A BENEDICTINE mass is due to take place at a Colchester landmark today for the first time in nearly 500 years.

The mass is being staged at St John’s Abbey Gate at noon thanks to the efforts of an historian.

Jenni Guthrie-Stevens, a member of Colchester Catholic Heritage Group, conducted research which discovered a Benedictine Mass had not been held at St John’s Abbey Gate since 1539.

It was in this year the last Abbot – the term given in the Catholic faith to a man who is the head of an abbey of monks – died a martyr for refusing to hand over the abbey to soldiers belonging to Henry VIII.

John Beche was subsequently hung, drawn, and quartered – and a Benedictine Mass has not been held at St John’s Abbey Gate since.

But in a letter to the Head of the Abbots in the UK, Ms Guthrie-Stevens managed to convince the Catholic Church to send Oxford University theologian Abbot Geoffrey Scott to perform mass in Colchester today.

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“It’s a big thing,” said Ms Guthrie-Stevens. “It’s the first time a Benedictine priest has said mass on that site since November 30 1539.”

“I realised about ten years ago there were hardly any records about the Abbot John Beche. I thought ‘This is strange’ because he died for the faith.”

“I felt so sorry for him because he seems to have been forgotten all these centuries on.”

After getting in touch with the Head of Abbots, it was then agreed that Abbot Scott would attend St John’s Abbey Gate to perform mass.

“It’s quite something,” added Ms Guthrie-Stevens. “He teaches Theology at Oxford University and he’s also a historian for the order. So this really is a big thing.”