Visita Iglesia, or Seven Churches Visitation is a Holy Week tradition back home in the Philippines. This is usually done on Maundy Thursday or until Good Friday, when devotees visit and pray in seven different churches. The Augustinian missionaries introduced this practice in 1540s. Initially, this was to honor the Blessed Sacrament but nowadays it is more of a pilgrimage and meditation, as well as seeking penance for one’s sins.
Since 2010, i have been finding it hard to find seven churches in my county. Don’t get me wrong, we do have more than seven but very few are open even on Holy Week. It is a sad reality in the UK that these churches are only open on times they have services.
This year, I didn’t plan my Visita Iglesia very well. The idea of going to a city may give me better chances of finding churches that open this Holy Week. Well, out of the eight we visited, only 5 were opened. On the way to York, we drove past smaller towns with Catholic churches, but all of them were closed.
We parked in the Park and Ride, where we can leave the car all day and take the bus into the city. Our first stop is St. Oswald’s, a small parish church on Fulford street. From here, we walked just over a mile to St. George’s Catholic Church. This church was opened in 1850, and was the first church to be used as a cathedral after the restoration of hierarchy.
About a mile, we reached St Aelred’s which was unfortunately closed. We walked past the St. Nicholas Fields, a nature reserve outside the city walls. From this point, i remembered a tiny church in the Shambles, the Shrine of St Margaret Clitherow, one of the English Martyrs. The Shambles was busy as always but this shrine has always been empty and quiet whenever I pop in.
From here, we headed out to another church outside Micklegate. Yes, it was closed. Thank goodness for google maps, we found a shorter way to the next church on my list. St. Olave is located in the York Museum Gardens.
Our final church in York is the Saint wilfrid’s Catholic Church. This one is in the same street as the York Minster. I first visited Saint Wilfrid’s in 2009, when I spent Christmas in York.
After having walked 9.75 miles for all these churches, we went to Betty’s but the queue is too long so we headed back to the Shambles. I had a galette from Krep Truck. The husband had a burrito fro another food truck.
After visiting a few shops, we head back to the car and search for two more churches. I decided my last church will be the one in our town as it might be open by the time we are home. So we drove to Stainforth and luckily the Catholic Church of Our Lady of Assumption is open as they are having a service in an hour’s time.
That is this year’s Visita Iglesia. Maybe next year, i’ll book a holiday to Rome so i can easily find seven churches that are open. Not being sarcastic, it is really sad to see these churches all closed even on Holy Week because there is always a risk of being vandalised.
Happy Easter, everyone!