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St Thomas of Canterbury(1118-1170)[St Thomas a Becket]
CIN.Org ^ | December 12, 2000 | CIN.Org

Posted on 12/29/2002 7:09:18 PM PST by Lady In Blue


St. Thomas of Canterbury (1118-1170)

Seal of St. Thomas a Becket Archbishop of Canterbury

The Murder of Becket by Alfred Duggan
St. Thomas Becket by Todd Drain

He was born in the city of London in 1118. His family name of Becket was rarely used by his contemporaries, to whom he was Thomas of London or Archbishop Thomas. His father was a Norman knight, Gilbert, who had become a prosperous merchant in London; his mother was also Norman, and he had at least two sisters, one of whom later became abbess of Barking. To his mother he owed his early piety, a devotion to our Lady, and generosity to the poor. From boyhood upwards he was richly endowed by nature. He was tall, handsome and vigorous, with dark hair, pale complexion and a prominent nose; his sight and hearing were unusually keen, he had a remarkably retentive memory, and he was a master of extemporary speech and debate. As a boy he was devoted to field sports and as a young man his energy, his practical ability and his initiative were more evident than his wisdom or his judgment. After a schooling at Merton priory and Paris he became, at twenty-one, financial clerk to a relative in the city, but after three years he was taken into the household of Theobald, the Norman monk-archbishop of Canterbury. The young Thomas gradually made his way upwards by his charm, his generosity and his adaptability. He was ambitious, and refused no opportunity of advancement or preferment, he enjoyed display and activity, but all are agreed that his life both then and at all times was absolutely pure. The archbishop gave him the post of archdeacon, and he seemed to be following the normal career of an able ecclesiastic when, at the age of thirty-six, he was recommended by Theabald to the young King Henry as chancellor.

Henry II was a man of very great ability and energy with a genius both for leadership and for organisation; at the same time he was self-willed, imperious, and passionate, wholly unspiritual and bent on gaining control of every power in his kingdom. Thomas the chancellor, who then and always had a personal affection for Henry, devoted all his efforts to serve and please the young king. Accepting all the wealth that came his way, he spent it lavishly on entertainments, on rich clothes and plate and on hunting, hawking, and even on martial exploits but he never failed to work hard and prudently in the king's interest, and there is evidence that he felt a secret dissatisfaction with himself and his worldly life.

In 1163 Theobald died, and the king secured the election of his friend, confident that he would serve all his interests. Thomas resisted, and warned the king that he might regret his choice. Then he accepted the office, and with what seemed a sudden change he became an austere and spiritual man, devoted to the interests of the church, the faithful servant of the pope. It was not long before the clash with the king occurred. Henry was resolved to reassert all the rights which had been claimed and exercised fifty years before by the Conqueror and his sons. Since that time, however, the papacy had established the claim of the church to control matters such as the trial of clerics and the excommunication of offenders, and had asserted its right to hear appeals and decide all cases. Again and again the archbishop and his king were in conflict, and affairs reached a crisis when the king demanded assent to the Constitutions of Clarendon (1164), which were an assertion of all the customs of the past that were now contrary to the law of the church and the practice of the papacy. Thomas hesitated, and for a moment gave way, thus breaking the solidarity of the bishops in their resistance. Then, at a council at Northampton in 1164 he reasserted his opposition and in face of threats of death or imprisonment, broke away by night and crossed to France to seek the pope.

For the next six years the archbishop was in exile in France, while he and the king and Pope Alexander III wrangled and discussed in an endeavor to settle the controversy and restore peace to the church in England. The issue was clouded for contemporaries by the mistakes and even the faults of the archbishop, by the ability and plausibility of the king, who had in some respects a strong case, and by the unwillingness of the pope to go to extremities with a powerful monarch. Meanwhile Thomas, at the abbey of Pontigny and elsewhere, gave himself to penance and devotion in what may be called a 'second conversion' from piety to sanctity. Finally, after a war of denunciations and excommunications, and a series of abortive conferences, an uneasy peace was patched up in the last months of 1169 and Thomas returned in triumph to Canterbury. Almost at once, the king in France, exasperated by the archbishop's refusal to withdraw some censures, let slip words which were taken to be a command, or a permission, to kill the archbishop as a traitor. Four knights crossed the Channel, and on the afternoon of December 29th appeared in the archbishop's hall intent on picking a quarrel. Thomas met them with dignified argument, but refused to budge from what he declared was justice and obedience to the pope. The knights retired in fury and donned their armor, while the archbishop entered the cathedral, refusing to allow the doors to be locked. The four knights rushed upon him in the north aisle and tried to drag him from the church. He resisted, and they cut him down with their swords. His last words were: 'I accept death for the name of Jesus and for the Church.'

