St. Dunstan’s, Canterbury

St. Dunstan’s Church

St. Dunstan’s is a church dedicated to St. Dunstan in Canterbury, Kent, slightly out of the city centre. The parish has been held in plurality with others nearby at different times, in a way that is confusing and difficult to document. In 2010 the parish was joined with the parishes of the City Centre Parish in a new pastoral grouping, City Centre with St. Dunstan.

In 1174, when Henry II began his penitential pilgrimage in reparation for the murder of Archbishop Thomas Becket, he changed his clothing into sackcloth at St. Dunstan’s Church and began his pilgrimage from here to Thomas Becket’s tomb at Canterbury Cathedral on foot.

Thomas More’s daughter Margaret secured the release of More’s head from its spike on London Bridge and brought it back to the family tomb of her husband William Roper here. The Roper family lived nearby off what is now St Dunstan’s Street. What remains of their home is called Roper Gate, marked with a commemorative plaque, it is all that survives of Place House. The Roper family vault is located underneath the Nicholas Chapel, to the right of the church’s main altar. It was sealed in recent years, according to Anglican tradition. A large stone slab marks its location to the immediate left of the chapel’s altar. Three impressive stained glass windows line the chapel, the one behind the altar depicts in brilliant detail the major events and symbols in the life of the Saint. Another of the windows commemorates the visit of Pope John Paul II to Canterbury to pray with the Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury at the site of the martyrdom of St. Thomas Becket in Canterbury Cathedral. The window displays the arms of the Archbishop’s diocese and the Pope. Plaques mounted on the walls explain the veracity of the relic of the Saint’s head, the sealing of the vault which contains it, and the life of the Saint, including a prayer he wrote.

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