The Mystery of St Thomas’s relics

As we approach Becket 2020 year a book is being published which will change what many look at on arrival in Canterbury.

When pilgrims enter Canterbury Cathedral now they go to the Trinity Chapel behind St Augustine’s Chair to see the site of St Thomas Becket’s shrine.

A single candle burns in the centre of the vast empty space.

To find any relics one must go to St Thomas of Canterbury Church in nearby Burgate where three bones removed when the shrine was completed in 1220 are displayed.

The Relics of Thomas Becket: A True-life Mystery by John Butler does not mention the surviving relics outside the cathedral but it does look very closely at two locations in the cathedral crypt.

Under slabs of stone lifted in recent times may lie the main remains of Thomas Becket removed from his shrine just before its destruction on the orders of Henry VIII.

The story of the search is fascinating as is the reminder of the events of September 1538 when first Canterbury’s St Thomas shrine was torn down just a few days before Winchester’s St Swithun shrine was destroyed.

The author reminds us that many believe St Swithun to lie hidden somewhere in his cathedral. But at Canterbury there are already several clues as to the possible whereabouts of St Thomas.

So now the crypt must be added to the shrine and martyrdom sites for that first visit to Canterbury Cathedral at the end of the long walk.

The book, launched last week at Canterbury Cathedral for publication in January, is a 72 page large paperback published by Pitkin at £12.99. Early copies are available now from the Cathedral Shop at a special price of £9.99.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *