ON THE RELIC TRAIL

Click to follow
The Independent Culture
The Canterbury route: St Etheldreda's, 14 Ely Place, London EC1 (0171-405 1061); St James Garlickhythe, Garlick Hill, Upper Thames Street, London EC1 (0171-236 1719); St George's, Wrotham (01732 882211); St Peter & St Paul, Leybourne (01732 842920); Aylesford Priory (01622 717272); St Mary, Lenham (01622 858245); All Saints, Boughton Aluph (01233 712576); St Nicholas' Church and Alms Houses, Harbledown (01227 464394); St Thomas' RC Church, Canter-bury (01227 462896); Canterbury Cathedral (01227 762862).

St Chad's Tibia, Birmingham: A busy city ring-road might not seem an obvious choice for a pilgrimage, but the tibia of St Chad in the city's Roman Catholic cathedral is one of the country's most impressive pieces of bone. In 731, Bede claimed that dust from the saint's bones could cure not just pilgrims but their cattle as well. Today, interest in the shrine is waning. "People are aware that it's here," says Father Patrick Daly, the cathedral's administrator, "but they mostly come to admire the architecture." Information: 0121 236 2251.

St Etheldreda's Hand, Ely: Safe behind a glass case in the vestry of St Etheldreda's church, Ely, the withered hand of St Etheldreda (minus, presumably, the shard that rests in Ely Place, London) is a suitably gruesome sight. But even the new parish priest, who mysteriously refused to be named, is sceptical: "There's something in there," he says, "whatever it is." The hand was discovered in a priest's hole at a farmhouse in Surrey, and later donated to the church by the Duke of Norfolk. Information: 01353 662759.

St Candida's Bones, Dorset: St Candida and Holy Cross at Whitchurch Canonicorum is reputedly the only church in the country which still houses the bones of its founder saint. In 1900 the body of a small woman aged about 40 was discovered at the shrine. Today pilgrims still leave votive offerings and healing services are held in the church several times a year. "We often get notes from people we've helped," says the rector, Robin Fairbrother. Information: 01297 489223.

The Body of Dominic Barberi, Sutton Leach, Lancashire: The Blessed Dominic Barberi, who is now awaiting canonisation, died of a heart attack at the Railway Hotel in Reading in 1849. His body now lies at St Anne's monastery, Sutton Leach, although the remains are not openly displayed. "Home Office rules," says Father James at St Anne's. "They're rather parti-cular about such things." Yet the shrine has seen some miraculous cures. "Someone from Wigan recovered from a fatal illness, although unfortunately died a few years later." Information: 01744 811935.

Pilgrim's Hat, Saffron Walden: Like the bones they venerated, relics of the pilgrims themselves still survive. This tiny felt hat, discovered in the tower at Little Sampford church in Essex, and now displayed at Saffron Walden museum, probably once adorned a pilgrim's statue, rather than a pilgrim's head. "It's not exactly what you'd put on to keep the rain off," comments Maureen Evans at the museum. Information: 01799 510333.

Museums: Further relics, such as the badges pilgrims bought as souvenirs, can be seen in the Canterbury Heritage Museum (01227 452747) and the Museum of London (0171-600 3699).

Comments