St Mary Overie Southwark (Southwark Cathedral)

St Mary Overie. 17th century engraving by Wenceslas Hollar.
St Mary Overie. 17th century engraving by Wenceslas Hollar.
Public domain

In the Middle Ages, Southwark Cathedral was the priory of St Mary Overie. In December 1170, as Becket was travelling through London to seek an audience with King Henry II’s son, he stayed overnight at a house next door to the priory.

When he arrived, the canons of St Mary’s together with many of the citizens of London, came out in procession to meet him singing hymns. Becket distributed money to the poor, and one woman warned him to beware of assassins.

This was his last visit to London, and less than a month later he was to be murdered in the Cathedral at Canterbury.


Priest who is part of a group of clergy attached to a cathedral (also called Secular Canon). 


Church which contains the throne of the bishop and hence the mother church of the diocese, from the Latin ‘cathedra' meaning ‘throne.' 


Religious poetry set to music and sung during worship. New Testament writers talk about Psalms and Hymns, the scriptural poems of the Old Testament and new songs, some of the texts of which may be incorporated into the Bible (for example, Philippians 2: 5-11). In the Middle Ages the term hymn can be broadly applied to Christian songs, it is perhaps most frequently used to designate works that do not fulfill a more specific role within the liturgy 

King Henry II

(1133-1189) King of England who reinforced the power of the monarchy over that of the barons and reformed the courts. In attempting to reform the ecclesiastical courts, he came into conflict with his former friend, Thomas Becket , who, as archbishop of Canterbury opposed any attempt to take away legal jurisdiction of the clergy from the church. Long, complicated, and contentious negotiations took place leading to Becket's temporary exile in France, and his murder was accidentally set in motion by some ill-considered words of Henry. Henry subsequently did penance at Becket's tomb.

Thomas Becket

 English Archbishop (Archbishop of Canterbury from 1162) and martyr, famously murdered by knights at Canterbury Cathedral after a dispute with Henry II. Miracles were soon recorded at his tomb. Canonised in 1173, his shrine became one of the most popular pilgrimage centres in Christendom. Patron saint of London with St Paul.