The Suffolk Pilgrim’s Progress: 2
Last November I was able to spend a week in an Art Retreat in Northern Spain. The house was in a small village West of Astorga, on the Camino Frances to Santiago del Compostela. I was given wonderful hospitality by the owners, Basia and Bertrand, and had the opportunity to try out some principles of geometric art and also visit the many amazing ecclesiastical treasures in Astorga. Creating even the simplest images with a compass and rule was very absorbing, and gave me back my enthusiasm for painting. I also loved rambling around the countryside amongst the rocks and Spanish oaks
Returning to Bury St Edmunds I was left wondering about our past and how the abbey might have been. If it was anywhere near the more humble Astorga, let alone Santiago itself, then we have lost a lot of material wealth.
I visited Moyse Hall museum to see what they had- there is a collection of pilgrim badges, including ampullae- small vessels for holy water, a scallop shell and a camel, found at Dunwich and possibly lost by a pilgrim who had visited Jerusalem. I was excited by a small acorn ornament, which was probably attached to the end of a cord like a tassel- the acorn was smaller than an English one and exactly the same as the much smaller Spanish acorns I had collected on my walks! Could it be the owner had been familiar with Northern Spain?
So what happened to the ecclesiastical treasure? We all dream of buried gold, but it is more likely it was sold abroad by The Crown, or melted down. I asked the retired bursar of Trinity College Cambridge, Jeremy Fairbrother what was in their college attics: “Students”, he replied.