On 21 November 2019 a group of Kent artists set out on a pilgrimage following the route of the Augustine Camino between Rochester and Ramsgate. The group planned to take a year to cover the 67 mile journey, however, they have had to pause at Painters Forstal due to the first lockdown. They are responding to the route and the concept of pilgrimage in their art. The result will be a series of exhibitions, a book as well as talks and workshops. The first exhibition took place in October 2020 at Chartham Vineyard Gallery as part of Canterbury Festival. The pilgrims are now waiting for the earliest opportunity to set out on their journey which they hope will be in the Spring of 2021.
The pandemic has provided the artists with time to build on all that they have learnt on their walks. In the future they hope to be able to offer experiences, talks and workshops linked with their pilgrimage. These will be within the county and maybe further afield.
The word 'pilgrimage' comes from the Latin word 'peregre' meaning journey. The Hebrew and Christian scriptures are full of journeys and we can learn from them. The Latin root of the word 'pilgrimage', 'peregrine', also means 'strange' or 'stranger'. Pilgrims would have travelled to pilgrimage sites by foot or animal and by embarking on the physical journey they were also making themselves available for inner transformations with physical discomfort stripping away preconceptions.
With the rise of Christianity in the 1st Century BC, Christians started to visit tombs and saint's relics in order to pay their respects. These pilgrimages were short journeys to nearby sites celebrating Saints or miracles. These were often visited on patronal festivals. This movement grew with the idea that you could atone for sins by visiting the sacred spaces or shrines, the most important being a journey to Jerusalem.
Nowadays people are drawn to pilgrimages for a variety of reasons from the spiritual to a chance to explore the countryside. The act of physically walking both alone and with others provides space in a 24/7 world, a time to re-evaluate our lives and to link with those who have walked before.
For anyone wanting to follow the route, full details can be found on the Augustine Camino website.