7 February 2003
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800 years ago this week, the relics of St Thomas Becket were taken to a new shrine in Canterbury Cathedral. It was 50 years since the archbishop was murdered, an event which made the cathedral one of the Middle Ages’ great pilgrimage destinations. Had it not been for the pandemic, “Becket2020” would have been marked with ceremonies, performances and conferences around the country. So why does the martyr continue to fascinate us? In this month’s cover story, William Cash finds out – starting his journey, like Chaucer’s pilgrims, from Southwark.
Becket isn’t the only historical figure whose reputation is being revisited this year. Monuments to saints and statesmen have come under attack, as we report in this month’s issue; and two historians – one more alarmed than the other – discuss the trend in this issue’s “Dialogue” slot. Elsewhere, we cover an East London school that’s helping to transform the local community; a retreat house that helps 30 women a year discern a vocation to religious life; the sadness of summer without cricket; the Catholic youth groups that are flourishing in Croatia; and the island so small that it never locked down. Plus: Ian Paisley on his admiration for Catholics, Liz Lev on what’s wrong with The West Wing, Sohrab Ahmari on political Catholicism, and much more.