Statue of Norfolk-born medieval mystic erected in Spain
- Credit: Town Council of Oroso
A statue in honour of King's Lynn-born Margery Kempe has been erected in Oroso in Spain to recognise the importance of its historic pilgrimage and her role as a woman in undertaking the journey.
The Town Council of Oroso inaugurated the statue of the Christian mystic at the end of 2020, which the council said is the only statue in the world dedicated to the pilgrim.
Margery Kempe was a famous medieval mystic who undertook many pilgrimages in England and also travelled to the Holy Land.
She claimed to have had visions of Christ and also wrote what was believed to be the first autobiography before she died, in around 1440.
She is said to have come from a family of wealthy merchants and is one of several notable female mystics in the late medieval period.
The sculpture was donated to the council by the Portuguese municipality of Góis, and was inaugurated by the mayor of Oroso Manuel Mirás at the entrance of a medieval bridge that she crossed, with the mayor of Góis council and local councillors also in attendance.
Plans to invite the mayor of west Norfolk Geoff Hipperson were "prevented" by the pandemic, but the Oroso council said it instead sent Mr Hipperson a letter and pictures.
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The English Way also known as Camino Inglés is a pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela which has seen pilgrims from England visit since at least the 11th century, the council said.
It added: "Margery Kempe was the first known British pilgrimage. She wrote it herself in The Book of Margery Kempe, considered the first biography in the English language. Her pilgrimage took place in the year 1417.
"The municipality of Oroso is very active, and every year dedicates all its cultural programming to a historical pilgrim.
"The year 2017 marked the 600th anniversary of the passing of Margery Kempe, and all the acts were dedicated to her.
"In addition, a souvenir plaque was placed. A didactic unit was developed and the three schools in Oroso participated in the 'write a letter to Margery Kempe' contest."
The council said the English Way has around 15,000 pilgrims every year, with the exception of 2020 due to the pandemic, and is a route that has been "defended and promoted" by Mr Mirás for 35 years.
The mayor said: "When we started nobody supported us, and now the pilgrimage has completely recovered.
"The English Way is also a source of historical and economic wealth for the small towns through which it passes, and our students have a knowledge of that route since they receive material printed, lectures, explanations on the route itself.
"The role of Margery Kempe was very important, because it shows that, despite having 14 children, women also made pilgrimages in the Middle Ages."
In a letter to Mr Hipperson, the Oroso mayor said: "Back in 1417, Margery Kemp, born in your town, made a pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela from the port city of Bristol.
"She was the first known woman to have completed the pilgrimage following what is known as the Camino Ingles, possibly arriving by boat to the city of A Coruña.
"All pilgrims following that route in the past or nowadays, since they continue to do so, will arrive to the town of Oroso, since it is necessary to cross the river Tambre over a still standing medieval bridge in order to follow the route to Santiago.
"For decades, the Town Council of Oroso has led the recovery and promotion of the Camino Ingles.
"It is the only statue in the world dedicated to your fellow citizen.
"We find ourselves in difficult times for our countries and the whole world, but when Covid-19 is over it will be an honour to welcome you in our town to show you the monument that celebrates your fellow citizen passage through Oroso."