29 December 2021

Word of the Day: Canterbury Cathedral

CANTERBURY CATHEDRAL. A historic monument of Catholic England, in County Kent, it is the burial place of some of the Church's greatest leaders. At first it was forbidden to bury within the cathedral precincts. The rule was changed when St. Cuthbert (d. 687), arranging his own burial, ordained that all archbishops could be buried within their own cathedral churches. St. Dunstan, St. Alphege, St. Anselm, St. Odo have their tombs within its walls. But the saint who is most responsible for Canterbury's prestige is St. Thomas à Becket, who was murdered by the agents of King Henry II (1133-89) and buried at Canterbury. Many miracles followed upon the saint's death (His Feast Day is today-JW). The son of Louis VII of France was cured when his father, risking his life to do so, visited and prayed at St. Thomas's grave. Ravaged by the Danes in 1067, the cathedral was rebuilt in Norman style. After a disastrous fire in 1174 the choir was rebuilt and St. Thomas's body was transferred to an elaborate shrine in Trinity Chapel in 1175. His head was kept in a golden reliquary there. In 1538 all pilgrimages ceased when Henry VIII (1491-1547) forbade all Catholic services. The famous shrine was despoiled and even the missals bearing the saint's name were destroyed. The saint's bones were burned by order of Lord Cromwell (1485-1540). Canterbury attracts large crowds as a witness to pre-Reformation English Catholicism.

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