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Church to celebrate life of religious trailblazer in special festival

PUBLISHED: 11:04 01 December 2019 | UPDATED: 11:11 01 December 2019

Rev Dr Alex Irving, curate at St Stephens Church, by the chancel in the church where medieval poet and priest Richard Caister was buried. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Rev Dr Alex Irving, curate at St Stephens Church, by the chancel in the church where medieval poet and priest Richard Caister was buried. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Copyright: Archant 2019

He was revered as a medieval trailblazer who preached and wrote in English 100 years before the Protestant Reformation.

Richard Caister's Metrical Prayer, written in English. Picture: Lambeth Palace LibraryRichard Caister's Metrical Prayer, written in English. Picture: Lambeth Palace Library

But not many people have heard the name Richard Caister, despite him surviving the turbulent religious climate in which he lived in.

Next year, the Norwich church where the late priest and poet was based will celebrate his life and work through several events, from family craft workshops to musical performances, from February until October.

A badge from a medieval pilgrim who would have visited Richard Caister's burial spot in St Stephen's CHurch in Norwich in the 15th century. Picture: Museum of LondonA badge from a medieval pilgrim who would have visited Richard Caister's burial spot in St Stephen's CHurch in Norwich in the 15th century. Picture: Museum of London

St Stephen's Church on Rampant Horse Street is putting on the £5,000 Grant me Grace festival to coincide with 600th anniversary of the death of the late priest.

The project is named after a poem he wrote in English, when church leaders were preaching in Latin under the rule of the Roman Catholic Church.

The Rev Dr Alex Irving, curate of St Stephen's Church, said: "The prayer was radical theology for the day. It was allowing the independent believer to speak in their own language to God rather than a priest speaking to God in Latin for them. It is giving language to a lay person to have an immediate relationship with God.

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"You are seeing the start of religious descent beginning to bubble up and Caister is part of that.

"A poem written in the English language at that time was a dangerous thing to do the political climate of the church. The Roman Catholic church made it politically-sensitive to write and talk in English. He was swimming against the tide and was offbeat."

Caister was born either in Caister St Edmund or Caister-on-Sea in the middle of the 14th century.

In 1397, he become vicar of St Mary's Church in Sedgeford, near King's Lynn, where he served for five years.

In 1402 he was transferred to St Stephen's Church in Norwich, where he remained until his death on April 4, 1420.

He was buried in the church chancel, which became a focus for hundreds of people from across England who took part in pilgrimage throughout the fifteenth century.

Mr Irving said Caister, who preached on Norwich Market, was described as a good priest who was popular with the poor - he left his money to the poor in his will.

Visit www.ststephensnorwich.org/the-caister-project



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