The Roman Catholic Diocese of Northampton announce the Becket Festival at Northampton Cathedral, Primrose Hill from Friday 7th – Sunday 9th July. The relics of Saint Thomas will be on display in the Cathedral throughout the weekend.

The weekend will begin with Mass to celebrate the Translation of the relics of Saint Thomas Becket at 11.00 on Friday morning. The Mass will be celebrated by the new Apostolic Nuncio to Great Britain, His Excellency, Archbishop Miguel Maury Buendia. The Nuncio will be visiting the diocese for the first time since his appointment to Britain.

The Apostolic Nuncio is the personal representative of Pope Francis to the Court of St James’s – the royal court for the Sovereign of the United Kingdom. His role is equivalent to that of an ambassador, representing the Holy See to the UK Government.

When Thomas Becket was murdered on 29 December 1170 he was buried in haste in the crypt of the Cathedral in Canterbury. Due to the large number of pilgrims his tomb attracted, plans were made to move his body to a more impressive location in the upper church. However, a fire broke out, which slowed the progress, and tensions between the monks, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the King and the Pope meant it was not until 1215 that plans could be drawn up for the translation. The translation of the relics eventually took place in 1220.

Following Mass on the Friday morning, His Excellency will bless and formally open the new St Thomas Centre at the back of the Cathedral. Although the centre opened in September 2021 alongside Café 1850, Covid restrictions have prevented a formal opening until now. The centre is used by many groups and social outreach projects including a foodbank and a bereavement group, serving those who are suffering loss.

Bishop David Oakley, Bishop of Northampton said

“The Catholic Diocese of Northampton is proud to have St Thomas Becket as a patron. The Becket Festival is an opportunity for us all to celebrate the blessings of being a people of faith and social needs outreach throughout the Catholic communities of Northamptonshire, Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire and Slough. This year, we are also delighted to have the opportunity to celebrate the opening of our new Cathedral and diocesan Centre and Cafe.”

An ecumenical walking pilgrimage to the sites of Becket around Northampton will take place from the Catholic Cathedral on Saturday 8th July at 1pm. Walking from the Cathedral to the Holy Sepulchre Church, Beckets Well and onto St Peter’s Church, Marefair. The 900-year-old Norman church was a Royal seat, next to Northampton Castle. It was here that Thomas Becket’s trial took place in 1164. As Norman churches, both Holy Sepulchre and St Peter’s would have been familiar to Thomas Becket.

The festival will end on Sunday 9th July with a lecture by Dr Judith Champ. Dr Judith will be asking ‘Where do we find holiness in it? Is Thomas Becket a saint for us today?’

All are welcome to join the lecture in the St Thomas Centre followed by Vespers in the Cathedral.