Dorset Pilgrimage – Honouring St Wite

Dear brothers and sisters, after having started the community-life of our Wessex mission with prayers aboard a narrow boat, which was blessed in the process, today saw a carload of us head from Wiltshire to Dorset.

After time talking about parish life, books and spiritual reading, it was a joy to perform another house-blessing before a pilgrimage to the shrine of St Wite took us from one end of Dorset to the other and almost into East Devon.

Our destination was the shrine of St Wite, which survived the reformation and English Civil War, concealed within the fabric of the stately medieval church.

“ According to a long-standing tradition, maintained for centuries in Dorset, St. Wite was a local righteous woman who lived in the ninth century in Charmouth, now a spot two miles away from the village of Whitchurch Canonicorum, where her relics have been kept. It is possible that she was an anchoress who served God in unceasing prayer and solitude, maintained fires as beacons on the cliffs to protect sailors, and was eventually martyred by the pagan Danes, who through the ninth century made regular raids on English monasteries. Not only did these Vikings attack, plunder and burn down monasteries situated both near the sea coasts and inland, they would also lay waste to the surrounding countryside and put to death Christians and ascetics. St. Wite most probably fell victim to one such raid. Some scholars give the year 830 as the possible date of her martyrdom, though no early records of this saint survive.”


Having been aware of this wonder of an undesecrated shrine with the relics of St Wite still within it since teenage years, it was so wonderful to finally get there with our Dorset parishioners, having driven through rolling hills and thick mist to pray before where St Wite’s shrine, in the North transept of the beautiful medieval church, which is constantly visited by pilgrims.

The numerous prayer requests left in the recesses in the base of the shrine, bear testimony to the place that St Wite still holds in their hearts and lives.

Serving a moleben, with the canon to St Wite, we prayed for our local faithful and infant mission, and for the infirm in our community and sick friends of our parishioners.

Many thanks to Lazarus and family for sharing their zeal and love for St Wite, and to Jessica Anne (and husband James). for such amazing hospitality, and for having driven so many miles around Wessex over the last few days. 

Having only arrived in Wessex on Sunday night, it was wonderful to fit in so much, blessing two houses, a house boat, performing the ‘Jordan’ sanctification of the River Wylye, and making our pilgrimage to Whitchurch Canonicorm. We look forward to a mid-monthly Liturgy and prayer meeting and pastoral visits at the end of each month.

Troparion, Tone II: Freely didst offer thou thy life unto Christ, O venerable martyr Wite; for, abandoning the world for His sake, thou didst withdraw to the wilds of Dorset, there to live the angelic life, quenching the fire of the passions with the dew of repentance. Wherefore, as thou didst suffer martyrdom for His sake, thy fame hath spread to all the ends of the earth, and thy holy relics pour forth healings in abundance upon those who ever honour thy memory with love.

Venerable-Martyr, Wite, and all saints of Wessex, pray to God for us!