An Illustrated Talk for Olney Archaeology Society
Tuesday 1st November 2023 @ 10am
Main image: 14th century pilgrim badge probably from the time that Schorn’s relics were moved to St George’s Chapel, Windsor. Image courtesy of Lionheart Replicas.
‘Sir’ or ‘Maister’ John Schorn* was the Rector of North Marston in Buckinghamshire in the 13th – 14th centuries. After his death, his shrine became the third most popular pilgrimage destination after Canterbury and Walsingham. The income gained from the pilgrims visiting North Marston was so great that his relics were ‘translated’ to Windsor to help finance building the chapel of St George.
However, he was never formally canonized so only ever held the distinction of being a ‘folk saint’ – so how did this rural rector garner so much fame? Even Henry VIII is said to have visited Schorn’s shrine in 1511 and 1521.
After arriving in North Marston he is said to have effected many miracles including curing the sick and creating a sacred spring by striking his staff on the ground. This became Schorne’s Holy Well with a reputation to cure the ague,* gout and provided the only source of fresh water in the village for hundreds of years.
His most feted moment is when it is said that he conjured the devil into a boot – an image captured upon the 14th century pilgrimage badge cast for the many pilgrims who visited his shrine. Opinion varies as to whether this image was an analogy for his ability to cure gout or as to his reputation as an exorcist.
The talk will cover the legends associated with John Schorn, a short review of shoe lore (their associations with fertility and their apotropaic applications), the Holy Well and the archaeologically attested to practice of the ritual deposition of pilgrim badges in watery locales.
It will also feature a case study of the medieval graffiti and inscriptions found at the site of his shrine in the parish church at Marston – which was subject to an archaeological survey.
Finally – where are Sir John Schorn’s bones?
An investigation is underway to try and locate his relics after they were unceremoniously swept aside so that the chapel that he once inhabited at Windsor could make way for the monument to Sir Edward Clinton, who died in 1585.
* Scorne or Shorn (the latter is now recognised academically) *Ague – malaria
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