A relic of Thomas Becket is to be returned to England for the first time in 800 years in a week-long commemoration of the murdered archbishop, beginning with Mass in Westminster today.
The fragment of bone, believed to come from Becket’s arm, is held by the Basilica of Esztergom in Hungary.
It will travel from his birthplace in London to Canterbury Cathedral, where he was murdered in 1170, as part of a seven-day pilgrimage.
Senior clerics from the Roman Catholic and Anglican Churches will conduct a series of services at each location.
The relic will be displayed at a number of sites, including Westminster Cathedral, Westminster Abbey, the Houses of Parliament and Rochester and Canterbury Cathedrals, from 23rd to 29th May.
The pilgrimage will begin at Westminster Cathedral with 5.30pm Mass today before moving to Westminster Abbey tomorrow.
On Wednesday afternoon there will be a public service at Becket’s birthplace at Cheapside in the City of London in St Magnus the Martyr Church at 4pm.
His relics will return to Westminster Abbey before travelling to Rochester on Saturday and then on to Canterbury, with a final service at 1.30pm on Sunday.
Becket was the Archbishop of Canterbury from 1162 until he was murdered by knights of King Henry II in 1170, after the monarch reportedly said: “Who will rid me of this troublesome priest?”
Becket was killed in Canterbury Cathedral by four swordsmen on 29th December. The top of his head was sliced off in the bloody attack.
He was canonised by Pope Alexander III and is revered as a saint and a martyr by Catholic and Anglican Churches.
King Henry VIII ordered the destruction of the rest of Becket’s bones and shrine when he dissolved the monasteries in 1538.
Picture: A view of the tower of Westminster Cathedral London, from the roof of Westminster City Hall, central London. (Nick Ansell/PA).