St. Thomas More’s hair shirt now enshrined for public veneration

The hair shirt worn by St. Thomas More as he contemplated a martyr’s death in the Tower of London has been enshrined for public veneration.

The folded garment made from goat’s hair was encased above an altar in Buckfast Abbey, a Benedictine monastery in southwest England.

An encasement of a hair shirt worn by St. Thomas More as he contemplated a martyr's death in the Tower of London, before his 1535 beheading, is on display at the altar of England's Buckfast Abbey Nov. 18 photo. (CNS photo/Luke Michael Davies, courtesy Buckfast Abbey Media Studios)
An encasement of a hair shirt worn by St. Thomas More as he contemplated a martyr’s death in the Tower of London, before his 1535 beheading, is on display at the altar of England’s Buckfast Abbey Nov. 18 photo. (CNS photo/Luke Michael Davies, courtesy Buckfast Abbey Media Studios)

St. Thomas, a former lord chancellor of England, wore the shirt while he was incarcerated in the Bell Tower of the Tower of London while awaiting execution for opposing the Protestant reforms of King Henry VIII.
He was beheaded July 6, 1535, after telling a crowd gathered on London’s Tower Hill that he was “always the king’s good servant, but God’s first.”

Benedictine Abbot David Charlesworth told Catholic News Service Nov. 21 that the shirt had not been shown in public before.

Bishop Mark O’Toole of Plymouth, the diocese in which Buckfast is situated, said he hoped the shrine would become an international pilgrimage destination. He said there was a huge cult dedicated to St. Thomas in countries as diverse as Germany and South Korea.

The bishop noted that St. Thomas also had global significance as the patron of statesmen and politicians, a title bestowed on him by St. John Paul II in 2000, as well as patron saint of lawyers.

About Catholic News Service

Catholic News Service is the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' news and information service.

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