Date: 5th August 2017
Location: Shrine of St Bertram, Ilam, DE6 2AZ
Contact: Fr Philip
An annual pilgrimage to the shrine of St Bertram. The Anglican parish church retains the stone tomb of St Bertram which miraculously survived the ravages of the Reformation. After a Divine Liturgy there follows a picnic lunch and a double Blessing of the Waters at both St Bertram’s cave and the spring of the Saint. The day ends with Vespers. Wear comfortable clothes and good walking shoes, bring a picnic, and prepare for all weathers!
Saint Bertram – Bertram was King of Mercia sometime around the 8th century. He is said to have travelled to Ireland in order to discern his feeling of having a religious calling. However, when he arrived in Ireland he fell in love and eloped with a beautiful princess who he brought back to Mercia with him while she was pregnant with his child. They lived a nomadic life with the baby being said to have been born in the shelter of the forest near to present-day Stafford. Tragically, whilst Bertram was away hunting for food for them, some wolves came upon their camp killing both his beloved wife and their infant child.
Overcome with grief, he once again turned to God. Renouncing his royal heritage he sought now a life of prayer. It is reported that many pagans from the area were converted to Christianity by the example he gave in his new life.
Without revealing his royal lineage, and presumably in disguise, Bertram approached the court of Mercia asking for, and being granted, land (near to modern day Stafford) where he could build a hermitage.
Meanwhile, a new king took the throne of Mercia but, not being a religious man, he demanded back the land on which the hermitage stood. It was decided to settle the matter by man to man combat. Bertram, obviously not wanting himself to fight being now a religious and peaceable man, prayed that someone might come forward to fight for the hermitage. Somewhat surprisingly, a dwarf came forward offering to fight but Bertram, remembering the story of David and Goliath, readily accepted the dwarf’s offer; which was just as well: the hermitage kept its land!
Another story is told of Bertram that, having dedicated his life to Christ, he was sought out by the Devil who tried to tempt the saint to turn some stones into bread. Bertram, though, prayed that some bread would instead be turned to stones. In 1516 it was said that those self same stones were still to be found in the church at Bartomely, near Audley in present day Cheshire.
Being known in the area as a wise and holy man, many sought him out for spiritual advice. As with most holy men and women, though, constantly beset by people and needing to refresh his soul, he sought solitude in a cave near to what is now the village of Ilam in Staffordshire* where he lived until his death.