Dedication of Westminster Abbey

The 13th of October marks the feast day of St Edward the Confessor. His cult was promoted extensively during the reign of Henry III, who wished to give England a patron saint who was both an Englishman and peacemaker. The culmination of his efforts was the reconstruction of Westminster Abbey, with a shrine to Edward at the heart of it. The consecration of this new national symbol of unity took place on this day in 1269. Visitors, even the king’s critics, were overawed, especially by the mysteriously beautiful Cosmati pavement in front of the high altar. This being England, however, there was plenty of bickering and strife that day. The communities of Winchester and London clashed over serving rights at the feast, and the bishops of Canterbury province sulked in their stalls in protest against the pretensions of the archbishop of York. Henry must have wondered why he even tried with this lot. Their descendants certainly didn’t take notice. Today the patron saint of England is an obscure warrior of Greek origin.

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