29 December: St Thomas of Canterbury Day at Canterbury

The site of the destroyed shrine of St Thomas Becket is marked by a candle.

Evensong at Canterbury Cathedral on Friday 29 December, St Thomas of Canterbury Martyrdom, will be at 5.30pm.

This is a little later than in past years but 5.30pm is now the daily time for evensong which is broadcast live via the website.

The service is being branded Memorial Service for the Martyrdom of St Thomas. The liturgy includes lines from TS Eliot’s Murder In The Cathedral and a dramatic slamming of the cloister door.

The guest preacher is the Bishop of Chelmsford.

Solemn Vespers will be sung at 8pm.

On 29 December 1170 Archbishop Becket was murdered at about 4.30pm whilst Vespers was being sung in the choir.

Otford Palace tower has windows

Otford Palace tower with windows (Photo APCT)

Scaffolding was removed from Otford Palace’s tower last week to reveal window frames.

The Archbishops Palace Conservation Trust‘s £2m restoration programme continues with a submission for funding to the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

Pilgrims can view the tower exterior daily.

The next big public event will be at May Day weekend next year.

The Pilgrims’ Way routes from Southwark and Winchester merge at Otford.

The tower in 2018.

St Oscar Romero shrine anniversary

The dedication of the Oscar Romero shrine by Archbishop Peter Smith in 2013

At St George’s Roman Catholic Cathedral in Southwark on Thursday 28 September at 6pm there will be a Solemn Ecumenical Vespers to mark the tenth anniversary of the shrine installed in honour of St Oscar Romero.

The preacher will be Dr John Hall, former Dean of Westminster Abbey where a statue of the saint is found above the west door.

Oscar Romero was Archbishop of San Salvador when martyred by government agents as he celebrated Mass.

The shrine is a huge 3-dimensional cross, designed in El Salvador by artist Fernando Llort. Inside a reliquary contains a fragment of the blood-stained alb that Archbishop Romero was wearing when murdered.

Oscar Romero has been likened to St Thomas Becket and Romero relics are found at each end of the Pilgrims’ Way -at Southwark’s St George’s Cathedral opposite the Imperial War Museum and in St Thomas of Canterbury Church next to Canterbury Cathedral.

Some pilgrims like to start at St George’s Cathedral and visit St Thomas of Canterbury Church immediately after arriving at Canterbury cathedral so as to acknowledge both saints.

The Romero Way is a short route linking St George’s Cathedral (RC) to Southwark Cathedral (Anglican/CofE) which provides a start for the Pilgrims’ Way without losing the experience of walking down Borough High Street as pilgrims of old including Chaucer’s fictional characters.

Thursday’s vespers will be followed by a reception for the congregation in the Amigo Hall.

A picture of St Oscar Romero above his stole at Canterbury.

St Edith’s Day 2023

St Edith depicted in a window at Kemsing church

Saturday 16 September is St Edith of Kemsing memorial.

Edith, sister of Ethelred the Unready and also known as St Edith of Wilton, was born in the Pilgrims’ Way village of Kemsing in 961.

Today the Kentish village, which has her statue above the hall, maintains her well which is always decorated with flowers on her big day.

This year Devotions at the well are on the following day Sunday 17 September at 10.30am and 3.30pm.

The Anglican Eucharist is at 9.30am (preceding morning Devotions) and Vespers at 4pm (following afternoon Devotions) in St Mary’s Church.

After Vespers there are refreshments including cake in The Bell.

St Edith’s Well

40 days after St Swithun is St Bartholomew

St Bartholomew’s church at Hyde Abbey. Sunday service is now at 10am.

We had the warning in Winchester on a rainy St Swithun’s Day 15 July:

St Swithin’s Day, if it does rain/Full forty days, it will remain

So on St Bartholomew’s Day 24 August we hope to say:

All the tears St Swithun can cry /St Bartholomew dusty mantle wipes dry

You come across a St Bartholomew church after just half a mile on your first day out of Winchester. The church, ‘the active remnant of Hyde Abbey’, is holding an open day on Saturday 26 August 10am-4pm. This will also be the first day of the annual Community Dig to uncover more of the abbey buildings.

The other St Bartholomew church is at Otford where the Winchester and London Pilgrims’ Way routes meet. The church is usually open weekday mornings and on Monday, Wednesday and Friday 9am-12 noon the office can provide a stamp for your pilgrim passport.

St Swithun, Bishop of Winchester, died in 862.
St Bartholomew’s at Otford in Kent. Pilgrims walk down the right side to reach St Edith’s Well at Kemsing.

