Pilgrim Stamp for Withersfield
Have you heard of the famous pilgrimage routes to Santiago de Compostela in Spain? The relics of St James are kept there, and pilgrims over the years have made the journey - a spiritual journey as much as a physical one. The Confraternity of St James are one group who encourage this sort of devotional pilgrimage, and they are promoting walking routes across the United Kingdom, including one from London to Walsingham in Norfolk, which passes through Withersfield.
One way to mark this journey is to collect stamps from places along the route, which can be used to collect your official certificate if you make it to Santiago. As part of their promotion of UK pilgrimage, the CSJ have generously provided us in Withersfield with one of these stamps. If you are passing Withersfield, you can always head into the church to take a look!
The stamp has been designed for us by local artist Celia Hart, an illustrator and printmaker. Her inspiration was the door handle which you used to enter the church today, which is said to date from the twelfth or thirteenth century and is one of the oldest surviving parts of the church building. How many other people have touched this door handle as they make their pilgrimage to this church, week by week, year by year?
The creatures depicted on the door handle are likely to be salamanders, often shown by mediaeval artists without legs as here. The salamander was thought to withstand great heat and even extinguish fires with the liquid excreted by its body. Because of this, it has been used to represent the righteous person withstanding the passions and desires of the world, as well as being linked to the story found in the book of Daniel of three men who survived the flames of King Nebuchadnezzar’s furnace.
It is exciting to think that Withersfield can continue to be a part of people's spiritual journey, and can continue to be a place of prayer and worship, rest and refreshment. May God bless all who pass through the church, and may St James pray for us.