On the evening of February 3rd Bradford Cathedral put on another of our specially-created historical pilgrimages, first conceived as part of the Year of Cathedrals, Year of Pilgrimage programme of events in 2020. Such events were being encouraged by the Association of English Cathedrals in order to celebrate our cathedrals and great churches and, through collaboration with the British Pilgrimage Trust, provide opportunities and encouragement for people to take up the ancient practice of pilgrimage.

Pilgrims on the Bradford Cathedral pilgrimage were invited to journey together around a sacred space where Christians have worshipped for almost 1400 years. During the journey, the story of the coming of Christianity to Bradford, its growth and the development of the church and the later cathedral were portrayed in words and music at different locations around the building, using a multi-sensory approach and focusing on different historical time periods. There were prayers, poetry, stories, hymns and music from former times and at each location an opportunity for reflection, contemplation and prayer in this beautiful and spiritual environment.

The pilgrims began the first stage of their journey outside the cathedral.  After an introduction from Canon Ned, the pilgrims entered a dark cathedral lit only by candles and with the faint sound of plainchant coming from the choir, assembled in the Lady Chapel.

With lit candles, the pilgrims moved around the dark cathedral, stopping at key historical locations for prayers, readings, music and background information on the life of the Christian church in each historical time period. The first point of focus inside the building was the Anglo-Saxon fragment in the North Ambulatory wall, evidence of the early years of Christianity in Bradford. The pilgrimage then moved on to St. Aidan’s Chapel, to reflect on Aidan’s mission to the north of England, after which the group moved to the chancel and nave, where there was an opportunity to reflect on the building of the current church and the Christians of Bradford who have gone before- both those who worked on the creation of our beautiful church and those who worshipped and led the worship here in times past. The Rood Steps was another point of focus, as were the font canopy, the tower area and the wall memorials. There was also a section of the pilgrimage that reflected on the contribution of Christian women over the ages, both locally and globally.

The pilgrimage made its way to the Peace Chapel for some moments of quiet contemplation and prayer in the near darkness, finishing with the formation of a large circle made up of the participants in a silent, candle-lit and chairless nave. The pilgrimage finished with the AEC Pilgrimage Prayer and the pilgrims saying The Grace together, after which refreshments were served at the west end.

The beautiful music from a range of eras provided by the choir, who themselves moved to different locations throughout the course of the pilgrimage and were often out of sight, added to the contemplative and uplifting atmosphere of the evening and to the special nature of this event. It was both a communal and very personal journey at the same time and we hope that all those who participated found spiritual nourishment and serenity.

We hope to run more of these pilgrimages in the future.                                                                                                          Maggie Myers

Comments from participants:

Beautiful and historical Son et Lumiere (5 stars)
Joined in the Son et Lumiere event on Saturday evening – accompanied by choir, readings, history of the site and building, images and candlelight. Altogether beautiful, thought-provoking, restful and inspiring. Great job. (TripAdvisor Review)

Moving and awe inspiring. It was inclusive and accessible for those with limited mobility. The acoustics were superb and well suited to the event, which was relevant to the story of the cathedral’s simple early days to the present. Of note, in particular, the playing of the replica Tudor organ and the quality and variety of the beautiful music provided by the choir. The candle lighting and readings added to the sacred atmosphere of the pilgrimage. An insight into the history of the cathedral.

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