Tuesday, August 17, 2021

A Leicestershire circular pilgrimage: St Morrell’s Round

The British Pilgrimage Trust has a page on St Morrell’s Round - an 18-mile circular route within Leicestershire.

The round is inspired by the medieval pilgrimages made to St Morrell’s Chapel on the hillside near Hallaton. Morrell, who died in 453AD, was Bishop of Anger in North-West France. He went into self-imposed exile overseas before returning to be beatified for performing the miracle of Renatus, which is shown on a mural in Anger cathedral. 

Some 800 years later a Norman overlord built a chapel in Hallaton and dedicated it to St Morrell. This is the only church in Britain mentioning Morrell and so it might have been believed that Morrell’s exile was in Hallaton. 

We know that it was a pilgrimage destination for at least the next three hundred years. The chapel was rediscovered in 2014 and work is being carried out to restore the crypt of St Michael’s Church, Hallaton, so the remains found in the chapel can be reinterred there.

The pilgrimage starts and finishes at the museum on Churchgate in Hallaton, which is next to St Michael’s church where there is evidence of an external pulpit built to address gathered pilgrims. The route leaves Hallaton on a medieval road passing its motte and bailey castle before visiting four more rural churches built from the local ironstone, all of which were open during the time when the medieval pilgrims were passing. 

Of note is St Michael’s, Loddington, which was left isolated when the whole village was rebuilt a short distance away after the plague. The far point of the route is Launde Abbey, originally built in 1099 as an Augustine Priory and later taken by Thomas Cromwell. 

As the route crosses the ridges of high Leicestershire it passes fragments of ancient woodland - including the Launde Big Wood, which is conserved and shows exactly the kind of woodland that pilgrims walked through on their way to Hallaton.

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