Monday 5 July 2010

Procession of the Relic of S. Thomas of Canterbury

This Sunday at S. Magnus we kept the Feast of the Translation of the Relics of S. Thomas of Canterbury. After a Sung Mass, a relic of the Saint which was kindly lent to us for the occassion was transferred from the High Altar to a Feretory and Bier, and taken in Procession, carried by two Subdeacons, to London Bridge. The Old London Bridge, whose thoroughfare formerly went under the bell tower of S. Magnus, once had a chapel dedicated to Saint Thomas of Canterbury where pilgrims on the medieval pilgrimage route would gather before heading over to Southwark and on to Canterbury. This chapel, which is depicted in a window and model in S. Magnus church belonged to the Parish of Saint Magnus the Martyr, and so we have inherited that saint's special patronage.

The Mass was Sung by the Vicar, Fr Philip, who wore a red chasuble featuring the Arms of Saint Thomas.

As the Procession left the church, the choir began singing the petitions of the Litany of the Saints.

Here you can see the beginning of the Procession. You'll notice that S. Magnus maintains the venerable tradition of the Verger, who carries a mace and wears a distinctive verger's hat.

The Procession goes up the steps from Lower Thames Street onto the Bridge.

At the approximate place of the former Chapel, the relics made a station, and the Office of Sext was sung. This was followed by the Anthem of the Benedictus of the Office of S. Thomas of Canterbury, using the Sarum chant. On the return to the Church, the "praise psalms" 148, 149 and 150 were sung. On arriving at the church, the choir sang the Antiphon of the Magnificat of the aforementioned Office, followed by the versicle and collect. The reliquery was then removed from the Feretory, and place on the High Atlar, then censed, and the faithful had an opportunity to venerate. The reliquery also contained a fragment of the True Cross, among other relics, which explains the genuflections made by some. After Benediction of the Relic, the dismissal was given and all retired to a delicious curry lunch in the sun.


  1. It looks and sounds wonderful (apart from the last few words). Clearly your industriousness paid off.

  2. Beautiful chasuble and excellent pictures; what every Anglican church should be doing when the occasion calls for it: LEX ORANDI, LEX CREDENDI, as the old saying goes. May St Thomas of Canterbury intercede for us.

  3. Splendid - and what a handsome man you are, Joseph.

  4. The fact that you are willing to go out of doors may well encourage others to come back inside with you. As I have noted before, both here and elsewhere, curiosity and, indeed, music are as good reasons as any for getting people inside a church for the first time. Whether they come again and become part of the regular faithful is rather up to those already there and, of course, the work and will of God.

    Perhaps this ceremony could have been given a bit more advance publicity and then your procession of witness might have been even bigger. On the other hand, the post-service curry might not have gone so far...........

  5. Deep envy of having missed a wonderful occasion on the part of an RC in partibus infidelium (a.k.a. Switzerland).

  6. You seem to have lots going on down at St Magnus.

    However, I have some other ideas for getting a parish on the liturgical map:

  7. Lovely photos and a real liturgical occasion - something almost alien to most Catholic churches.

    Curiously, at St Paul's Cathedral they spell verger ''virger.''

  8. Regarding the Church of St. Thomas on old London Bridge, there is an interesting illustration of it in the book ‘Old London – The Tower and East End’ by W. Thornbury (pg. 12). Unfortunately, it shows the building in a very ruinous state. Still, the picture does give a glimpse of the interior, and it conveys an idea of its former scale.

    The text (pg. 10) says – ‘On one of the piers was erected a two-storyed chapel, forty feet high and sixty feet long, to St. Thomas Becket. The lower chapel could be entered either from the chapel above, or from the river by a flight of stone steps.’

    For anyone curious, I’ve scanned and posted the picture to:

    An interesting fact I learned about St. Thomas recently - Becket was so odious to Henry VIII (for his defiance of royal authority) that not only did he dismantle his tomb at Canterbury, the King even went so far as to order all his images to be defaced by law. There are some old English prayer books which still survive with beautiful illuminations of St. Thomas’ martyrdom intact, all except for the Saint’s face which is scratched out. Quite a shame.

    Nonetheless, that St. Thomas is still venerated today must have old Henry rolling in his grave!

  9. A very fitting tribute to Blessed Saint Thomas.

  10. Two things:
    1. Can you say aything about what the relics of St. Thomas actually were?
    2. I am a Canadian and have never been to England, but will be in London in September, so a Sunday might find me at your church. It would be nice to meet you and others there.
    A note about Henry VIII: his predecessor was also a King Henry who did penance for Becket's murder, so he saw this as a personal issue for his reign. it's interesting that his Archbishop of Canterbury (Cranmer) was also a Thomas.

