Pilgrims prepare to flock to Oxford’s Christ Church Cathedral

More than 400 people are expected to make their way to Christ Church Cathedral on Saturday for the inaugural St Frideswide Pilgrimage.

St Frideswide is the Patron Saint of both the city and the University of Oxford, and her shrine lies at the heart of our ancient Cathedral. She is celebrated on Saturday 19 October, traditionally the date of her death. Her saint’s day has become a day for celebration across the county and is also known as Oxfordshire Day. The Cathedral serves as the ‘mother church’ for the 815 churches across the Diocese of Oxford, which covers the Thames Valley area.

People will be arriving at the Cathedral by one of four routes, representing the four points of the compass. The routes use a mix of footpaths and the Thames Path and vary in length from 17 miles from Dorchester Abbey (across two days) to 1.5 miles on Saturday afternoon from Iffley Lock, which is intended to be particularly family-friendly.

The intention is that pilgrims arrive from 2pm and visit the Cathedral to reflect and pray, using Prayer Stations based around the Beatitudes, a set of Jesus’s teachings from The Sermon on the Mount. Pilgrims will also be invited to pray at the Shrine of St Frideswide in the Cathedral’s Latin Chapel.

There will be a short reflective service at 4pm, which will include an anthem by the St Frideswide Consort, the older members of the Cathedral’s girls’ choir. Both the Dean, the Very Revd Professor Martyn Percy, and the Bishop of Oxford, the Rt Revd Dr Steven Croft, will help to lead the service.

The St Frideswide Pilgrimage is one of a series of special services at the Cathedral to mark the season of St Frideswide. These include the Court Sermon (Tuesday 15 October); the Patronal Eucharist (Thursday 17 October) and the Civic Service (Tuesday 22 October).

The Succentor, the Revd Philippa White, who is one of the key organisers of the day, said: “I’m excited to welcome pilgrims from around the Diocese and beyond to their Cathedral. Like many others rediscovering pilgrimage around the world, they are quite literally following in the footsteps of over a thousand years of pilgrims finding in this place beauty, transcendence and the presence of God.

“As we celebrate Frideswide as our sister in faith, whose life shows us what it is to follow God’s call, we offer to all who wish the chance to step aside from ordinary routine and into sacred space, experiencing the Cathedral in a variety of ways both traditional and contemporary. We pray that God will meet all who gather with us.”