The murder shocked the conscience of all Europe; miracles were announced immediately at the tomb; the archbishop was canonized as a martyr by Alexander III in 1173; the king did public penance at his tomb, and much of what St Thomas had striven for was secured by his death. Canterbury became a place of pilgrimage second only to Rome and perhaps Compostella, and churches were dedicated to St Thomas in all countries, even in the remote Iceland. That Thomas gave his life for the freedom of the church is certain; more than four centuries later, another Henry, another St Thomas, and another archbishop of Canterbury drew the moral in their different ways. That he was a man to whom all would apply the word 'great' is also clear. He was no doubt a son of his age--the age of crusades and of the Norman conquerers--alike in his magnificence, his carriage and his austerities, but those who have seen in him only an ambitious, violent and headstrong prelate have failed to allow for the gentleness and devotion that were always part of his character, and for the real and profound conversion of his later years. Had he died a natural death in 1170 he would not perhaps have been acclaimed as a saint, but in his last years and months he prepared himself by his fortitude and zeal for truth and justice, for the heroic assertion of the rights of the spiritual power which led to his martyrdom.


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I was unable to find any other pictures that would come out on St.Thomas a Becket.
1 posted on 12/29/2002 7:09:18 PM PST by Lady In Blue
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To: *Catholic_list; father_elijah; Salvation; nickcarraway; JMJ333; Siobhan; BlackElk
2 posted on 12/29/2002 7:18:46 PM PST by Lady In Blue
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To: Lady In Blue
**Meanwhile Thomas, at the abbey of Pontigny and elsewhere, gave himself to penance and devotion in what may be called a 'second conversion' from piety to sanctity.**

During rocky times he turned to prayer. Would that we would do the same in these times.
3 posted on 12/29/2002 7:40:53 PM PST by Salvation
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To: Lady In Blue

Canterbury Cathedral - St. Thomas Becket
This is a detail of a stained glass window from Trinity Chapel in Canterbury Cathedral, a part of the church built to house St. Thomas's relics.  The windows in this chapel, among the finest stained glass in England contain the complete story of Becket's life and martyrdom.
4 posted on 12/29/2002 7:48:30 PM PST by Salvation
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To: Salvation
I couldn't agree with you more! He really took his office seriously.Did you ever see the movie? It was excellent.One of these days when I get some more dough,I'm going to buy it.Maybe has a used copy.
5 posted on 12/29/2002 8:00:31 PM PST by Lady In Blue
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To: Salvation
Thanks for posting that the beautiful stained glass picture. You did good! I found one on but when I tried to post it,nothing came out.
6 posted on 12/29/2002 8:04:09 PM PST by Lady In Blue
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To: Lady In Blue
What was the name of the movie?
7 posted on 12/29/2002 8:09:39 PM PST by Salvation
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To: Lady In Blue
BTTT on December 29, 2003, Optional, St. Thomas Becket
8 posted on 12/29/2003 8:42:21 AM PST by Salvation (†With God all things are possible.†)
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To: Lady In Blue

9 posted on 12/28/2004 11:28:39 PM PST by Salvation (†With God all things are possible.†)
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To: Lady In Blue

BTTT on 12-29-04, Optional Feast Day of St. Thomas Becket!

What a story is his!

10 posted on 12/29/2004 7:45:42 AM PST by Salvation (†With God all things are possible.†)
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To: All

Catholic Online Saints

St. Thomas Becket

b.1118 d.1170
There is a romantic legend that the mother of Thomas Becket was a Saracen princess who followed his father, a pilgrim or crusader, back from the Holy Land, and wandered about Europe repeating the only English words she knew, "London" and "Becket," until she found him. There is no foundation for the story. According to a contemporary writer, Thomas Becket was the son of Gilbert Becket, sheriff of London; another relates that both parents were of Norman blood. Whatever his parentage, we know with certainty that the future chancellor and archbishop of Canterbury was born on St. Thomas day, 1118, of a good family, and that he was educated at a school of canons regular at Merton Priory in Sussex, and later at the University of Paris. When Thomas returned from France, his parents had died. Obliged to make his way unaided, he obtained an appointment as clerk to the sheriff's court, where he showed great ability. All accounts describe him as a strongly built, spirited youth, a lover of field sports, who seems to have spent his leisure time in hawking and hunting. One day when he was out hunting with his falcon, the bird swooped down at a duck, and as the duck dived, plunged after it into the river. Thomas himself leapt in to save the valuable hawk, and the rapid stream swept him along to a mill, where only the accidental stopping of the wheel saved his life. The episode serves to illustrate the impetuous daring which characterized Becket all through his life.

