A new historic walk from Harrogate to Knaresborough is just one of the inspirational series of events coming up to celebrate a legendary Knaresborough figure who many think should be declared Yorkshire’s patron saint.
Volunteers have been working hard to produce a packed programme to mark the 800th anniversary of St Robert’s death in the build-up to the official anniversary on September 24 and it’s starting to get into full swing.
Pride of place will go to the first-ever St Robert’s Walk which will take place next month on the May Bank Holiday weekend.
St Robert’s Anniversary project co-ordinator, author Peter Lacey, who launched a new book about Saint Robert’s life last month called Tales of the Celebrity Hermit, said: “I’ve been really impressed by the enthusiasm of people to come together and put the work in to making this 800th anniversary a success.
I’m really excited about the opportunities to reflect on St Robert’s life, and enjoy the celebrations."
The new pilgrimage walk will start from St Robert’s Church in Pannal on Monday, May 7 and end at St Robert’s Cave in Knaresborough.
This 7.6 mile route will connect the 13th century church in Harrogate with the most significant of Saint Robert’s historic sites in Knaresborough.
The Rev Abbie Palmer, curate of St Robert’s Pannal & St Michael and All Angels Beckwithshaw, said: “The 800th anniversary of Saint Robert will be a great occasion. We will also be producing a Saint Robert’s Way walk map to enable others to follow this route for years to come.
“People of all walks of life can then be inspired by this local holy man’s story as they tread in his footsteps.”
Although St. Robert is little known today, in the 13th century he was hailed as one of the leading religious figures in the UK and beyond.
Known across Europe for his wisdom, selfless nature and acts of service to the poor and the community, the cave in Abbey Road where he lived brought pilgrims in great numbers for centuries until the dissolution of the monasteries under King Henry VIII.
The Vicar at St John the Baptist Church in Knaresborough, The Rev Garry Hinchcliffe said: “Although never officially canonised Robert has for many centuries held a very important place in the heart of Yorkshire and is one of the ‘saints’ vying for the prestigious title of being patron saint for the county. “
The Bank Holiday's pilgrimage should offer an unique opportunity to experience the journey Saint Robert himself took in his life.
The Rev Abbie Palmer said: “Our church in Pannal is the only Anglican Church in the country to be dedicated to St Robert himself.
"Preparing to mark his anniversary has given me the opportunity to learn more about this inspiring saint whose Christian mission was to protect and provide for the weak in society.
"His dedication turned the hearts of many who encountered him across the breadth of society, including the king at the time."
Peter Lacey said: “Saint Robert is probably the least well know, and therefore possibly the least appreciated character in Knaresborough’s rich history.
"But the more I scratched the surface, the more my thoughts about what a ‘cave dwelling hermit’ looked like, the more surprised I was.
"Writing the historical fiction ‘Tales of the Celebrity Hermit’ was itself a journey of discovery.
"Everything from Europe to food banks are reflected in St Robert’s story – and he responds to it all from his small community on the banks of the River Nidd.
"My hope, and prayers, are that by the end of the year Knaresborough will have rediscovered an important historic figure, and that his Christian example will have inspired and challenged us personally."
The biggest flurry of 800th anniversary events is planned for feva festival in August, then the big weekend itself in September.
But there is plenty happening before then.
Among the highlights are:
Saturday, May 26: Christian Reflections - A workshop to explore the relevance of St Robert for Christians today at at Gracious Street Methodist Church.
Saturday, June 23: Musical Extravaganza celebrating the life of St Robert at King James School.
Saturday, July 14: St Robert in his Time - Knaresborough's 'saint' is reappraised by a panel of internationally-renowned academics at Gracious Street Methodist Church.
Friday, September 21: Prize-giving for children's St Robert short story and art competition judged by children's author Daniel Ingram-Brown.
Friday, October 5 to Saturday, October 6: St Robert's Beer Festival at St Robert's Church in Pannal.
More at info at strobertofknaresborough.org.uk