Earlier this month, I was part of the team helping launch St Thomas Way. I’ve just heard that the exhibition accompanying the launch will be on show at Hereford Cathedral for two extra weeks this summer, through the Three Choirs Festival and into August:
St Thomas Way
This exhibition ‘Re-Making Maps of the Mind: Medieval & Modern Journeys’ accompanies the launch of the new heritage trail on the Welsh-English borders, St Thomas Way. Since last September, artist Michelle Rumney has been visiting places along the St Thomas Way and exploring medieval beliefs, working alongside Chloe MacKenzie, research fellow in Medieval English at Southampton University. They’ve been looking at the ways people made sense of the world around them – from contemplating the vast ‘known’ world of the Hereford Mappa Mundi to the ‘simple’ act of taking a walk.
St Thomas Way winds from Swansea to Hereford, loosely following the pilgrimage route taken in 1290 by ‘The Hanged Man’, William Cragh, who’d had been hung for his crimes, but who came back to life again. This miracle was one of many at the time attributed to Thomas Cantalupe, Bishop of Hereford, who was later canonised. William walked all the way to Hereford Cathedral barefoot, with the noose he’d been hung with around his neck, to give thanks to Thomas for saving his life – and his soul.
This story is inspiring on many levels – Chloe has been walking in places that still hold echoes of those times over 700 years later, testing the new circular routes at each of the 13 points along the trail. Meanwhile, Michelle has been exploring the strange world of the Mappa Mundi and at the medieval practice of ‘Measuring to the Saint’ – it was while William was being measured that he started coming back to life. In the 13th century, it was the custom to measure a person from head to toe using a piece of string or thread, which would be sent to a cathedral or abbey, where the monks would make a candle from it and pray to the saint for the person’s eternal soul. Struck by this concept that a humble piece of string could perhaps still connect us spiritually, Michelle has used the practice in her work, measuring over 250 people ‘to the saint’, using their lengths of string to create a new ’map’, and landscapes for us to explore and reflect upon.
The exhibition was commissioned by Catherine Clarke, Professor of Medieval English at Southampton University, who first came across Michelle’s work with maps and labyrinths when it was exhibited at Poole Lighthouse in “Are we There Yet? Mapping the Labyrinth”. “Re-Making Maps of the Mind: Medieval & Modern Journeys” has been funded by the university’s Public Engagement with Research unit (PERu).
The exhibition includes a whole series of new works in Hereford’s beautiful vaulted Crypt and continues at Hereford Cathedral – the first/last stop on St Thomas Way – extended until Tuesday 14th August. It then moves along the trail to St Mary’s Priory in Abergavenny and to St Mary’s in Swansea in September…
To be kept in touch with future exhibitions, join Michelle’s mailing list here:michellerumney.com