At the age of twenty-four Thomas was given a post in the household of Theobald, archbishop of Canterbury, and while there he apparently resolved on a career in the Church, for he took minor orders. To prepare himself further, he obtained the archbishop's permission to study canon law at the University of Bologna, continuing his studies at Auxerre, France. On coming back to England, he became provost of Beverley, and canon at Lincoln and St. Paul's cathedrals. His ordination as deacon occurred in 1154. Theoba ld appointed him archdeacon of Canterbury, the highest ecclesiastical office in England after a bishopric or an abbacy, and began to entrust him with the most intricate affairs; several times he was sent on important missions to Rome. It was Thomas' diplomacy that dissuaded Pope Eugenius III from sanctioning the coronation of Eustace, eldest son of Stephen, and when Henry of Anjou, great grandson of William the Conqueror, asserted his claim to the English crown and became King Henry II, it was not long before he appointed this gifted churchman as chancellor, that is, chief minister. An old chronicle describes Thomas as "slim of growth, and pale of hue, with dark hair, a long nose, and a straightly featured face.

Blithe of countenance was he, winning and lovable in conversation, frank of speech in his discourses but slightly stuttering in his talk, so keen of discernment that he could always make difficult questions plain after a wise manner." Thomas discharged his duties as chancellor conscientiously and well.

Like the later chancellor of the realm, Thomas Moore, who also became a martyr and a saint, Thomas Becket was the close personal friend as well as the loyal servant of his young sovereign. They were said to have one heart and one mind between them, and it seems possible that to Becket's influence were due, in part, those reforms for which Henry is justly praised, that is, his measures to secure equitable dealing for all his subjects by a more uniform and efficient system of law. But it was not only their common interest in matters of state that bound them together. They were also boon companions and spent merry hours together. It was almost the only relaxation Thomas allowed himself, for he was an ambitious man. He had a taste for magnificence, and his household was as fine—if not finer—than the King's. When he was sent to France to negotiate a royal marriage, he took a personal retinue of two hundred men, with a train of several hundred more, knights and squires, clerics and servants, eight fine wagons, music and singers, hawks and hounds, monkeys and mastiffs. Little wonder that the French gaped in wonder and asked, "If this is the chancellor's state, what can the Ring's be like?" His entertainments, his gifts, and his liberality to the poor were also on a very lavish scale.

In 1159 King Henry raised an army of mercenaries in France to regain the province of Toulouse, a part of the inheritance of his wife, the famous Eleanor of Aquitaine.

Thomas served Henry in this war with a company of seven hundred knights of his own. Wearing armor like any other fighting man, he led assaults and engaged in single combat. Another churchman, meeting him, exclaimed: "What do you mean by wearing such a dress? You look more like a falconer than a cleric. Yet you are a cleric in person, and many times over in office-archdeacon of Canterbury, dean of Hastings, provost of Beverley, canon of this church and that, procurator of the archbishop, and like to be archbishop, too, the rumor goes!" Thomas received the rebuke with good humor.

Although he was proud, strong-willed, and irascible, and remained so all his life, he did not neglect to make seasonal retreats at Merton and took the discipline imposed on him there. His confessor during this time testified later to the blamelessness of his private life, under conditions of extreme temptation. If he sometimes went too far in those schemes of the King which tended to infringe on the ancient prerogatives and rights of the Church, at other times he opposed Henry with vigor.

In 1161 Archbishop Theobald died. King Henry was then in Normandy with Thomas, whom he resolved to make the next primate of England. When Henry announced his intention, Thomas, demurring, told him: "Should God permit me to be the archbishop of Canterbury, I would soon lose your Majesty's favor, and the affection with which you honor me would be changed into hatred. For there are several things you do now in prejudice of the rights of the Church which make me fear you would require of me what I could not agree to; and envious persons would not fail to make it the occasion of endless strife between us." The King paid no heed to this remonstrance, and sent bishops and noblemen to the monks of Canterbury, ordering them to labor with the same zeal to set his chancellor in the see as they would to set the crown on the young prince's head. Thomas continued to refuse the promotion until the legate of the Holy See, Cardinal Henry of Pisa, overrode his scruples. The election took place in May, 1162. Young Prince Henry, then in London, gave the necessary consent in his father's name. Thomas, now forty-four years old, rode to Canterbury and was first ordained priest by Walter, bishop of Rochester, and then on the octave of Pentecost was consecrated archbishop by the bishop of Winchester. Shortly afterwards he received the pallium sent by Pope Alexander III.

