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Abbey 1000 celebrations reach their pinnacle in Bury

The flag of St Edmund was flown above St Edmund’s Catholic Church, Bury St Edmunds on the Saint’s feast day, as Abbey 1000 celebrations came to a climax. 

St Edmund’s Day was brought forward to November 19 so as to observe the Feast of Christ the King the following day. It was one of the final events to be held as part of Abbey 1000, to commemorate 1000 years since the founding of the Abbey Mass. 

The cover of the service booklet for Mass featured a painting of the church by local artist Agnieszka Procajlo.  The congregation was joined by guests including the Lord Lieutenant Countess of Euston, Lord Bristol, civic dignitaries and members of the Abbey 1000 Committee.  In his homily, Canon David Bagstaff highlighted how Edmund had stayed true to his people and his faith by refusing to renounce his Christianity.  

He also paid tribute to the ways that Abbey 1000 had involved the community in the many events of 2022, including the weekend in May when Catholics and Anglicans joined Benedictines who gathered in St Edmundsbury for the celebration by Bishop Alan Hopes of Mass and Bishop Martin Seeley of Mass of the Anglican Eucharist; pilgrimages had taken place; the ‘Picnic in the Park’ in July had led to St Edmund’s parishioners raising £1,200 for good causes. 

After the service around 80 guests were able to enjoy the traditional ‘ale stew’ lunch in the church crypt and to see an exhibition which included a banner depicting St Edmund’s life and martyrdom made by pupils from St Edmund’s School, an arrowhead (loaned by the town’s museum) purportedly from the tree on which Edmund was martyred, a relic of the Saint and a medallion, the origin of which remains unknown.  A scrolling display of images and information, a large-scale portrayal of the Abbey and an array of Agnieszka’s paintings also complemented the beauty of the Crypt.

Clint Rose, a locally renowned wood carver was present to demonstrate and complete a welcome sign which he had carved in the preceding weeks at six locations.  Clint donated this to the church and accepting it, Fr Dick White recognised his skill and generosity and the significance of making a welcome sign which illustrated the legend of Edmund and the wolf. 

The closing weekend of Abbey 1000 was marked by a Light Spectacular on four nights with the story of Edmund and the Abbey being narrated reflected in images projected on to the Norman Tower and Cathedral and a torch-lit pathway through the Abbey grounds.  Over 10,000 people attended and as John Saunders observed, “This was the pinnacle of the year’s events and a spellbinding way of conveying the story of Edmund, his martyrdom and the existence of the Abbey.  The year has been successful in helping people’s knowledge and understanding of the past and has brought communities together – the challenge now is to build on this success.”

 Pictured above is the ale stew lunch in the crypt of St Edmund’s.