The Shrine of St Thomas of Canterbury (1118 – 1170)
Our Patron Saint is St Thomas of Canterbury (also known as St Thomas Becket) who became Archbishop of Canterbury in 1162 at the instigation of his close friend, King Henry II.
Accepting the See of Canterbury with considerable reluctance and knowing a break in friendship with the King to be inevitable, he defended stoutly the interests and independence of the Church. Forced into exile, Thomas returned to England on 30th November 1170, where he was received with popular enthusiasm.
Very soon, however, his relations with Henry deteriorated. The King uttered some words in a fit of rage which was enough to inspire four knights to make their way to Canterbury in revenge. Thomas Becket was murdered in his Cathedral in the late afternoon of 29th December 1170.
The martyrdom provoked great indignation and outrage throughout Europe. Miracles were reported at Thomas’ tomb, and a widespread devotion rapidly spread. Thomas was canonised by Pope Alexander III on 21st February 1173 and 12th July 1174 King Henry II did public penance at the shrine.
Soon Canterbury became one of the major centres of Pilgrimage in Christendom. Thomas’ shrine was at the centre of great devotion and much prayer until its destruction in 1538 under King Henry VIII.
Some relics from the original shrine in Canterbury Cathedral fortunately survived. They can be seen in our Martyrs’ Chapel.
Feel welcome to visit this sacred space and to offer up your prayers and intentions for those who have spoken out against corruption and injustice.
There will be a Becket 2020 Translation Mass in Canterbury Cathedral Quire on 7th July 2020 to celebrate the 850 year anniversary of St Thomas’ martyrdom, and 800 year anniversary of the Translation. St Thomas’ will also be included in other celebrations planned around the Cathedral, much of which takes place on the weekend preceding the anniversary.
If you are interested in finding out more about all of the events across Canterbury go to Becket 2020 celebration.