« AnteriorContinuar »
tunic, and a part of the brain, tied up in small blue bags, are still preserved in the treasury of this church. In the council held at Westminster, July 9th, 1173, letters were read from the pope containing, besides other matters, these words: "We admonish all your fraternity, and by our apostolic authority strictly command you, to celebrate every year the day of the glorious martyr Thomas, namely, the day on which he suffered, and endeavour by votive prayers to him, to obtain pardon for your sins, that he, who for Christ's sake bravely endured exile during his life and martyrdom in death, may intercede to God for us, through the earnest supplications of the faithful."
King Henry II visited the tomb of St. Thomas, on the 12th of July, 1174, as an humble penitent, and after remaining some time before it in prayer, made his confession and received absolution from the bishops present, and the kiss of reconciliation from the prior. The king then received on his bare shoulders five lashes from each bishop and abbot present, and three from each of the eighty monks. The king then resumed his garments, and made his offerings at the tomb. In 1176, King Henry paid another visit, accompanied by his son Henry, offered up his prayers at the tomb, and presented a charter of privileges to the church. Three years afterwards, Louis the VII, king of France, came to pay a visit to the martyr, and was received by king Henry at Dover; and both kings were solemnly received by the archbishop, bishops, and a numerous body of ecclesiastics and barons, and were solemnly conducted to the tomb. The king of France remained three days at Canterbury, making an offering of his golden cup and a hundred measures of wine yearly; also probably the jewel called the "regal of France."
The next great event connected with this martyr was the translation of his body, on the 7th of July, 1220. The body was taken out of its marble tomb by Stephen Langton, the cardinal archbishop of Canterbury, in the presence of king Henry the third, and almost all the bishops, abbots, priors, earls and barons of the kingdom, and a large concourse of foreign ecclesiastics and nobility: "for they considered it a most proper duty to honour and respect this holy martyr in Christ's cause, who shed his blood for the 1 Wendover's Hist., vol. ii, p. 24.
" Grim, 86.
universal church, and had unflinchingly fought for it to. the last." The body was placed with due honour in the rich shrine, elaborately worked with gold and jewels, that had been prepared for it, in the upper part of the church; and in the centre of the chapel, as shewn in the plan. From that time this day was solemnly kept as the Feast of the Translation of St. Thomas of Canterbury. And every fifty years was a jubilee, which took place in the years 1270, 1320, 1370, 1420, 1470 and 1520.
The scene of his martyrdom became a place of pilgrimage to all nations:
"And specially, from every schire's ende
Of Engelonde, to Canturbere they wende,
That them hath holpen whan that they were seeke."
In the following century the head of the martyr appears to have been removed from the shrine and deposited in the crypt, probably near the marble tomb. It was set in silver, with the forehead left bare, to be kissed, and appears to have been exhibited on a square table, together with bones, as shown in the accompanying cut, copied from
the same page of the Cottonian manuscript, as the shrine described hereafter, On an altar dedicated to the Blessed Virgin, erected in the transept after the martyrdom of the saint, was preserved the point of de Brito's sword, which inflicted the death-wound, and was broken on the spot by striking the pavement. Erasmus mentions his "religiously 1 Roger de Wendover, 428.
kissing, through the love of the martyr, the sacred rust of this iron."
The destruction of the magnificent and gorgeous shrine by the order of Henry VIII appears to have taken place on the 19th of August, 1538. The spoils in gold and jewels were forthwith converted to the king's use, whilst the bones were burnt and the ashes cast into the Thames. The description of this shrine by a Venetian who visited it, about the year 1500, will give some idea of its value and magnificence, and will be highly interesting at the same time, being the best description preserved of this shrine :"The tomb of St. Thomas the martyr archbishop of Canterbury exceeds all belief. Notwithstanding its great size, it is all covered with plates of pure gold; yet the gold is scarcely seen, because it is covered with various precious stones, as sapphires, balasses, diamonds, rubies and emeralds; and wherever the eye turns something more beautiful than the rest is observed. Nor, in addition to these natural beauties, is the skill of art wanting; for in the midst of the gold are the most beautiful sculptured gems, both small and large, as well as such as are in relief, as agates, onyxes, cornelians, and cameos; and some cameos are of such size, that I am afraid to name it; but every thing is far surpassed by a ruby, not larger than a thumb nail, which is fixed at the right of the altar. The church is somewhat dark, and particularly in the spot where the shrine is placed, and when we went to see it, the sun was near setting, and the weather was cloudy; nevertheless I saw that ruby as if I had it in my hand. They say it was given by a king of France."
The accompanying engraving of the shrine is taken from a pen and ink sketch on folio 296 of the Cottonian manuscript, marked Tib. E. viii. At the side of the sketch is a written description of it in English, partially burnt away by the Cottonian fire; this description, so far as can be ascertained from the manuscript, was to this effect. "All above the stone worke was first of wood, jewells of gold set with stones. . . . wrought upon with gold wier. They agayn with jewells of gold, as broches, images of angels and rings ten or twelve together, cramped with gold into the ground of gold. The spoils of which filled two chests,
1A Relation of England under Henry VII. Published by the Camden Society.
such as six or eight men could but convay out of the church. At one side was a stone with an angell of gold poyntyng thereunto, offred there by a kinge of Fraunce:1
which king Henry put into a ring, and woar it on his thumb." Memoranda are also written against the three finials on the crest of the shrine, stating that they were of silver gilt, the central one weighing eighty ounces, and the other two sixty ounces each. Stowe mentions in his chro
1 The ruby previously alluded to, and called the Regall of France. It was afterwards transferred to a collar, and was among the jewels delivered to queen Mary, March 10, 1554.
nicle, that this shrine was builded about a man's height all of stone, then upwards of timber, etc., and apparently follows the description given in the above manuscript.
Besides the decorations of the shrine itself, around it were hung numerous costly offerings, consisting of gold chalices, cups and crucifixes, rings of gold and silver, set with precious stones, gold and silver statues; several of these offerings were the gift of sovereign princes. King Henry VII ordered his executors to cause to be made a kneeling statue of himself of silver gilt, inscribed Sancte Thoma, intercede pro me. The same to be offered for a perpetual memorial at the shrine of St. Thomas, in the metropolitan church of Canterbury, and to be placed as near the said shrine as convenient; and on the two sides of the table whereon the figure knelt were to be inscribed, with large letters and enamelled in black," REX HENRICUS SEPTIMUS." Among the treasures of the shrine of St. Edward the Confessor in Westminster abbey, was a statue in ivory of the Blessed Virgin, an offering made by St. Thomas while archbishop of Canterbury.
In Canterbury cathedral, till the Reformation, there were preserved and kept, in a large ivory coffer, the white mitre with orfreys in which he was buried; another white mitre which he used on ordinary feasts; his gloves, adorned with three orfreys; his sandals of purple silk, embroidered with roses, bezants, and crescents of gold; his hair shirt, and remains or fragments of the different vestments in which he was buried. His pallium was likewise preserved in a silver-gilt cup, and his pastoral staff of pear-wood with the crook formed of black horn.
There are still preserved in the treasury of the cathedral of Sens some of the robes, etc., worn by St. Thomas of Canterbury while in exile; a portion of them have been beautifully engraved in Mr. Shaw's Dresses and Decorations of the Middle Ages, and are certainly of great interest, not only to those who regard the saintly personage who wore them, but even to those who look to the mere antique. The following is a list of these ornaments:
1. A mitre, having a ground of silver tissue, ornamented with elegant scroll work in gold, and orphreys of gold tissue, ornamented with fylfots. An engraving of it is given by Shaw.