Pilgrimage to Canterbury 2 July 2011

This year the pilgrimage to Canterbury, in honour of its ancient saints, organised by the Sisterhood of the Holy New-Martyr Elizabeth and by the Parish of St Luke at Tunbridge Wells took place on Saturday 2nd July. It was probably the most successful and inspiring so far, and for two reasons. First we had sixteen persons, of different ages and ethnic backgrounds, attending and second because we were permitted, by the kindness of the Cathedral authorities, to hold a service at the sites of the shrines of Saints Dunstan and Alphege, archbishops of Canterbury in the tenth and early eleventh centuries.

The pilgrimage was lead by our pastor, Father David, and began with a visit to the ruins of the ancient monastery of Saints Peter and Paul (commonly called St Augustine’s Abbey) where once were venerated the shrines of Saint Augustine, Apostle of the English, and other early holy archbishops. We then walked to the church of Saint Martin of Tours, one of the oldest churches in Britain, and which was in existence when Saint Augustine arrived in AD597. It was used by the Christian wife of King Ethelbert, who himself was then still pagan. There are still many traces of Saxon work in the church but earlier there was a Roman church on the site and some Roman bricks can be seen in the walls.

The culmination of our pilgrimage was inside the great cathedral of Canterbury, when at five o’clock we sang a full molieben to the Holy Hierarch Dunstan (d 988) and to the Hieromartyr Alphege (slain by the pagan Danes at London Bridge in 1012). Their sacred relics are almost certainly somewhere below the floor. We held the service in the exact place where their shrines existed before they were destroyed in the reformation. A number of visitors to the cathedral stayed to quietly watch our service.

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