A PRIOR from South America joined monks from Belmont to attend a service dedicated to a saint who was a Bishop of Hereford.

For the fifth year, monks from the Catholic Belmont Abbey joined a Church of England evening prayer at Hereford Cathedral as part of a festival commemorating the Feast of St Thomas Cantilupe.

Belmont Abbey is linked to the Monastery of the Incarnation at Pachacamac in Peru and brought Alex Echeandia Loro, prior of the monastery, to the service, as he was visiting Herefordshire at the time.

The Dean of Hereford, the Very Reverend Michael Tavinor, burnt incense over the Shrine of St Thomas Cantilupe at the cathedral after Evensong on September 30.

The following day, Rev Dom Alex Echeandia Loro and a member of the Benedictine community at Belmont Abbey, also censed the shrine, following a service of Vespers sung by the monks of Belmont.

St Thomas Cantilupe became Bishop of Hereford in 1275; he was also a high-ranking politician who served as Chancellor to Edward I.

In 1282 he became involved in a dispute with the Archbishop of Canterbury over the limits of his authority as Bishop in the Diocese of Hereford, and was excommunicated, which was a terrible punishment in medieval times.

He travelled to Italy to ask the Pope to lift the excommunication, and did receive absolution, but died of malaria. His bones were returned to Hereford, where they were buried in the north transept of the cathedral.

His shrine began to be associated with miraculous cures and his successor, Bishop Richard Swinfield, applied successfully for Thomas to be canonised (made a saint).

His relics were transferred to the Lady Chapel of the cathedral but unfortunately this new shrine was destroyed during the Dissolution of the Monasteries in the 1540s.

Because the original shrine was known to be empty, it was left alone and the base of it still exists. In recent years it has been restored and a new canopy was made, painted in rich colours as it would have been centuries ago.