If you weren’t able to join Dr Thérèse Cullen for her pilgrimage tour of sites associated with St Patrick this past weekend, you can get a feel for the journey by listening to and watching her interview with BBC Radio Ulster’s Sunday Sequence.
The short video captures the haunting beauty of the graveyard and countryside around Saul Church, as well as the elegant simplicity of the church itself.
In the longer radio interview, Cullen speaks more about the significance of the Saul site, including the building, the graveyard and the holy well to the west of the church.
Cullen will be offering another tour on Saturday 5 April. Bookings must be made by Tuesday 1 April by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. The cost is £35 per person.
Cullen’s doctoral research was on St Patrick’s links to County Down, so she is well-versed in the history and the myth behind the man.
But her tours are about more than relating facts and stories.
Rather, describes them as pilgrimages and explains that they appeal to people from a variety of faith traditions and none.
For example, she tells the BBC presenter that Saturday’s sold-out St Patrick tour would be attended by three Presbyterians, an Orthodox Christian, an evangelical and a lapsed Catholic, among others.
Cullen is also recorded reciting the famous prayer of St Patrick’s breastplate, which she often uses to begin the pilgrimage. She defines pilgrimage as a ‘journey to a sacred places for healing,’ and says that traditionally – and even today – people go on pilgrimages ‘seeking peace of mind for whatever reason.’ She adds that she has a keen interest in theology and that ‘I’m a pilgrim as well.’
Cullen is also keen to emphasise the ecumenical aspects of her tour.
She notes that the churches in Downpatrick have a history of working together to ‘re-embrace Patrick’ as a ‘saint for all traditions in Northern Ireland.’