First Catholic canon to be installed at Winchester Cathedral in 500 years

Winchester Cathedral

Winchester Cathedral

History will be made on Saturday when the Abbot of Fleury at St-Benôit-sur-Loire in France,  Fr Ricaud Etienne, is installed as the first Honorary Canon at Winchester Cathedral.

Until recently Honorary Canons were drawn only from the Anglican Diocese of Winchester. The Abbot is the first of its Ecumenical Canons. Other Ecumenical Canons will be installed in the coming months.

The present link between Winchester Cathedral and the Abbey of Fleury goes back to 1978, when the then Dean of Winchester, Michael Stancliffe, and the Abbot of Fleury decided that the Anglican Cathedral and the Benedictine Monastery should be united in prayer. Since that date each institution remembers the others in their daily prayers. There are also regular exchanges between the two communities - including three trips by the Cathedral choir.

The link is the renewal of an ancient relationship. The monastery church on the banks of the Loire houses the relics of St Benedict, founder of western monasticism, whose bones had been brought from the Monte Cassino in around 650. In the tenth century Fleury was one of the centres of a reform movement which sought to return to the simpler monastic life that Benedict had preached and these reforms were promoted in England at the same time. The centre of reform was Winchester Cathedral and, in 973, scholars were brought from Fleury to assist in the drawing up of a new Rule for Benedictine monasticism in England, the Regularis Concordia. Thus, Fleury may be regarded as the cradle of monastic life that flourished in Winchester until St Swithun's Priory (as it was then called) was dissolved  during the Reformation under Henry VIII in 1536.

Dean James said:  "This is a moment of history. It is very exciting for us that the Abbot of Fleury will be our first Ecumenical Canon. Following on from the Pope's visit nationally, it is evidence of the respect with which we hold one another and the acknowledgement of our shared journey of faith."

The Abbot of Fleury is coming for another historic event. At 3.30pm, Winchester Cathedral will open the Fleury Building, a purpose-built extension to the Cathedral which will be Winchester's first permanent newly-built addition in five hundred years,  before he is installed as an Honorary Ecumenical Canon.

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