Southwark & Rouen

2018 Week of Prayer for Christian Unity in Rouen

This Sunday comes at the end of the annual Week of Prayer for Christian Unity when the online Eucharist from Southwark Cathedral will include Lutheran and Roman Catholic participation from Bergen and Rouen cathedrals.

Southwark’s link with Rouen has several resonances.

Rouen Cathedral is where in 1014 St Olaf was baptised after pulling down London Bridge to defeat a Viking invasion.

Olaf became King of Norway and friends from Bergen and Southwark have travelled together to Rouen.

Having just observed the 850th anniversary of Thomas Becket’s murder, which took place just after his visit to Southwark, it is maybe the moment to recall that Becket’s father was from Rouen.

Also, it was in Rouen during the last year of his life that Thomas Becket was given money to enable him to return from exile to England. The vital assistance came from the Archbishop of Rouen after Henry II broke his promise to meet the Becket in Rouen.

In 2018 a party from Southwark visited Rouen Cathedral during the Week of Prayer and joined in local unity events.

But for the virus, friends from Rouen would been in Southwark last month when Thomas Becket’s 1170 visit was recalled with a choral evensong. 850 years later the preacher was Archbishop Justin Welby.

Southwark’s St George’s Cathedral brought its Becket relic to the anniversary service and their congregation will also be represented at the Eucharist.

The Eucharist this Sunday can be followed on the Southwark Cathedral website at 11am.

Rouen Cathedral

Santiago Cathedral reopens for pilgrims

The 2021 Holy Year logo

Canterbury is both a destination for those who have travelled the Pilgrim’s Way from Winchester, Rochester or Southwark and the starting point for those en route to Santiago de Compostela in Spain.

Today, after several years of restoration, Santiago Cathedral reopens for the feast of the Translation of St James.

Tomorrow during Vespers, the Holy Door will be opened for Holy Year pilgrims. In 2021 St James’s Day 25 July falls on a Sunday making next year a Holy Year.

Vespers can be seen live from 3.30pm GMT on New Year’s Eve.

From January there is to be a daily pilgrim Mass at 12 noon.

Although some pilgrims have been arriving during recent months there is a plan being considered to extend the Holy Year into 2022 so as to enable many more to undertake the pilgrimage if the virus can be suppressed across France, Portugal and Northern Spain.

*** The Pilgrims’ Way being also the beginning of paths for Santiago and Rome is explained by former Confraternity of St James secretary Marion Marples at the start of the film To Be a Pilgrim (Southwark to Canterbury) available for free rental online until tomorrow.

Thomas becket: 850th anniversary

Canterbury Cathedral’s 13th-century window depicting St Thomas which can also be seen on an Old Kent Road pub sign and a beer bottle label.

Today Tuesday 29 December is the 850th anniversary of St Thomas Becket being murdered in Canterbury Cathedral.

This December was to have been the culmination of the Becket 2020 year in which the 800th anniversary of his Translation would have been marked as well as the 850th of his death.

This afternoon all who had intended to be at Canterbury, indeed to have walked there during Christmas week like Hilaire Belloc in 1899, can watch Evensong online from Canterbury Cathedral.

St Thomas died during Vespers. Tonight Evensong will include passages from TS Eliot’s Murder in the Cathedral premiered at Canterbury in 1935.

February 2023 will be the 850th anniversary of the canonisation of Thomas Becket. Get ready for a chilly walk along the PW that year.

Becket’s Birthday

The image of St Thomas Becket, based on pilgrim badge, high above 90 Cheapside on the corner of Ironmonger Lane

Today Monday 21 December is the birthday of St Thomas of Canterbury: Thomas Becket.

His parents were Matilda and Gilbert Becket from Rouen where their son as archbishop was to visit sixty years later as his exile ended.

The baby was baptised Thomas having been born on St Thomas the Apostle Day -now observed in July but then in the Advent calendar.

Today could be the 900th anniversary of Thomas Becket’s birth since many claim he was born in 1120 rather than 1118 as recorded by some other sources.

His birthplace is found opposite Tesco in the City of London’s Cheapside. The site became the Hospital of St Thomas and until the 1530s had a statue of the saint facing the street.

