Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Footsteps of a Saxon - Our St Aldhelm Update

By Jack Welch, Volunteer Press Officer

After the success of completing and holding our grand launch of the trail of our World War One walk, the WITS team have now moved forward to the second phase of their exciting investigation into the life and times of Dorset's first effective Bishop, St Aldhelm. Working alongside our resident expert in this area, Pippa, there are little known facts and plenty of stories about this mysterious man. With much of the information coming second hand from figures such as William of Malmesbury, a scholar Monk from Wiltshire, and classical writer Bede, the group are currently constructing a history of what we know so far and for that to be illustrated in the computer programme, Comic Life. Keep your eyes peeled for more exciting caches coming soon!

Meanwhile, some of the group have been making their way around key locations around Dorset to learn more about the potential journeys St Aldhelm may have made across the county and to plot the location for new caches. The first of these visits included a walk around the coastal scenery of Worth Matravers and ultimately up where St Aldhelm's chapel currently resides. Meeting with the loca
l Priest in the church of Worth Matravers, Gaynor Burnett, she was particularly excited to hear of what had been learnt so far and was happy for volunteers Edward and Ashley to plot a location for the cache. Interestingly, St Aldhelm's Point was only constructed many years after his own death. Believed to have been established around the 13th century, when St Aldhelm died in 709 AD, the building has many unusual features in comparison to a typical chapel. Taking a scenic, coastal path to reach the Point, both volunteers and staff found it quite a challenge to walk around some of the steep inclines on the route and proved to be a rather exhausting trek. With an easier alternative path to the area also available, this will be indicated to the walkers when the Caches become live.

More recently, members of the group were welcomed to the abbey of Wimborne Minsiter and to learn more about the life of Cuthburga, a relative of St Aldhelm, and the first Abbess of Wimborne. With Liz and Rosie in attendance, the visitors were given an insightful talk on the background behind the
Abbey and the underlying, including the Saxon Chest, manufactured from hollowed Oak, which is said to date back to 705 AD and is believed to have great healing powers associated around it. Also present is the astronomic clock, dating back to 1320 and designed to show the days when everything was said to revolve around the Earth.  It was fascinating to learn of the origins of the Abbey belonging to Cuthburga, who spent much of her years as Abbess devoted to her cause and the strict discipline that made the Abbey successful. She died in 725 and is also buried in Wimborne.

More updates to follow...

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