On the 24th September 2018, it will be 800 years since the death of St Robert of Knaresborough, and we’re planning to make the year one to remember! St Robert dedicated his life to serve God and neighbour, although from what we know it wasn’t always an easy path. Perhaps most people in Knaresborough think that Robert was a bit of a recluse, shut up in a cave at a safe distance from the town – but nothing could be further from the truth.
St Robert (although never officially canonised) was renowned across Europe throughout the Middle Ages. Writing in 1250, the historian Matthew Paris named Robert as one of the leading ‘personalities’ of the 13th century, along with St. Elizabeth of Hungary and St. Edmund of Pontigny. This was a period of great religious and spiritual energy and devotion, and Robert played his part in a major way. As well as this international renown, he had more than one significant encounter with the local dignitaries, and was even visited by King John toward the end of his life. But his real passion was to support the needs of the people of Knaresborough, both spiritual and physical. His small group of followers, labourers on the land and on their knees, were the ‘go-to’ place for people in need as well as those seeking counsel – a wise word from a spiritual and saintly character who knew where his ultimate allegiance lay.
The main events to celebrate St Robert’s life will fall on the weekend of the 21st to the 23rd September next year. At the moment, this looks like being made up of an ecumenical Church service, a musical extravaganza and a feast – of course! However, we’re hoping that by then the town will have become far more familiar with this relatively unknown character in our history. The co-ordinating group is planning activities that will, for example, use drama, music and art to celebrate St Robert’s live; provide the schools of Knaresborough with material about St Robert’s life; organise walks and pilgrimage opportunities around the sites that were familiar to him; improve the site of the cave itself; bring together historians and archaeologists to share their understanding of life at the time St Robert’s; and to publicise the celebrations and share St Robert’s story as widely as possible.
Our goals for the celebration are to:
- Inform and educate as many people as possible in Knaresborough and beyond about the life of St Robert;
- To celebrate St Robert’s life in ways that make him relevant to 2018;
- To honour St Robert’s memory in the quality and safety of the site at St Robert’s cave; and
- To build a legacy that will benefit the people of Knaresborough into the future.
If you want to find out more there is a website at www.strobertofknaresborough.org.uk where you can make contact and keep in touch with news as it emerges.