The food in the Asturian region was magnificent. A “pilgrim’s menu” cost between 10 and 15€, which produced several generous courses of home-made food with red wine. Favourites included Fabada, a thick soup of ham, cabbage and potatoes with chorizo sausage and black pudding, stuffed cabbage, or braised beef and a caramelised cheesecake.
A lot of energy is needed to walk 30km. I cannot imagine how this could be done whilst fasting as penitence. Self denial may be a feature of faith taken to extremes, reinforcing the idea that the bodily self is unworthy. Margery Kempe describes a scene where other pilgrims complain about her refusal to eat meat. The doctor supports her: “I will not make her eat meat while she can abstain and be the better disposed to love our Lord… and while our Lord gives her strength to abstain”
The food was part of the region- “knee- strengthening “ and repairing to manage the hills. It is a pleasure to eat knowing the food will be used as fuel for the body.
Where did the pilgrim’s eat and stay in Bury St Edmunds? I imagine this would be in the town rather than the abbey complex, and would have produced a substantial amount of work.
We visited Orviedo Cathedral on our first day along the Camino Primitivo. I was really impressed by this building- even though it was built and revised over several centuries it seemed very coherent- the size, shape, light, design all held an integrity and beauty. The three rose windows were stunning. It reminded me of the Art School designed by Mackintosh in Glasgow- the same absolute conviction in design down to the smallest detail.
Walking out into the countryside the patterns of arches, etc could be seen in the hills, trees and many wild flowers. The building reflected this and celebrated it: a truly great work of art.
I visited the Cluniac priory in Thetford with my friend David Rees. The ruins of the complex are easier to imagine than the Abbey ruins in BSE as the scale is smaller and there is slightly more left, including the remains of the priors’ house, a piece of gothic arch and the altar, completely stripped. There are two sets of cloisters: a large one and much smaller one beside a 12th Century infirmary with a flint-knapped floor: perfect squares. The priory closed in 1540, 4 years after the beheading of Ann Boleyn. Duffy’s Book “The Stripping of the Altars” goes into detail on the debates at that time over images. Pilgrimage was banned from 1536. Thetford had possessed a statue of a virgin which performed miracles. John ap Rice, writing to Cromwell described his findings from Bury St Edmunds: “Amongst the reliques we found moche vanitie and superstition, as the coles that St Laurence was posted with all, the paring of S.Edmundes naylles, S. Thomas of Canterbury penneknyff and his boots, pieces of the olie crosse..”
Hugh Latimer, Lenten preacher to the king, was particularly exercised by images: in June 1536 he gave an sermon rejecting a list of objects of popular devotion: the cult of saints, images, lights, relics, holy days, pilgrimage, pardons and Purgatory. As most people were illiterate this completely undermined the structure of their devotion.
The Bishops’ Book, published in 1537 states that “we are utterly forbidden to make or have any similitude or image to the intent to bow down to it or worship it”…”Use (of images) in church was a concession to the dullness of men’s wits surviving traces of gentility or paganism. Better to have no representation whatever of God the Father.”
The banning of pilgrimage would have suppressed communication and greatly reduced income for the churches or their towns: the equivalent of stopping the Tourist Industry. I wonder how much devotion with candles, statues, etc. continued at a private domestic level? The act of pilgrimage is thus linked to image-making and image-appreciating. The emotional rants of the time confirm the emotional power of the images, particularly with an illiterate population