St Thomas Becket’s Day

Friday 7 July is the Translation of St Thomas of Canterbury.

Translation refers to the moving of Thomas Becket’s body in 1220 from the Canterbury Cathedral crypt to his new shrine upstairs in the main church.

So Friday’s observances at the cathedral are like his feast day in December except at a more convenient time and in warmer weather.

The eve of the Translation, Thursday 6 July, is the anniversary of the execution of St Thomas More who, like Becket, was killed for opposing a King.

More’s anniversary is marked, as always since 1971,  by a lecture at nearby St Dunstan’s on the Pilgrims’ Way in Canterbury.

This is where Henry II started his barefoot walk to Becket’s shrine.

It is also where now the head of St Thomas More rests in a vault. The gateway of his daughter Margaret Roper’s house is nearby.

A descendant Anne Roper gave one of the first talks. Other guest speakers  have included Archbishop Michael Ramsey, Elizabeth Longford and Tim Tatton-Brown.

This year’s address is being delivered by St Dunstan’s former rector Maurice Worgan who in 1993 encouraged the publication of past addresses which have built a picture of St Thomas More’s life.

Fr Worgan’s talk is called ‘The Polarity of Sir Thomas More: Saint or Sinner?‘.

Early on Friday morning, the Translation,  the Eucharist will be celebrated on the spot where Becket was murdered in December 1170.

In the afternoon choral evensong is followed by a procession to the Shrine site.  Here the chapter, the monks’ successors,  and congregation gather round the place which drew so many pilgrims until the shrine’s destruction in the conflict of Henry VIII’s reign.

The Roman Catholic Mass is celebrated at 8pm.

On Saturday 8 July there is the second annual Canterbury Medieval Pageant commemorating Henry ll’s pilgrimage to Canterbury in 1174. This is mainly for families with young children but the programme includes Canterbury’s Gregorian Music Society singing the Angelus at noon in St Peter’s Church.


Canterbury Cathedral programme for the Translation 2017

Thursday 6 July

5.30pm First Evensong of Translation of St Thomas

7.30pm St Thomas More Commemoration at St Dunstan’s Church

Friday 7 July

8am Eucharist at Altar of Sword-point

12.30pm Festal Communion Service in Trinity Chapel

5.30pm Choral Evensong and procession the Shrine site

8pm Roman Catholic Mass in cathedral crypt

A window in St Dunstan’s: St Thomas More and family

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