The murder of Thomas Becket in Canterbury Cathedral in 1170 is one of the most famous events in English history, creating shock waves which reverberated across Europe. His shrine at Canterbury (destroyed in 1538) became the most famous in Christendom, and after his canonisation the cult of St Thomas of Canterbury was the most important of any English saint. Millions of pilgrims have made the journey to Canterbury Cathedral to visit the shrine and the site of the martyrdom. In modern times his life and death have been celebrated in music, literature, theatre and film. The story of Becket’s life and work shows why it has continued to fascinate and enthral across the centuries. A brilliant young man, he studied in London and Paris, and after entering the service of Archbishop Theobald of Canterbury, in Bologna and Auxerre. He accompanied Theobald to Rome to enlist the support of Pope Eugenius III for Henry Plantagenet’s claim to the English throne, and after Henry’s accession as Henry II in 1154 Thomas became the new king’s Chancellor. Becket’s relations with Henry deteriorated after 1162, when he unwillingly accepted the position of Archbishop of Canterbury, and championed the rights of the Church in opposition to the wishes of the king. The conflict between the two men reached its tragic climax on the evening of 29th December 1170, when Thomas was murdered by four of Henry’s knights in a side chapel of his own cathedral. . Here is a popular introduction to the life and work of this important English saint. Michael Green has spent most of his life in Kent, and in retirement took a degree in Social Science at Canterbury Christ Church University College. Married for fifty years and an active member of the Church of St Thomas of Canterbury.
Gracewing Publishing, 2004. Softcover, 90 pp.