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Belmont Professor Jonathan Thorndike Presents Research on “C. S. Lewis and the Pilgrim’s Way to Canterbury” 

Jonathan Thorndike

Belmont English Professor Dr. Jonathan Thorndike presented his research on “C. S. Lewis and the Canterbury Pilgrimage” at the annual Christianity in the Academy Conference on Feb. 5. 

The conference at Union University in Jackson, Tennessee, celebrated the 80th anniversary of C. S. Lewis’s first BBC radio broadcasts, which led to his classic book “Mere Christianity.” 

Thorndike’s presentation discussed the history of the Canterbury Pilgrimage and the walking holidays of C. S. Lewis with his brother Warnie and friends in the Inklings, a group of Christian fantasy writers. Lewis and his friends were not engaged in a traditional pilgrimage during their country walks, but like Chaucer’s pilgrims, they exchanged stories, jokes and discussed their various faith experiences.  

As Thorndike noted, pilgrimages have been practiced in Europe since the middle ages. Geoffrey Chaucer’s “Canterbury Tales” tells the story of a group of pilgrims sharing stories to pass the time on their journey to the cathedral. C. S. Lewis used the journey motif as an organizing principle in two of his best-known books, “The Pilgrim’s Regress” (1933) and “The Great Divorce” (1945)Later this semester, Dr. Thorndike also will be a Scholar-In-Residence at the C. S. Lewis Study Centre in Oxford, England, where he will continue his study at the Bodleian library of the Inklings and walk the Pilgrims’ Way from Winchester to Canterbury Cathedral. It is one of the oldest Christian pilgrimages in the world.

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