Norfolk Pilgrim Goes Foreign

St. Winwaloe appears in Norfolk weather law - First comes David, Then comes Chad, Then comes Winnold roaring like mad (i.e. March 1st, 2nd and 3rd) . He also gave his name to the horsefair at Downham Market. How does a 5th century Cornish saint get to be remembered in Norfolk?

In France, St. Winwaloes is known as Saint Guénolé or Guennolé. His relics were transferred from a moanastery he founded at Landévennec, Brittany to Montreuil-sur-Merand away from the Viking raids in 914 AD. Following the Norman Conquest the monks of Montreuil-sur-Mer were granted land at Wereham. And so his fame and cult came to Norfolk.

Winwaloe is patron of the Lizard Peninsular and where he established a Cornish monastery. Last week I parked at Poldhu Cove and walked over the hill to Church Cove. The path was surrounded by wild flowers - bluebells, wild garlic, thrift, sea campion and the golden flowers of the gorse. High above a raven and buzzard disputed territory and newly arrived swallows swooped after fresh hatchings of mayflies.

The first sight of St. Winwaloe's Church revealed it as a perfect location for a 5th century monastery. It is sheltered from the south and west by the bulk of a hill that doubled as a coastal castle from ancient times. Close by a clear running stream discharges into the surf on a sandy beach. Nothing of the original church remains but the free-standing bell tower is said to incorporate the original hermits cave.

The deep stillness and subdued light of the church contrasted with the wind, waves and sunshine outside. The prayerful atmosphere is remarkable. Many holiday makers and pilgrims find there way here. The visitors book and book for prayers both provide evidence of how moved people are and what a precious place it becomes for them. Truly a thin place, where God may be encountered.

The church has been called - The Church of the Storms! I'd really like to be there when a Force 1o south-westerly is raging and mountainous surf is crashing on the beach.

© Richard Woodham 2007


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