Saturday, August 8, 2009

Vacationing the Medieval Way

Last year, I posted an entry on Santiago de Compostella as an example of a trip one could take like people did in the Middle Ages. These were not vacations or they were not supposed to be like vacations but they often were anyway judging from Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. I am aware of two groups of pilgrims travelling along the North Simcoe Rail Trail and connecting up to the Tiny Trail to walk from Fort Willow to Midland and the Shrine of the Martyrs.
The martyrs in question are Fathers Brebeuf and Lalemant who were tortured and killed by the Iroquois in 1649 as they stayed behind with eighty Huron warriors who were trying to give the rest of the village enough time to flee the onslaught. They were buried at the site of the reproduction Sainte Marie Among the Hurons. Father Brebeuf is credited with having written The Huron Carol. Pilgrims have a special non-paying entrance to visit their graves and there is a hostel nearby for pilgrms. The two Jesuits were canonized in 1930 by Pius XI.
A church was also built in Midland called the Martyr's Shrine. Pope John Paul II visited it in 1984 and performed a mass at the site.
If you like your pilgrimage sites to be older than this, then you must travel to Europe. (If you do not already live there) I would also recommend St. Winifred's in Holywell, county of Flintshire in Wales. It is one of few, if not the only pilgrimage site, to have survived Henry VIII's destruction of Catholic cathedrals and abbeys. Perhaps it was permitted to remain because Henry's grandmother Margaret Beaufort, Countess of Richmond, was a special patron. The website for the shrine also states that it was beloved by Katherine of Aragon, Henry's first wife.
St. Winifred was a Welsh maiden from the 7th century who was being tutored by her uncle, Saint Beuno. A suitor, Caradoc, wanted to have his way with her but she chose to give her life to God so he cut her head off in frustration. Her head was re-attached due to the prayers of Saint Beuno but she carried a scar around her neck from her ordeal.
The well sprung up at the site where Caradoc cut her head off and is renowned for its healing waters. There does not appear to be a set route for pilgrims to take to the shrine like there is for Santiago but there is sure to be some trails nearby. The official website of the shrine is but this site has some wonderful photos of the shrine
Whichever site you chose, it appears it be a fun and meaningful way to vacation.
website for the Simcoe rail trails:
and the Shrine of the Martyrs at Saint Marie Among the Hurons: or the website for Sainte Marie :


Tracy said...

Saint Winifred had her head cut off and reattached! I'll try to look out for info on her next time I'm in Wales.

The Red Witch said...

It's one of those places that miraculously survived Henry VIII and Cromwell. For that alone it deserves a visit but we all know that wells were sacred to the Celts and no doubt this was an important place of worship before Christianity.