the coat of arms of Newcastle. Pop quiz: Where would you find the oldest known image of those three castles still in existence?
On to the chapel. I took lots of pictures. They are all taken on my cheap Nokia phone, with no editing except a bit of cropping. My phone isn't good at colour - I'm sure that coat of arms isn't at all pink.
An information board out side the chapel reads as follows:
St. Mary's has been a place of pilgrimage for centuries.
A holy relic, perhaps linked to the Holy Virgin, was once housed at the chapel and pilgrims came from across the land to worship here. Relics were sacred remains such as saints' bones or fragments of the True Cross brought back from the Holy Land.
Miracles are reputed to have taken place among the sick who visited the church and the nearby holy well.
It is said that Pilgrim Street, in the centre of Newcastle, was where pilgrims lodged on their way to this holy shrine.
In 1479, a rector from Yorkshire left money in his will for pilgrims to travel to the four most holy places in the kingdom. His list ranked St. Mary's Chapel in Jesmond alongside the great cathedrals of Canterbury and St. Paul's in London.
There's lots of information about the site online. Try this from Historic England, or this local site, which has photos taken on a sunnier day and with a decent camera.
The chapel is worth visiting. If you're ever walking up or down Jesmond Dene take some time to walk up the hill and see it. It doesn't take long.
So there you go. Just days after announcing that I'm leaving my church I find myself on pilgrimage to a ruined chapel. And to a holy well too. But pictures of the well can wait until the next post. I've also taken pictures of Catholic piety - all the little shrines that people have created on the sites, the holy items they've left behind. Those too can wait for another post. I like such things. When I was a Catholic I too was known on occasion to leave holy items - prayer beads usually - at a shrine. I'm sure it was of more benefit to me than to either the shrine or to God. God doesn't need these things. But maybe some of us do.