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Programme of celebrations to mark 1,000 years of the Abbey of St Edmund launched

Celebrations to mark 1,000 years since the Abbey of St Edmund was founded have been announced today, St Edmund’s Day.

Some of the events were originally planned for this year but had to be postponed as a result of Covid-19.

The new programme starts on April 26 and culminates with a spectacular light show event over the St Edmund’s Day weekend in 2021.

Matthew Vernon, Melanie Lesser (Chair of Bury St Edmunds and Beyond), and Martyn Taylor (Chair of Bury Society (Credit Sue Warren)(43142064)
Matthew Vernon, Melanie Lesser (Chair of Bury St Edmunds and Beyond), and Martyn Taylor (Chair of Bury Society (Credit Sue Warren)(43142064)

The Rev Canon Matthew Vernon, of St Edmundsbury Cathedral and a member of the Abbey 1,000 Group, which is co-ordinating the programme alongside the Abbey of St Edmund Heritage Partnership, said: “The abbey has been a significant site for so long. In these uncertain and challenging times it reminds us there are good things that remain constant, no matter what comes our way.

“This year is the 1,000th anniversary and we will be marking it with a series of events and activities next year from April, with more to be announced.

“All the abbey 1,000 partners deserve thanks for their ongoing work on the celebrations and commitment to marking the anniversary in 2021.”

Heat wave in Bury St Edmunds Abbey Gardens Picture Mark Westley. (43175145)
Heat wave in Bury St Edmunds Abbey Gardens Picture Mark Westley. (43175145)

The first Patron Saint of England and King of East Anglia, Saint Edmund was enshrined in the abbey lending his name to the town. The shrine brought visits from across the UK and abroad including royalty as the abbey became one of the most famous and wealthy pilgrimage locations in England.

It was destroyed during the dissolution of the monasteries in 1539. Edmund’s bejeweled shrine was plundered but his body was missing. His whereabouts are still a mystery but it is thought he could be buried somewhere in the abbey’s grounds.

Today, the abbey remains are surrounded by the Abbey Gardens, which are visited by 1.3 million people every year.

One of the programme’s highlights will be the Benedictine Weekend on May 1 and 2, when 100 Benedictine monks and nuns will gather for the first time in 500 years since the dissolution of the monasteries.

Other special events include a pilgrimage from St Benet’s Abbey, in Norfolk, and Ely, in Cambridgeshire, during July; an exhibition of seven manuscripts from the abbey scriptorium being reunited in their place of origin for the first time since 1539; and a Suffolk Philharmonic Orchestra performance of a new millennium anthem for the Abbey of St Edmund by composer John Rutter.

Key events include:

- Exhibition of Abbey manuscripts in Cathedral Treasury, April 26-August 2

Seven manuscripts from the abbey scriptorium reunited for the first time in their place of origin since 1539.

- Abbey 1,000 sculpture exhibition in the abbey ruins, late April

A sculpture exhibition with artworks changing each month starting late April will be ondisplay in the crypt of the abbey ruins in the Abbey Gardens.

- Local pilgrimage walks, April, dates to be confirmed

- Benedictine Weekend, May 1 and 2

- Abbey 1,000 Heritage Trail, May 22-November 20

Bury St Edmunds Business Improvement District (BID) has created an Abbey 1,000 Trail in-conjunction with historian and chairman of The Bury Society Martyn Taylor, along with Coastline Graphics.

- Suffolk Philharmonic Orchestra Abbey 1,000 Concert, May 29

A major concert by Suffolk Philharmonic Orchestra in celebration of 1,000 years of the Abbey of St Edmund will be held in St Edmundsbury Cathedral.

- Crowning Glory in the Abbey Gardens, May, date to be confirmed

The Crowning Glory, sculpture created from recycled materials will be reinstated during May and remain until the autumn.

- Moyse’s Hall Museum, The Abbey of St Edmund: Artisan and Pilgrimage Exhibition, July 1-September 30

Special events will include evening workshops, lectures, craft workshops, trails, sensory tours, treasure hunts and hands-on activities

- Pilgrimage, St Benet’s, Norfolk and Ely, July 19-25

Follow in the footsteps of the 20 monks who founded the resting place of Edmund, king and martyr, taking one of two routes from either St Benet’s, Norfolk, or Ely Cathedral to St Edmundsbury Cathedral.

Day pilgrims are welcome. Book by emailing precentor@stedscathedral.org

- Noye’s Fludde, October 16

Benjamin Britten’s best-known opera for children, Noye’s Fludde, will be set in the vast surrounds of the Cathedral Nave. The production will be preceded by a newly-devised Suffolk miracle play in honour of the abbey’s millennium and will involve local schools.

- St Edmund's Day Finale and Spectacle of Light, November 18-21

Witness stunning images and sound projected on to historic Abbey buildings, as the daylight fades enjoy an illuminated trail through the abbey ruins in the atmospheric Abbey Gardens in partnership with West Suffolk College. A free event.

For more information on the anniversary and celebrations go to www.abbeyofstedmund1000.co.uk and for more information about where to stay and things to see and do in Bury and the surrounding area visit www.burystedmundsandbeyond.co.uk.

Read more: All the latest news from Suffolk

Read more: All the latest news from Bury St Edmunds

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