The successor church is the Mercers’ Chapel within Mercers’ Hall which is reached by way of Ironmonger Lane to the west.

Through the window of Becket House in Old Jewry, on the east side, can be seen a scaled up linocut of Cyril Power’s depiction of the violent murder of St Thomas Becket.

Cyril Power’s linocut in Becket House

Becket at the British Museum in 2021

English alabaster sculpture (c 1450–1550) depicting the murder of St Thomas of Canterbury

Thomas Becket: murder and the making of a saint is the major Becket 2020 exhibition which will open at the British Museum on Wednesday 22 April.

The exhibition was scheduled for earlier this year but as with most St Thomas Becket anniversary events was postponed.

The array of objects associated with Becket will include jewellery, sculptures and reliquaries.

In addition to artefacts from the Museum’s own collection there are loans from Europe and the United States.

The British Museum exhibition will run for four months until Sunday 22 August.

Archbishop Welby at Southwark for Becket anniversary

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby next to the Thomas Becket icon by Susan Moberley in Southwark Cathedral. (Photo: Southwark Diocese)

“Becket’s cause is not our own,” said his successor Justin Welby speaking at Southwark Cathedral on Friday.

“We do know better than him in some areas. But too often his courage is not our own either; the courage that puts our all in the hands of God, and like the modern martyrs sees death as simply the cost of discipleship.”

The present Archbishop of Canterbury was preaching during Choral Evensong on the 850th anniversay of predecessor St Thomas Becket visiting the cathedral days before his murder.

Justin Welby reminded the congregation that today the Church does not usually seek to avoid secular law. But he did invoke the example of ‘the 20th-century Becket’ St Oscar Romero whose national shrine is at St George’s Roman Catholic Cathedral in Southwark.

Dean of St George’s Richard Hearn brought a relic of St Thomas from his cathedral for the service.

“What is wrong is wrong, and at times that necessitates confrontation with the courage of Becket – albeit not his cause,” said Archbishop Welby.

“That courage was found in Jeremiah and in St Paul. In the apostles before the Sanhedrin. In Paul before the Emperor. In our living memory, Bonhoeffer before the Nazi court. Oscar Romero before his Government.”

“It is found around the world, anonymously, today in hidden fields in Northern Nigeria, on the beaches of Libya, in prisons unknown and dark places forgotten. It is found where brave people stand for the light that Christ sheds, sometimes unknowingly, and hold to the truth that the darkness will never quench the light.”

Later the Archbishop added: “When children go hungry in 21st century Britain, we must speak – because God says so in scripture. We heard it in the Magnificat just a few moments ago.

“When aid to the world’s poorest is cut, we must speak – because Christ commands a bias to the poor, not the trickle-down theory of economics; to love our neighbours like the Good Samaritan did when the ‘neighbour’ was just a human being in trouble from an enemy country of which he knew little.

“When the refugee or the immigrant are vilified. When a Muslim woman cannot go on public transport without insult, or a Christian cannot read a bible without persecution. When a man has his neck knelt on till he suffocates. When a pastor is arrested for speaking of Christ, the Church of that and every country must say this is wrong, whatever the democratic vote or popular thinking or Government collusion.

“Paul is on the point of death when he writes to Timothy. He speaks of the love of Christ and the hope of salvation proclaimed whether it leads to trouble or not. He speaks of truth which a loving Church seeks and proclaims in each generation. He speaks of urgency, not political expedience.”

The service remembered not just Southwark’s Becket anniversary but, due to the virus, was the opening of the delayed Becket 2020 programme marking the 850 murder of Thomas Becket in Canterbury. Its cathedral is marking the actual anniversary on Tuesday 29 December.

Both cathedrals are preparing for the resumption of pilgrimage along the Southwark to Canterbury Pilgrims’ Way next year.

The Archbishop’s full text is on his website. A recording of the service is on YouTube.

The Archbishop preaching with the St Thomas relic on the altar. (Photo:Southwark Diocese)
Two tall candles representing St Thomas (right) and Marion Marples (left) made to their height by artist Michelle Rumney. Pilgrimage expert Marion was working on highlighting the London-Canterbury route when she died suddenly last year.

