Chapter 12 The Whithorn Way: Twenty-First Century Pilgrimage in Scotland

In: Pilgrimage as Transformative Process
Valentina Bold
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Pilgrimage is undergoing a revival in Scotland. Guided by the Scottish Pilgrim Routes Forum, a suite of new routes is in development. These include the Whithorn Way, running from Glasgow to Whithorn, Scotland’s ‘cradle of Christianity’ where St Ninian brought the Roman style of Christianity to what is modern Scotland, establishing his ‘Candida Casa’ monastery around 397. The significance of this special place is shown through a discussion of St Ninian’s life and miracles and an exploration of his legacy. Whithorn is set into in context, too, as part of a distinctive faithscape which has Christian and non-Christian dimensions. Combining field-based research with reference to historical resources, most particularly the Miraculi Nynia Episcopi, the chapter surveys traditions of pilgrimage to Whithorn from the medieval period onwards, till shortly beyond the Reformation. In 1581 pilgrimage was banned in Scotland although it is possible that clandestine visits to Whithorn continued. Discussion then focusses on the modern renaissance of pilgrimages to Whithorn, which began in the early twentieth century. Latterly, the pilgrimage has moved beyond Whithorn itself, to St Ninian’s Cave, with mass celebrated on the beach. The call for a revived modern route, whether The Whithorn Way, or the ambitiously conceived European route in the making, St Ninian’s Way, may extend further to Isle of Whithorn, paralleling the journey—albeit shorter in the case of Whithorn—beyond Santiago de Compostella to Cabo Finisterre and Muxía. Isle of Whithorn is where St Ninian made his return to what is now South West Scotland, after a period of study in Rome and with St Martin of Tours, going on to found Candida Casa. The chapter concludes by suggesting that Whithorn, as a significant medieval pilgrim destination, deserves wider recognition and merits this in the form of the new route, or possibly routes, in development.

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