Shrines of England

The relics of saints were hugely important in medieval times, and stories of miraculous cures abound. But did they really work? Or was it just a huge scam promoted by the churches and monasteries in order to make huge amounts of money? And if that was the case, why did people continue to believe them?

  Two possibilities have been put forward for the possible curing effect of relics; the idea of those saints looking down from above and helping out is not one of them: after all, many of the relics claimed to be genuine are not.
       First is the placebo effect. If people believe strongly enough that something will work for them, then it can do so. Second the idea of the collective consciousness, put forward by researchers such as Rupert Sheldrake. Maybe the consciousness of thousands of pilgrims over centuries can hang around and affect those places. True? Well, we have all felt an ‘atmosphere’ lurking in some of these special locations.

To round off, a brief visit to two more shrines in England.

Saint Thomas of Canterbury
A pivotal moment in history was the murder of Thomas Becket, in the north-west transept (known as the Martyrdom) of Canterbury Cathedral on Tuesday 29 December 1170 by knights of King Henry II. The posthumous veneration of Becket made the Cathedral a place of pilgrimage and many miracles. This brought both the need to expand the Cathedral, and the wealth that made it possible.
Come the reformation and Henry VIII ordered the shrine destroyed, so that he could get his hands on all the treasure. It is said that the relics were scattered and lost, but were they?
You don’t need to go very far to see one. Just up the road from the Cathedral is the Catholic church of St Thomas of Canterbury, which has a shine with relics of Becket; a fingerbone and part of a vestment, which came from Gubbio in Italy.

Computer reconstruction of the original shrine.

Relics at St Thomas of Canterbury.


The shrine of St Richard, Chichester Cathedral.

Richard de Wych, Bishop of Chichester, died in 1253, and was buried in the cathedral. He was canonised in 1262. Reports of miracles led to pilgrimages. and the installation of a grand shrine in 1276. This was dismantled in 1538, and the valuables carted off to the Tower of London. The bones were scattered.
  In 1992 one of his bones found its way from the Reliquary of the Abbey de La Lucerne in Normandy.  The bone is interred under a simple slab beneath the altar with a sanctuary candle burning near it.



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