A Catholic woman from Cratfield, near Halesworth, has completed the 1,200 mile Via Francigena pilgrimage

Mary Kirk in St Peter’s Square in Rome after her epic 2,000km pilgrimage.

Mary Kirk in St Peter’s Square in Rome after her epic 2,000km pilgrimage. - Credit: Archant

After 1,200 miles walking through four countries over 75 days – and with a knee injury – a pilgrim has completed her epic journey.

Mary Kirk before she set off for her 1,200 mile trek. Picture: James Bass

Mary Kirk before she set off for her 1,200 mile trek. Picture: James Bass - Credit: James Bass

There were tears of emotion and joy as 69-year-old Mary Kirk, who lives in Cratfield, near Halesworth, walked into St Peter's Square in Rome.

Mrs Kirk, who worships in Harleston at the Catholic Parish of St Edmund, took on the challenge of walking the route – known as Via Francigena – setting off from Canterbury Cathedral before passing through France, Switzerland, Italy and reaching the Vatican.

Mrs Kirk, a retired personal trainer, completed the pilgrimage in support of the refugees who are travelling north through Europe to escape war and raised £1,000 for Refugee Action and Shelter.

She was joined by her daughter, Anna, for the first stage of the journey, from Canterbury to Dover, and she was also waiting for her in Rome.

Mrs Kirk said: 'It sounds so far but really all you do is the day you are going to do.

'In France the weather was so bad and a lot of the time it was heavy rain. It just went on and on. It's just not as known [the Via Francigena] in France and you do not meet anybody. It was really quite lonely.

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'But Italy was wonderful and I met some great people and for me that is part of going on these pilgrimages.'

An injury to her knee forced the mother and grandmother-of-two to take a break mid-journey to recover, but she finished the route walking the final miles with two fellow pilgrims from Switzerland.

She walked on average eight hours a day and the most she walked in a day was 23 miles.

'You are stripped down to the basics – you do not know people's back stories and you are together in the moment,' she said. 'It was a journey. I always said this is my last challenge, but who knows? Everybody tells me I will do another one. I don't know. I'll think about it.'

Mrs Kirk received a Latin certificate, the Testimonium, awarded to those who have walked the final 100km (60 miles) or more to the tomb of Peter, after providing proof with a pilgrim passport stamped every day in churches, convents and town halls as proof of passage.

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