St Martha’s Day this weekend

A church with the very rare dedication to St Martha is found on the top of a hill on the Pilgrims’ Way between St Catherine’s near Guildford and Shere.

Saturday 29 July is St Martha’s Day.

The church is celebrating on Sunday at 11.15am and teas will be available in the afternoon.

St Martha knew Jesus in his last week on earth when he stayed with her family at Bethany. Her supposed relics are in another ancient pilgrim church: Sainte-Marthe at Tarascon in Provence.

Surrey’s St Martha’s church is 570 feet above sea level and on a clear day affords a view of seven counties. It features in the opening sequence of the 1944 film A Canterbury Tale.

St James’s Day 2023: Patron of all pilgrims

St James depicted as a pilgrim

Tuesday 25 July is St James’s Day when many pilgrims aim to have arrived in Santiago de Compostela and enjoyed the eve of feast fireworks.

St James the Great, bother of St John and an Apostle, is the patron of pilgrims everywhere as well as Spain and lost souls.

The only St James’s church on the Pilgrims’ Way is at Shere in Surrey. Inside is displayed a tiny 13th-century Mother & Child which may have fallen from a pilgrim staff.

Did pilgrims to Santiago as well as Canterbury pass through the village on their way to Santiago?

(A little further on the path touches the edge of Abinger Hammer which has an even older church dedicated to St James in the 13th century but it lies on a hill more than a mile away.)

Cicerone Press has a St James’s Day competition open for a week.

St James the Great Church at Shere where the Pilgrims’ Way passes the south door.
St James the Great above St James Garlickhythe in the City of London

Purple lavender fields in the Darent Valley

There is briefly a rare aroma along the Darent Valley as fields begin to turn purple.

The first serious colour on England’s largest lavender plantation appeared last week and it will increase day by day until harvesting in mid-month.

Castle Farm, between Lullingstone Castle and Shoreham, only planted lavender in 1998 giving the already beautiful valley a French feel.

But France tends to grow the Lavantin verity whilst Castle Farm also has the Folgate which is appearing first.

Castle Farm’s own unique strong smelling Ladybird follows.

The Pilgrims’ Way runs along the bottom of the purple fields and close to the farm shop across the lane where lavender in many forms and ice cream can be purchased.

All pictures are taken from the path which has been sensitively resurfaced by the Darent Valley Landscape Partnership Scheme with help from the final European funding and the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

Park Field has the early blooms
Cowshed Field colour is following fast
The path carrying the Pilgrims Way has a new surface thanks to final European funding
The far end of the Cowshed Field by the path
The valley has a French feel already with the straight path and line of trees. Look back at the end here for a view of the purple on the valley’s east side
More purple on the east side of the valley

St Swithun’s Day at Winchester Cathedral

St Swithun’s Shrine with a cover depicting the rain which according to folklore might fall for forty days if it rains on St Swithun’s Day

A week after the Translation of St Thomas, with the focus on Canterbury, there is St Swithun’s Day on Saturday 15 July.

At Winchester Cathedral the boy choristers will sing the first evensong of St Swithun on Friday 14 July ay 5.30pm.

On Saturday, St Swithun’s Day, evensong will be sung at 4.30pm by the Winchester Cathedral Chamber Choir and attended by the Cathedral Friends. The service ends with a procession to St Swithun’s shrine site.

Both services will be broadcast live on the Cathedral website.

Translation of St Thomas at Canterbury

The shrine site in the Trinity Chapel above the Quire

This year 2023 the Translation of St Thomas of Canterbury, Thomas Becket, falls on Friday 7 July.

The day is the anniversary of St Thomas Becket’s body being moved in 1220 from Canterbury Cathedral‘s crypt to the shrine upstairs in the rebuilt Trinity Chapel at the east end of the cathedral church.

Some pilgrims aim to arrive on this day as it is easier and warmer than the 29 December St Thomas Becket Day.

At 8am the Eucharist will be celebrated at the Altar of the Swordspoint in the Martyrdom, the site of the Archbishop’s murder in December 1170.

There will be another Eucharist (also Anglican) at 12.30pm in the Chapel of Our Lady Undercroft in the crypt.

The Roman Catholic Mass in the cathedral is at 7.30pm followed by light refreshments in the chapter house.

The main ecumenical service, attended by the Cathedral Friends, is Solemn Evensong sung by the lay clerks at 5.30pm followed by a procession to the site of the shrine.

Evensong will be broadcast live on the cathedral website.

Winchester keeps St Swithun’s Day a week later.

To Canterbury from Winchester and London / Leigh Hatts