On this coming Saturday 4 July some pubs, bed & breakfasts and cafes will reopen.
Does this mean that we can now walk to Canterbury and get there by the 800th Translation anniversary on Tuesday 7 July?
‘Probably not’ is the best answer.
Not all pubs or accommodation will be open on 4 July. Some are anxious to welcome us but others are being cautious and reopening later in the month.
Don’t expect to be able to collect lots of stamps in your passport.
Pilgrimage is most rewarding when taken slowly so you don’t want to have to walk long distances at speed to reach a bed. Booking ahead will be essential for some time.
Also, public transport does not have much capacity at the moment. Southeastern Railway has a new timetable from Monday but there will still only be 80% of normal services.
If you do go on the PW follow physical distancing guidelines and limit your contact with others and anyone you meet. Your party should be restricted to five others from different households.
Looking at the PW from London to Canterbury, the good news is that Southwark Cathedral will reopen on Saturday for private prayer and reflection between 10am and 3pm daily.
Public services will resume on Monday.
Tuesday 7 July, Translation of St Thomas of Canterbury: Canterbury Cathedral will be open from 10am (Sun 12.30pm) to 4pm from Saturday 4 July with free entry during the first week. Becket 2020 celebrations and events have been postponed but on Tuesday there will be The Eucharist at 8am and Evensong (without singing) at 5.30pm.
In Southwark Cathedral there is the Cardinal’s shield in the south transept and his image on the great screen.
He knew both churches well.
Those setting out from Winchester will pass through Farnham where there is the St Joan of Arc Church in Tilford Road just behind the station. The church, built in 1929, is dedicated to St Joan because Cardinal Beaufort, as Bishop of Winchester, was often in residence at Farnham Castle.
This year is the centenary of St Joan’s canonisation.
Rouen was also known to Thomas Becket who was there in 1170 on his way back to Canterbury and his death.
***Southwark Cathedral and Rouen Cathedral maintain an ecumenical link with exchange visits.
Today 21 May is the 500th anniversary of Henry VIII setting out for Canterbury.
Early on the morning of 21 May 1520, after the Ascension, the King and Queen Katharine (of Aragon), accompanied by Cardinal Wolsey and a huge entourage, left Greenwich Palace.
A very long procession went uphill towards Blackheath.
The final destination was to be France where Henry was attending the great summit known as the Field of the Cloth of Gold.
The government of England and Wales had been placed in the hands of Bishop Richard Fox of Winchester who remained at Greenwich.
Henry stopped at Lullingstone Castle, home of SirJohn Peche who was accompanying him, before staying overnight at Otford Palace. The King was familiar with the Archbishop William Warham’s recently rebuilt palace having stayed there in the previous year.
Next day the party arrived at Maidstone.
But a night was still spent at nearby Charing, another of the archbishop’s staging post palaces.
A day later Henry and Katharine arrived at Canterbury ready to keep Whit Sunday at the cathedral.
They were joined by Charles V of Spain, who was concerned about the pending summit, and together the two sovereigns paid homage at the shrine of St Thomas Becket.
It was not until 7 June that Henry VIII at last met King Francis of France near Calais.
The return at the end of July was by way of Sittingbourne rather than Charing.
This is prompted by a growing realisation in Galicia that a return to normal will be gradual with travel restricted for sometime after a phased return to work.
The Camino may still be ‘closed’ next spring.
Indeed Venice, for example, is already planning to severely limit tourists for some years after the virus is defeated.
So where does this leave our current Becket 2020 programme?
Even if Canterbury Cathedral reopens this summer there will be few able to be present for the Translation of St Thomas of Canterbury on 7 July. Planned lectures are unlikely to take place or may have to be online only.
Should we think about re-starting our Becket year when the UK has returned to normal? The very earliest date for that state of affairs appears to be summer 2021.
One possibility for a new Becket year free of difficulty is 2023 which will be the 850th anniversary of Thomas Becket’s canonisation.
The actual date was Ash Wednesday 21 February 1173.
In 2023 that day, 21 February, will be Shrove Tuesday. A Pancake Day with resonance, and during the half term holiday, could be the launch of another Becket year.