Services will be held in two City of London locations tomorrow around touring relics associated with St Thomas (a) Becket, on temporary loan from the Basilica of Esztergom in Hungary.
The first service will be a private one held in the chapel dedicated to St Thomas in the Mercers’ Hall off Cheapside, near where he was born.
The second will be a public one, commencing at 3:00 pm, in the church of St Magnus the Martyr on Thames Street, which for many years maintained supervision of the chapel of St Thomas on “old” London Bridge (the chapel was dissolved during the reign of Edward VI in the mid-sixteenth century, and eventually demolished until the mid-eighteenth). From London, the relics will be taken to Canterbury.
Becket was born in Cheapside in London in c. 1119, the son of Gilbert, a merchant of Norman ancestry, and Matilda. He was educated at Merton Priory, and later at one of the grammar schools in London, possibly St Paul’s, before entering the church, and rising to become Archdeacon of Canterbury in 1154, and eventually Archbishop of Canterbury in 1162.
In 1170, he fell into a dispute with the King, Henry II, over the rights and privileges of the church, and on December 29th that year was murdered by four of the king’s men while conducting vespers in Canterbury Cathedral. After his death he came to be venerated as a martyr, and was made a saint by Pope Alexander III in 1173. His tomb-cum-shrine in Canterbury Cathedral soon became an important pilgrimage site, and remained so until it was destroyed during the Dissolution of the Monasteries under Henry VIII in 1538. From 1209, pilgrims from London were able to travel to Canterbury by way of the newly-opened “old” London Bridge, work on which began in 1176.