Becket in Southwark: Live online anniversary feed

View of Southwark Cathedral from Borough Market

Friday 11 December

Today 850 years ago St Thomas Becket was at Southwark Priory.

St Thomas of Canterbury had been welcomed by crowds along the Old Kent Road and in Borough High Street.

The occasion will be recalled tonight in Southwark Cathedral, the old priory, during choral evensong.

A relic of the saint is being brought by the Dean of Southwark’s Roman Catholic St George’s Cathedral.

A candle made to the height of St Thomas will be lit.

The Dean of Canterbury will lead the prayers.

Whether Thomas Becket arrived on Thursday 10 December or today is a matter of continuing debate. What is certain is that he was in Southwark on Friday 11 December 1170.

This was just eighteen days before his murder in Canterbury Cathedral.

On arrival in 1170 Archbishop Becket was met at the church door by the canons and tonight in 2020 the canons are welcoming Archbishop Justin Welby to preach.

In 1170 St Thomas spent the night next door in the Bishop of Winchester’s house. The entrance is now Winchester Walk opposite the cathedral and the remains of the main building can be seen behind Borough Market in Clink Street. The kitchen is now a Pret a Manger.

The service is being broadcast live this evening Friday 11 December at 5.30pm on Facebook, YouTube and the Southwark Cathedral website .

The Candles: The Becket candle was part of Michelle Rumney’s Lenten art installation featuring pilgrimage but seen only for a short time before the Covid lockdown. A second candle is made to the height of pilgrimage pioneer Marion Marples who died suddenly last year having worked on the reawakening of the Pilgrims’ Way for Becket 2020.

Remains of the Bishop of Winchester’s dining hall in Clink Street

Pilgrims’ Way in London

Southwark Cathedral below The Shard which is visible from Shooters Hill.

The three-tier system for controlling the virus means that walkers should not enter Kent.

If already in the county you are free to walk although pubs are not open for accommodation.

However, walking the route from London to Erith is possible as this is all within Greater London which is in the middle tier.

Dartford is in Kent.

If walking out of London you will be able to obtain a passport at the start in Southwark Cathedral‘s shop from Thursday 3 December.

The Red Lion is open on Shooters Hill.

At Lesnes Abbey you will find the Chestnuts refreshment kiosk with outdoor seating open daily until 3pm (weekends 4pm) up to Christmas and in the New Year.

The Pilgrims’ Way within Greater London is a two day walk. Until allowed to go further you could walk back to Southwark from Erith on the Thames Path.

St Andrew & Rochester

Rochester Diocesan shield with pilgrim shell

St Andrew’s Day 30 November is not an important day only in Scotland.

St Andrew has been patron of Rochester Cathedral since 604 when Justus established the first church.

Justus arrived from Rome to support the existing mission of St Augustine who had come from the monastery of St Andrew & St Gregory in Rome, now known as San Gregorio Magno al Celio.

Justus was the first Bishop of Rochester and later Archbishop of Canterbury.

The Rochester Diocesan shield features of the Cross of St Andrew and a pilgrim shell. The latter is a reminder of St William of Perth who was murdered outside Rochester in 1201 whilst on his way to visit the then crypt shrine of St Thomas Becket at Canterbury.

Rochester Cathedral

Rebel Hildegard Von Bingen

A detail from Clare Kormoczy’s portrait of Hildegard Von Bingen.

Joanna Moorhead’s lovely book of Rebel Saints for 21st-century Girls reveals many feisty female saints.

Her choice of forty is inspiring and the illustrations of each one by Clare Kormoczy are delightful.

The inclusion of Hildegard Von Bingen reminds us that St Thomas Becket and Henry II met an equal when they corresponded with her and sort her advice.

She wrote books on medicine and science, founded convents and fought for the right of nuns to control their own finances.

At the age of 60 she set off on a preaching tour of Germany ignoring suggestions that only men should do this.

As the title suggests this is a book written for young girls but older boys and girls and adults are likely to find it rewarding.

**Rebel Saints for 21st-century Girls by Joanna Moorhead with illustrations by Clare Kormoczy is published by Alive Publishing (£14.99).

To Canterbury from Winchester and London / Leigh Hatts