The Marian Way

An ancient Pilgrimage in a modern context, proposed for 2021

The Friends of Our Lady of Tintern are currently engaged in reviving the mediaeval Pilgrimage route to Tintern Abbey for 2020, a circular path which for the more intrepid Pilgrim will have connections to the Eastern routes of the Cistercian Way and Cistercian Abbeys in Wales. The Marian Way at Tintern will offer the modern day walker the chance to tread in the footsteps of mediaeval devotees along the arduous Stony Way-the path of sorrows- to Penterry Church, St. Arvans, for rest and contemplation before returning to Tintern Abbey and the statue of our Lady through luscious forested landscape- the path of joys.

Living through an age which we might describe as thirsting for secular experiences of the spiritual, the two hour circular route will give the modern day Pilgrim the opportunity to engage with the ancient landscape, whilst reflecting on the present. The ‘symbolic’ landscape the walk promotes - where the conceptual overlays the natural – will provide the ordinary man, woman and child an exercise in spiritual well being and a greater understanding of the Abbey’s significance and Statue of Mother and Child, particularly for those whose life’s journey has been one of troubles, grief and loss.

Pilgrimage was an integral part of the spiritual life in the Middle Ages, as much as walking is to the more physical life of today. It gave spiritual meaning to everyday existence and provided solace and guidance to those who undertook the excursion. In mediaeval text and belief, an analogy between life’s journey and the pilgrimage was often drawn, with the greater spiritual and physical endurance required of the journeyer, the better. It also provided escape from the banalities of daily life, and could be a joyous as well as arduous occasion, with singing and dancing along the road.

The original Marian shrine in Tintern Abbey, preserved in tact until the dissolution of the monastery, was the focus of devotion in the 14th 15th and 16th centuries and was said to be the source of miracles for those seeking emotional and physical healing. Its modern day replica by sculptor Philip Chatfield is a timely reminder of Mary’s symbolic position as the feminine intercessor between the two interlocking worlds or realities as perceived by the mediaeval world: the perfect ‘spiritual’ world of forms and the world of nature. Where better can this be realised than journeying through an area of outstanding natural beauty and rich religious-cultural heritage.