A fragment of bone believed to come from the arm of Thomas Becket has been brought to Canterbury Cathedral this weekend.
The relic has come from Hungary, where it is held in the Basilica of Esztergom, to be the centrepiece of a week –long pilgrimage which finishes in Canterbury on Sunday (29 May 2016),
Note: The relic will be on public display in the Cathedral’s Crypt ONLY on Sunday morning from 9am until 12noon (special opening time) prior to a Mass at 1.30pm in the Western Crypt
After services and public events in London beginning on Monday 23 May, the reliquary in which the piece of bone is set (pictured right), was brought to Rochester and then to Canterbury . The pilgrims, including Hungarian Ambassador, Mr Péter Szabadhegy and other Hungarian delegates, walked carrying the relic from Harbledown on the outskirts of the city to the Cathedral.
The pilgrims were greeted at the Cathedral by the Dean, the Very Revd Dr Robert Willis; the Bishop of Dover, the Rt Revd Trevor Willmott, the Lord Lieutenant Viscount De L’Isle and the Lord Mayor of Canterbury Councillor George Metcalfe.
The relic was received and carried into the Cathedral where it was placed on the Nave Altar. A service of welcome was held before the clergy, guests and pilgrims processed into the Crypt, via the Martyrdom which is where Becket was brutally murdered in 1170.
The relic will be on display in the Cathedral’s Crypt on Sunday morning from 9am until 12noon (special opening time) prior to a Mass at 1.30pm in the Western Crypt which is being celebrated by Canterbury’s St Thomas’ Roman Catholic Church. All are welcome at this service after which the relic will return to Esztergom.
There are various theories as to how the relic came to be in Esztergom in 1220 but it later became a symbol of Hungarian Catholic resistance to communism and is therefore of considerable importance for the Hungarian people.
The pilgrimage is happening during the same weekend as the Cathedral opens its private gardens to visitors as part of the National Gardens Scheme and to raise money for charity. Normal Precincts charges will apply during the weekend for visiting the Cathedral, including for visiting to see the relic and there is more information on our website about the Open Gardens. There is no charge to attend Cathedral services.
For more about the week-long pilgrimage visit the Hungarian Embassy website.
For more about St Thomas Becket and Canterbury Cathedral see here.