In the footsteps of a saint
PUBLISHED: 09:31 16 February 2010 | UPDATED: 16:38 20 February 2013
His name has almost been lost in the mists of time, but now a new walk aims to revive interest in Buckinghamshire's very own 'saint', John Schorne
It was while undertaking his own pilgrimage along the famous Way of St James to Santiago del Compostela in northern Spain in 2006 that Michael Mooney had what you could almost describe as an epiphany.
Michael, a risk assessor from Hoggeston, near Winslow, recalls: I began to understand the nature of pilgrimage when I made my own and following my return to normal life I determined to develop a pilgrimage route in honour of John Schorne. The result is a newly created Buckinghamshire walking route, The John Schorne Peregrination, which it is hoped will revive interest in the once famous, but now little known, local saint. (A peregrination is defined as travelling from one place to another, especially on foot.) The 27-mile circular route has just been published by the famous Marathon Hiker, John Merrill.
John Schorne, Rector of North Marston between 1290 and 1314, was recognised in his lifetime as a devout and holy man. One year, after a prolonged drought, he struck the ground with his staff, and like Moses, he was rewarded with fresh water that gushed forth.Pilgrims flocked to bathe in the waters of this well, which, they believed, could banish evil and had healing powers. Schorne and his well were said to have effected many miraculous cures for common ailments such as gout and toothache. Indeed, his reputation for holiness was such that he was believed to have banished the devil by tricking Satan into a boot and keeping him captive there. Schorne is often pictured holding a boot with a devil in it, supposedly the origin of the childs jack-in-the-box toy. Says Michael: Whether or not you believe the stories associated with Schorne, the medieval importance of North Marston (a local Lourdes as it was recently described) and John Schorne, is a part of local history which deserves to be better known than it is.
Although never formally canonised, Schorne was popularly regarded as a saint and, whether or not you believe the legends attached to his name, he must have been a man of considerable charisma. Like many medieval rectors, Schorne was eventually buried before the high altar of the church where he served as rector. But he was not allowed to remain at North Marston. In 1478, his remains were moved (by Royal command and with papal sanction) to the new St Georges Chapel, in Windsor. His shrine became one of the most important pilgrimage sites in the south of England. Schornes cult, together with his remains, did not survive the Reformation, but his name continued to be remembered and honoured at his home village of Marston. A wall painting of the saint and the niche where his bones were probably originally laid may be seen in St Marys Church, North Marston. Schornes Well lies about 200 yards from the church. It was restored and a new well house built in 2004-2005. If you pump the handle the devil appears in the boot! The circular walk of 27 miles begins and ends in Winslow and visits Addington, Padbury, Hillesden, Claydon House, Quainton, North Marston (taking in St Marys Church and Schornes Well), and Verney Junction. Michael concludes philosophically: A pilgrim is a wanderer with purpose. In the Middle Ages thousands came to North Marston with the purpose of being cured and of obtaining grace. I developed this walking route and walking guide with the purpose of making better known the importance of North Marston.