This year the theme for groving is Relic
- an object esteemed and venerated because of association with a saint or martyr
- a survivor or remnant left after decay, disintegration, or disappearance
- a trace of some past or outmoded practice, custom, or belief
The sense of relic associated with religious remains or sacred objects gives the theme its relevance to Bury St Edmunds.
From St Edmund’s first burial place at Hoxne, c 841 – 870, his relics were removed in the tenth century to Beodricsworth, later called St. Edmundsbury, where the abbey of that name was later built. The acquisition of such a notable relic in 903 made the monastery a place of pilgrimage.
His remains were kept in a shrine in the Abbey but were lost during Henry VIII's wide scale dissolution of the monasteries in the 16th century. The commissioners who dissolved the Abbey in 1539 mentioned nothing about the body, and given St Edmund's royal status it is likely they would have allowed the monks to remove the body from the shrine and relocate it. According to a third-hand account from 1697, monks placed the saint’s remains on an iron chest but the account doesn't give the location within the Abbey precincts where he was buried. However, the monks' cemetery is considered the most likely location, until recently a tennis court in the Abbey Gardens.
The discovery of the bones of Richard III in a car park in Leicester in 2012, confirmed by pathologists in 2019, created renewed interest in the town in finding the remains of Saint Edmund.
Religious remains are probably the most common understanding of the term relic. It comes as something of a surprise to see it used of recent history: technology is developing so quickly that CDs, early mobile phones and Amstrad computers are considered relics. Televisions are heading the same way, as young people access entertainment online. My favourite is the assertion that the era of supermodels is a relic of the 1970s, one that we will not see again. I’m not sure how Naomi Campbell et al would feel about being referred to as relics!
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I am an artist and the curator for grove and groving. This blog is groving online, and records the artworks placed on the streets of Bury St Edmunds along with responses to the work by commissioned writers.