Bryn Deri Primary School children had a busy day in April learning about the Penrhys Pilgrimage - and the work being done to reopen the route.
As you can see from the above pictures, the children enjoyed a workshop where they met a 'medieval pilgrim' who discussed with them the reasons for embarking on the pilgrimage (everything from spiritual enlightenment to a cure for illness, a nice walk - or just to enjoy the challenge). They also discussed the practical problems they would face: what food they would take; what clothes - and how would they manage for money?
The workshop is part of a project supported by the community council to re-establish the pilgrimage route, which passes through our community. The route will bring more visitors to Radyr, bringing more business to the shops, restaurant and bars on Station Road - as walkers enjoy the physical and cultural benefits of following the path. As part of the project, bilingual way-markers will be installed (including in Radyr), providing local information along the route.
The Penrhys Pilgrimage has existed since the late Middle Ages, leading to Llanfair (the Church of Mary) at Penrhys, in the Rhondda. Pilgrims began to travel to Penrhys after a wooden statue of the Virgin Mary was found in a tree there. The statue was described as very tender, with Mary holding the infant Jesus in her arms - and stories of miracles and healings began to circulate. Welsh poets have left a record of hundreds of pilgrims on foot and on horseback heading towards Penrhys, from Cardiff and elsewhere. At the time of the Reformation in the 16th Century, the English government ordered officers to seize the statue of Mary, by night. One contemporary account records that it was taken to London to be burned, in case it became a focus for a Catholic revolt against the new Protestant faith. Today, a stone statue stands on the site of the original, wooden statue.
The pilgrimage was one of the busiest in Wales, if not Britain. It started from Llandaff Cathedral, traveling on the west side of the Taff. In the old days, it went along Llantrisant Road from Danescourt, untill it reached Golf Club Lane. From Radyr, it climbed to Pentyrch, before heading to Creigiau, Groesfaen (where there used to be a stone cross) and Llantrisant. After a night in Llantrisant, the pilgrims headed over Llantrisant common towards Trebanog, where they climbed the mountain before descending into Dinas Rhondda. A final climb from there brought them to Penrhys, where the statue stood in the church associated with the Grange (which belonged to Llantarnam Abbey).
Speaking after the workshop, Community Councillor Helen Lloyd Jones said 'It was wonderful to see how engaged the children were with our Medieval pilgrim. I know that the Penrhys Pilgrimage Project is very grateful to the Community Council for sponsoring these workshops, one for each primary school.'