Martyrdom of St Thomas 29 December 2021

A candle in Canterbury Cathedral indicates the location of Thomas Becket’s shrine

‘We have the added worship of the Feast of St Thomas of Canterbury on 29 December which gives a special Canterbury climax to our worship before 2022 begins,’ says Dean of Canterbury Robert Willis.

Canterbury Cathedral has announced services for the Feast of St Thomas Becket on Wednesday 29 December.

The 8am Eucharist will be celebrated at the Altar of the Swordpoint on the Martyrdom site in the north transept.

There will also be a said Eucharist at 12.30pm.

The main focus is the candlelit Evensong & procession at 3pm sung by the Lay Clerks. This service, at about the hour of Thomas Becket’s murder, includes ‘medieval chant’ and readings from TS Eliot’s Murder in The Cathedral.

Evensong will be broadcast live on the Cathedral website and YouTube.

Roman Catholic Solemn Vespers in the Cathedral Crypt is at 8pm.

Although in 1899 Hilaire Belloc insisted on walking from Winchester starting on 22 December to reach Canterbury on 29 December this winter festival day was never in Pre-Reformation years a crowded occasion.

The Twelve Days of Christmas was too cold for travel and more a time to stay at home and feast.

Estimates of visitors on each 29 December during the first 300 years following the martyrdom are sometimes as low as sixty.

The bigger day, when crowds filled Canterbury, was on the 7 July Translation in the summer.

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