Bishop urges pilgrims to visit 800 year-old Crozier
Bishop William Nolan of Galloway has urged Scottish Catholics to consider a pilgrimage to Whithorn—‘the cradle of Christianity in Scotland’—as he opened a new exhibition at the museum there.
The Bishop was in the southern Galloway village to mark the opening of the loan exhibition from National Museums Scotland of the Whithorn Crozier.
Whithorn is know to be one of the earliest Christian centres on these islands, and the crozier dates from the 12th century and was unearthed from the bishops’ graves in the 1950’s. The bishop with whom it was buried was finally identified in 2000 as Bishop Henry, who died in the 1290s.
Bishop Nolan said it was ‘remarkable’ to see the crozier which had been handled by preceding bishops nearly a millennium before.
“It’s quite something to see this concrete connection with these historic bishops,” he said. “It’s great we have it and can see how ornate the artwork is upon it.”
The bishop also said that he hoped the ‘wonderful exhibition’ around the crozier would encourage more people to come to Whithorn on pilgrimage. “We in Galloway have a pilgrimage to St Ninian’s Cave on the last weekend of August each year,” he said. “And that’s always a wonderful experience. But what the Whithorn trust are doing here is showing the ancient Christian history of this area. It was a great Christian centre in its day for Scotland, Ireland, the North of England. It actually predates Iona by 100 years and I’m very keen to promote people coming here on pilgrimage.”
Julia Muir Watt, the development manger at the Whithorn Trust, said they were delighted to have the croizer back at Whithorn.
“It feels like the closing of a circle—it’s so astonishing it survived all down the centuries,” she said. “It really is a remarkable piece of work, so delicate and carved, it’s hard to imagine how they managed it.”
She said the trust was working hard to improve knowledge of Whithorn.
“Also on Saturday we have the opening of an authentic Iron Age Roundhouse, which shows how richer merchants would have lived right into the Christian era,” she said. “We’ve also received Heritage Lottery funding to market the Whithorn Way pilgrimage route from Glasgow to Whithorn, so we’re going to develop a smartphone app to make it easier to make the journey.”