Friday, 23 January 2015

Godric of Finchale in Jerusalem

If we were going on an exciting trip, we would take lots of pictures and then tell our friends about the state of the hotel, the food or the expenses of the journey. We might try and describe what a particularly impressive view, building or experience was like- something that our photographs don’t show. 

Tourists taking photographs at the Stone of Anointing in the Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem. Source: Wikipedia Commons

Godric's travels and the pilgrimage of Margery Kempe

Pilgrimage accounts rarely discuss their travels in detail. For the wealthy and educated people who composed such accounts, frequent travel was a permanent fact of life. Yet because Reginald of Durham wants to show us how much Godric suffered in the service of God, he tells us a little bit more about Godric’s journey. Godric took no money with him. He subsisted on the alms given to him by other pilgrims. On these donations, he lived off dry bread and barley and a small can of water, keeping them in his bag of provisions until so hardened and old that they could barely be eaten.  Used to living a solitary life, Godric was unlikely to be an entertaining fellow-traveller, willing to tell or listen to the kinds of stories we see in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, supposedly told by a group of pilgrims to pass the time on their way to the shrine of Thomas Becket at Canterbury.  

Geoffrey Chaucer shown as a pilgrim on his travels in a fifteenth-century copy of the Canterbury Tales. Source: Wikipedia Commons

Godric of Finchale's Journey to Jerusalem

 Godric of Finchale (c.1070-1170) began his life as the son of a poor Anglo-Saxon farming couple in Norfolk,  Aeilward and Aedwen. He ended it as a saintly hermit, formally associated with the monastic priory of Durham Cathedral and considered a miracle-working holy man by local society.  As an acknowledged saint, he is the subject of an enormous biography, or hagiographical vita, by a Durham monk named Reginald of Durham. Reginald was a close attendant on Godric in his later years. He began his vita up to a decade before Godric’s death, and its first audiences would have known the hermit very well.  

Later depiction of Godric from Wikipedia Commons. Source: British Library MS Cotton Faustina B VI, part II