Southwark Cathedral pilgrims reach Canterbury

Southwark pilgrims reach Harbledown where Henry II dismounted to begin walking.

Southwark Cathedral has been strengthening and highlighting its links with Canterbury Cathedral to which it sends pilgrims.

Last Saturday the Friends of Southwark Cathedral completed their pilgrimage to Canterbury after a delay of two years.

Southwark Cathedral, being the starting point for many pilgrims, planned the walk for the Thomas Becket anniversary year 2020. But Covid forced postponement.

The pilgrimage has been undertaken in stages starting last winter.

On Saturday, after lunching at Harbledown, the group walked to St Dunstan’s, the last church before Canterbury.

Inside the pilgrims were able to obtain a stamp for their Pilgrims’ Way passport and view the burial place of St Thomas More’s head. The saint’s head was last seen displayed on the Southwark end of London Bridge in 1535.

The Dean of Southwark, the Very Revd Andrew Nunn, joined the group for the entry into Canterbury at the West Gate.

On reaching Canterbury Cathedral there was a welcome from Canon Emma Pennington, who has responsibility for pilgrims, followed by tea and cakes served by the Friends of Canterbury Cathedral.

A talk on the cathedral’s history, with an emphasis on St Thomas, was given by Canon Howard Such who is both an honorary minister of Canterbury as well as an honorary canon of Southwark.

After attending choral evensong the group received a pilgrim blessing from Canterbury’s Canon Andrew Dodd who is a former Area Dean of Southwark.

The day ended with a visit to the site of the Shrine of St Thomas.

Earlier the Bishop of Southwark, the Rt Revd Christopher Chessun, had spoken about pilgrimage when being interviewed on BBC Radio 4.

‘Pilgrimage starts with somebody feeling compelled to set off towards a destination and that starts as an individual response. But the beauty of pilgrimage is what happens along the way. You have companions along the way and in that companionship…things are discovered about yourself, about others. There is an encounter and … you feel part of a community.’

He added: ‘Southwark is the home of pilgrimage.’

Arriving at St Dunstan’s Church for the last stamp in the pilgrim passport before Canterbury.
West Gate to Canterbury.
The Pilgrim Door marked with a shell in the Canterbury’s Christ Church Gate.
Canon Emma Pennington welcoming pilgrims at tea.
Canon Howard Such pointing to the site of St Thomas Becket’s shrine.

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