Stonyhurst’s relic of Thomas Becket brought to London
27 May 2016
For the first time in 800 years, a relic of martyr Saint Thomas Becket has returned to the UK for a pilgrimage tour during Becket Week, an ecumenical series of events organised by the Hungarian government. It was reunited alongside others with part of the Archbishop’s skull that has been stored at Stonyhurst College in the Ribble Valley since the 1500s. Both were on display in Westminster Cathedral on Monday, ahead of the week-long pilgrimage from London to Canterbury involving the Hungarian President János Áder, and top-level clerics from Catholic and Anglican churches.
Jan Graffius, Stonyhurst College’s curator, said: “The Stonyhurst fragment was displayed on the high altar with the Hungarian fragment on Monday. It was quite an occasion. There were 40 archbishops and cardinals and the mass was entirely in Latin as Becket would have understood it. It was very moving. After the mass, people could say a prayer besides the relics or just look at them. People only had a few seconds but everyone was in line to see them. Henry VIII made an attempt to destroy as much of his body as possible, so there are not many fragments left."
“Ours was rescued in the 1540s and it came to us in about 1595 because our school, at the time, was the focus of anything rescued during the Reformation.”
Veneration of the saint in Hungary has grown in recent years, where under Communism it was a symbol of resistance against an over-mighty state. "In the Communist years, St Thomas Becket became a representative of the struggle of the church against the repression of civil or religious liberties as was the case in the regime in Hungary." said Hungarian Ambassador, Pter Szabadhegy.
The pilgrimage of the Esztergom relic has mainly been on display this week in St Margaret’s, the parish church of the houses of Parliament. It will then spend the night in Rochester, Kent, before arriving just outside Canterbury on Saturday. There is a procession to Canterbury Cathedral on Sunday before Becket Week concludes with Catholic mass in the crypt.
Quotes courtesy of the Lancashire Telegraph