Arrangements for the feast of St Thomas Becket, or St Thomas of Canterbury, at Canterbury Cathedral this Thursday 29 December have been announced:
8am Eucharist at Altar of the Swordspoint in the Martyrdom.
3pm Solemn Evensong & procession. The liturgy incudes passages from TS Eliot’s Murder in the Cathedral and the hymn In Our Day of Thanksgiving.
8pm Roman Catholic Vespers in the Crypt.
At St Thomas of Canterbury RC Church in Burgate there will be Mass at 7.30am & 12 noon.
In 1899 Hilaire Belloc walked from Winchester starting on 22 December to reach Canterbury on 29 December but the winter festival day was never in Pre-Reformation years a crowded occasion.
John Jenkins reminds us about this in his The Customary of the Shrine of St. Thomas Becket at Canterbury Cathedral published earlier this year.
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. Those who made it, often locals, received bread, cheese and ale from the monks.
The bigger day, when crowds filled Canterbury, was and remains the Feast of the Translation on 7 July in the summer.