The patron saint of travelers

Posted on February 17th, 2014

St Botolph-without-AldersgateAny walk around London is a literary walk. On Sunday, we strolled from Blackfriars Underground Station, past the ruins of the Domincan abbey which is so mysteriously reincarnated in Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere. We walked around St Paul’s and the Barbican and  eventually back to Cannon Street. We passed several places where Shakespeare lived and worked, the pub where Keats was born, the tombstones of Blake and Robinson Crusoe author, Defoe, the home of Jonathan Swift, author of Gulliver’s Travels. And that’s just the shortlist.

In keeping with my travel obsession, here’s something which usually attracts less attention: St Botolph’s-without-Aldersgate. St Botolph or Botwulf of Thorney, alive in the 7th century, is the patron saint of travelers though it isn’t easy to say why, unless it was because of his post-humous journeying.

botolph-iconCourtesy of Wikipedia: Botwulf is supposed to have been buried at his foundation of Icanho. In 970, Edgar I of England gave permission for Botwulf’s remains to be transferred to Burgh, near Woodbridge, where they remained for some fifty years before being transferred to their own tomb at the abbey of Bury St Edmunds, on the instructions of Cnut. The saint’s relics were later transferred, along with those of his brother Adulf, to Thorney Abbey, although his head was transferred to Ely Cathedral and other portions to Westminster Abbey and other houses.

There were three churches dedicated to poor old Botwulf in London, all situated outside the gates (because that’s where you get travelers).

The highlight of the walk is always the least expected part, in this case the conservatory at the Barbican, a large space in the upper storeys, filled with cacti and palms. Or maybe the Roman wall which is much more extensive than I thought. It’s worth noting that although you can often hear a free organ recital on Sundays in St Paul’s the area is otherwise a ghost town. It’s nice in some ways but it makes it hard to find a decent pub to have lunch in.

London's Hidden WalksThis is the book we used: it’s a good little walking book, small enough to fit in a pocket, detailed enough to be interesting, concise enough to read while you’re walking, pretty enough to make you want to get started and easy to follow.  If 13 walks aren’t enough, there’s a volume 2 as well. (Amazon UK, Amazon USA)

One thought on “The patron saint of travelers

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