Holy Trinity celebrates links with Thomas Becket

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From left, Holy Trinity vicar the Rev Patrick Taylor with organisers Sandra MacDonald, Orion Johnson, Janet Hall and Lindsay MacDonald. Photo: Mark Williamson H38/9/20/5947

A SPECIAL St Thomas Becket exhibition is on view in Holy Trinity Church celebrating its special connection with him.

This year marks the 850th anniversary of the murder of the archbishop in Canterbury Cathedral on 29th December 1170 and the 800th of the relocation of his remains to its Trinity Chapel.

Canonised within three years of his murder, Becket became a medieval superstar, making Canterbury a focus of pilgrimage throughout Europe.

Centuries later, Henry VIII, fearing some might follow his example and rebel against royal authority, issued an edict in 1539 decanonising Thomas, ordering the destruction of his shrine.

Despite this, Becket’s July and December feast days continue to be celebrated by both Roman Catholics and Anglicans.

Holy Trinity’s link arises because medieval pilgrims flocked to worship at the chantry chapel in the south aisle, built in 1331 by John de Stratford and dedicated to Becket.

The chapel became so important that it took over the whole organisation, with a college built opposite in 1353 to house the growing number of priests needed to serve at the Becket altar.

Before Shakespeare, John de Stratford was the town’s most famous son – like Becket, becoming Chancellor and Archbishop of Canterbury, and challenging the authority of Edward II and Edward III.

He is buried close to the former Becket shrine in Canterbury Cathedral. Before lockdown, preparations were afoot for Holy Trinity and the Guild Chapel to hold Becket events.

The exhibition – the sole survivor of these plans – has been put together by Dr Lindsay MacDonald, Sandra MacDonald, Orion Johnson and Janet Hall.

Holy Trinity is open from noon to 2pm Monday to Friday and 11am to 1pm on Saturday.