  11. I had a glance at the Catholic Gossip site and I can't understand why there seems to be such crowing about converting Anglicans to Rome attached to condescensio, outlandish triumphalism, and mean-spiritedness. Somehow, when it comes to attacking Anglicans (or other Anglicans), supposed liberals, women, or gay people, there is no need for such a thing as Christian love. It's "no holds barred". Even the so-called "jokes" are offensive.Anglo Catholics can disgrace themselves by such mysogyny and narrow-mindedness. As an Anglo-Catholic, this is embarrasing to me. I see nothing of Our Lord or the Gospel in it. Pure Christianity or "Tradition" isn't just keeping women out or maintaining an all-male preserve. Other Anglican Provinces have women bishops and priests, life goes on, and Anglo-Catholics continue their life, worship, and ministry. Bashing women in the name of "orthodoxy" is fine for those who think they have nohting to lose, but how would you feel to have been born female, as half the human race is? It's even worse when this comes from the gay element, who themselves know oppression, so they like to think there is something below them. Jesus told the Jews that the one they thought to be below them-the Good Samaritan-was the one who showed true mercy. The reviled outsider was the one who proved to be truly orthodox through his love. Go and do thou likewise.

  12. For those interested, here’s another interesting antiquarian illustration from the book ‘Old London – The Tower and the East End’; a view of the former London Bridge and The Church of St. Magnus the Martyr (from 1796).


  13. For those interested, here’s another interesting antiquarian illustration from the book ‘Old London – The Tower and the East End’; a view of the former London Bridge and The Church of St. Magnus the Martyr (from 1796).


    P.S. Sorry if this was indeed received before. I’m getting a weird error message each time I press the submit button.

  14. I’m confused by the person who posted the 17 July 2010 19:26 message.

    Is your annoyance directed at Anglo Catholics of a particular attitude in general, or at this blog since you chose to express your feelings here?

    Also, I thought we were focusing on Thomas Becket and the Bridge ceremony.

  15. Dear Anonymous of the 17th July,

    1. I'm not sure even the owner of the relic knows what it is. The reliquery is tiny but I seem to remember, with a magnifying glass, it says "ex carne". Your guess is as good as mine.

    2.Canadians are very welcome to visit S. Magnus. When you come, please do introduce yourself.

  16. In response to Anonymous, July 21st .02, my comments are not directed at this Blog or blogger, but in response to "Editor" above. he encouraged us to read his blog on this site, so I am responding on this site lest anyone be led astray. The tendency of some Anglo-Catholic blogs to worship all things Roman and disparage all things Anglican is confusing to me. If Rome is so appealing, why are you blogging here? if you have already "poped", also then why are you here? It seems to be a bit of sport to demonize others in the name of the Roman Church, but I can't believe that this is the essence of Catholicism, Roman or otherwise, especially when there seems to be a need to constantly encourage others to go Romeward or to excoriate them for not doing so. If Ango-Catholics are happy in Rome, it doesn't appear so in the constant sniping at Anglicans. if you are still Anglican, please go (or stay) in peace and stop disturbing it.

  17. To Anonymous of July 21 .02, I am not annoyed at Anglo-Catholics (I am one) nor at this blog (which I greatly appreciate). I was simply responding to an earlier post directing us to the poster's website. Thank you.

  18. Two very interesting ‘before and after’ pictures of Thomas Becket’s martyrdom site (from a 1969 and a 1988 guidebook respectively).

    Evidently, St. Thomas was such a ‘non entity’ to Protestant England that some Elizabethan (or Jacobean) gentleman was able to appropriate the martyrdom spot for himself with his own monument:

    However, as shown in this later photo, the monument was finally dismantled and the spot rightfully restored as a memorial to Becket sometime in the 1970’s or 80’s. An action long overdue:

    Oh, I had the lovely opportunity to visit Canterbury Cathedral in 2003. Even though St. Thomas’ tomb is sadly long gone as we all know, I went in the spirit of pilgrimage all the same to kneel and pray at The Martyrdom at least. Thank goodness the distracting monument was gone, though I wasn’t crazy about the ugly, ‘moderne’ cross and daggers arrangement either I admit. Looks like some prop from a horror movie. What’s wrong with a standard Crucifix? What better reminder of Our Lord? Anyways, I invoked the Saint’s protection, and prayed that He would continue to defend the Church, especially in these trying times of the new millennium.

    Shrine or no shrine, may Thomas Becket continue to be venerated at Canterbury and elsewhere (as at St. Magnus’ as described here).

  19. Sir, hope the invitation to your church is extended to Americans as well (for when I'm in London next time).

    What prayer book do you use at your services? The 'Book of Common Prayer'?

    Calvin (Episcopalian from Maine, USA)