Botolph and Black Shuck

On a warm summer’s day there’s nowhere more beautiful, nor peaceful, than Iken Church! It stands the end of a wooded promontory jutting out into the tidal mudflats of the Rive Alde! You can get there by foot following the Suffolk Coast and Heaths Path that begins in Lowestoft! The day visitor might find it easier to walk, cycle, or motor from Snape Maltings only three miles away.

However lovely on a summer’s day, in winter with the wind straight from Siberia via the North Sea it would be quite different! Summer and winter you will find an open door during the hours of daylight.

Within an 11th Century Norman nave, is a 9th century Saxon cross, first erected to mark the place of a monastery burnt by Viking raiders.

The monastery was founded in 654 AD, the year Anna, king of East Anglia, was killed in battle against the pagan Mercians.

Its first abbot? Botolph!
St. Botolph brought the Rule of St. Benedict to
England. He was sought out by the Ven. Bede’s abbot, Coelfrith, who called him "a man of remarkable life and learning, full of the grace of the Holy Spirit"! Among the laity Botolph was famous for doing battle against evil spirits of the marshes. For those who dismiss such ideas as ancient superstition, remember Black Shuck! He still has the ability spread fear and there are few in East Anglia today who walk marshland paths by night!

What better place to rest and remember in prayer those caught up in the violence of war, all who dwell in fear and those who live under the shadow of evil. On Fridays there is a vigil of silent prayer from 12 noon until 1 p.m.. Pilgrims are welcome to attend.

Returning home by way of the A12 why not stop off at Blythburg church . It was to an earlier church on this site, overlooking the river, that the body of king Anna was brought after the battle of Bulcamp. On the present church door burn marks can be seen! “Left by the paws of Black Shuck,” it is said, “ Or perhaps the Devil’s hoof-print, when the steeple fell down in 1577!”. Enough of darkness! Inside the church is flooded with light from the clerestory and intricately carved and painted angels adorn the roof! “He will give his angels,” charge over you…” sings the Psalmist!

© Richard Woodham 2007


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