St James

A plethora of exquisite medieval wall paintings depicting a series of martyrdoms.

About this church

The beautiful images, painted in the early 13th century, were covered up with lime wash rather than destroyed during King Henry VIIIs injunctions of 1538.

The oldest images can be found on he south wall. Portraying a series of martyrdoms, the most important is that of Thomas a Becket being killed by four of King Henry IIs knights. It is easy to see why they had to be destroyed, for Becket was a pilgrimage icon. The priest did well in painting over them for they were kept secret until rediscovered in the 19th century by Revd Eddy, who brought them back to their full glory.

The image thought to have been drawn about fifty years after Becket’s death shows quite clearly the four knights with their triangular shields and identifiable because of the arms upon them as Reginakd fitz Urse, Hugh de Morville, William de Tracy and Richard le Breton.

The story is that the four of them arrived in Canterbury on 29 December 1170 and having left their weapons under a nearby tree entered the cathedral and ordered Thomas Becket to go with them to the city of Winchester to testify to the King. Becket refused and the knights went to retrieve their weapons. The monks who were with the Archbishop preparing for a service, begged him to barricade the doors but he refused. The knights strode in and approached Becket, the monks were already chanting when the blows reigned down.

Key Features

  • Captivating architecture
  • Spectacular stained glass
  • Magnificent memorials
  • Glorious furnishings
  • Enchanting atmosphere
  • Fascinating churchyard
  • Wildlife haven
  • Social heritage stories
  • National heritage here
  • Famous connections

Visitors information

  • Bus stop within 100m
  • Level access to the main areas
  • On street parking at church
  • Parking within 250m
  • Dog friendly
  • Walkers & cyclists welcome
  • Space to secure your bike

Other nearby churches

Old Meeting

Grade II listed 17th and 18th century chapel built to appear as a house when non conformists were persecuted.

Holy Ghost

Holy Ghost church was built in the early English style by Canon Alexander Scholes, who is buried in the church grounds and his memorial headstone is on the north side of the church.

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