CANTERBURY HISTORICAL 

& ARCHAEOLOGICAL SOCIETY (CHAS)

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Roundels

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In 1220 the remains of Thomas Becket were removed from his tomb in the eastern crypt and 'translated' to his new shrine in the trinity chapel.  The new shrine was set in a paved area which included the 36 'roundels' set either side of a mosaic known as the Opus Alexandrinum.  The roundels are of yellow oolite filled with red mastic, and show the signs of the zodiac, labours of the months, and virtues trampling vices.  These depict the themes underlying much medieval thought - natural, supernatural, moral and philosophical.  They date from the early 13th century and are thought to have come from St Omer in Northern France.

 

 

What to see:

 

  • site of the shrine - with roundels placed either side of the Opus Alexandrium (Image 1)

  • some of the best preserved roundel images - zodiac signs for Cancer, Libra and Aquarius (Image 2 to 4 respectively)

 

Sources:  see standard sources;  also Canterbury Cathedral Chronicle 1999 (article by Margaret Sparks);  also Herdman (1996) gives a succinct listing and plan of all the roundels

DL