Canterbury Society reveals vision for grotty underpass

The St Dunstan's underpass is covered in graffiti

The Canterbury Society wants to see a mural of king Henry II painted in the underpass at St Dunstan’s Street.

It is becoming increasingly concerned about the state of underpasses in Canterbury and believes the mural would help prevent graffiti appearing in the tunnel beneath the railway line.

Henry II was infamously on the throne when Archbishop of Canterbury Thomas Becket was slain by four knights in the Cathedral on December 29, 1170.

Controversy has raged as to whether Henry ordered or intended for his former friend to be killed.

However, following Becket’s murder the Plantagenet king performed acts of penance including being flogged by monks.

Henry II of England

He also walked barefoot to Canterbury Cathedral.

Canterbury Society chairman Jan Pahl outlined the group’s proposal to a meeting of the city council’s Canterbury Area Member Panel which met in the Guildhall last week.

She said: “The Canterbury Society has discussed with the Becket 2020 committee the idea of a mural in the St Dunstan’s railway underpass  which would commemorate Henry II going on his knees down St Dunstan’s Street in penance for the death of Becket.

“A mural on this topic might be launched in 2020 and would enhance the city – so much better than the shabby underpass we have now.”

After his death, Becket became a martyr and Canterbury a destination for pilgrims from around the world.

In his book The English and their History, historian Robert Tombs writes: “An archbishop’s brains splattered across the cradle of English Christianity was an unparalleled sacrilege.

“It was also the exemplary martyrdom of a man who had played out his life in the Christian drama of repentance and salvation, abandoning wealth and power as the king’s favourite to become an ascetic, an aggressive exponent of church supremacy, and three years after his death a canonised saint.”

Becket 2020 is a project to mark the 850th anniversary of Becket’s death.

It aims to “use the Becket story and the anniversary celebrations to drive a transformation in heritage, tourism, education and community engagement”.


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