From this day worldly grandeur no longer marked Thomas' way of life. Next his skin he wore a hairshirt, and his customary dress was a plain black cassock, a linen surplice, and a sacerdotal stole about his neck. He lived ascetically, spent much time in the distribution of alms, in reading and discussing the Scriptures with Herbert of Bosham, in visiting the infirmary, and supervising the monks at their work. He took special care in selecting candidates for Holy Orders. As ecclesiastical judge, he was rigorously just.

Although as archbishop Thomas had resigned the chancellorship, against the King's wish, the relations between the two men seemed to be unchanged for a time. But a host of troubles was brewing, and the crux of all of them was the relationship between Church and state. In the past the landowners, among which the Church was one of the largest, for each hide [1] of land they held, had paid annually two shillings to the King's officers, who in return undertook to protect them from the rapacity of minor tax- gatherers. This was actually a flagrant form of graft and the Ring now ordered the money paid into his own exchequer. The archbishop protested, and there were hot words between him and the Ring. Thenceforth the King's demands were directed solely against the clergy, with no mention of other landholders who were equally involved.

Then came the affair of Philip de Brois, a canon accused of murdering a soldier.

According to a long-established law, as a cleric he was tried in an ecclesiastical court, where he was acquitted by the judge, the bishop of Lincoln, but ordered to pay a fine to the deceased man's relations. A king's justice then made an effort to bring him before his civil court, but he could not be tried again upon that indictment and told the king's justice so in insulting terms. Thereat Henry ordered him tried again both for the original murder charge—and for his later misdemeanor. Thomas now pressed to have the case referred to his own archiepiscopal court; the King reluctantly agreed, and appointed both lay and clerical assessors. Philip's plea of a previous acquittal was accepted as far as the murder was concerned, but he was punished for his contempt of a royal court. The King thought the sentence too mild and remained dissatisfied. In October, 1163, the King called the bishops of his realm to a council at Westminster, at which he demanded their assent to an edict that thenceforth clergy proved guilty of crimes against the civil law should be handed over to the civil courts for punishment.

Thomas stiffened the bishops against yielding. But finally, at the council of Westminster they assented reluctantly to the instrument known as the Constitutions of Clarendon, which embodied the royal "customs" in Church matters, and including some additional points, making sixteen in all. It was a revolutionary document: it provided that no prelate should leave the kingdom without royal permission, which would serve to prevent appeals to the Pope; that no tenant-in-chief should be excommunicated against the Ring's will; that the royal court was to decide in which court clerics accused of civil offenses should be tried; that the custody of vacant Church benefices and their revenues should go to the King. Other provisions were equally damaging to the authority and prestige of the Church. The bishops gave their assent only with a reservation, "saving their order," which was tantamount to a refusal.

Thomas was now full of remorse for having weakened, thus setting a bad example to the bishops, but at the same time he did not wish to widen the breach between himself and the King. He made a futile effort to cross the Channel and put the case before the Pope. On his part, the Ring was bent on vengeance for what he considered the disloyalty and ingratitude of the archbishop. He ordered Thomas to give up certain castles and honors which he held from him, and began a campaign to persecute and discredit him. Various charges of chicanery and financial dishonesty were brought against Thomas, dating from the time he was chancellor. The bishop of Winchester pleaded the archbishop's discharge. The plea was disallowed; Thomas offered a voluntary payment of his own money, and that was refused.

The affair was building up to a crisis, when, on October 13, 1164, the King called another great council at Northampton. Thomas went, after celebrating Mass, carrying his archbishop's cross in his hand. The Earl of Leicester came out with a message from the King: "The King commands you to render your accounts. Otherwise you must hear his judgment." "Judgment?" exclaimed Thomas. "I was given the church of Canterbury free from temporal obligations. I am therefore not liable and will not plead with regard to them. Neither law nor reason allows children to judge and condemn their fathers.

Wherefore I refuse the King's judgment and yours and everyone's. Under God, I will be judged by the Pope alone."

Determined to stand out against the Ring, Thomas left Northampton that night, and soon thereafter embarked secretly for Flanders. Louis VII, Ring of France, invited Thomas into his dominions. Meanwhile King Henry forbade anyone to give him aid.

Gilbert, abbot of Sempringham, was accused of having sent him some relief. Although the abbot had done nothing, he refused to swear he had not, because, he said, it would have been a good deed and he would say nothing that might seem to brand it as a criminal act. Henry quickly dispatched several bishops and others to put his case before Pope Alexander, who was then at Sens. Thomas also presented himself to the Pope and showed him the Constitutions of Clarendon, some of which Alexander pronounced intolerable, others impossible. He rebuked Thomas for ever having considered accepting them. The next day Thomas confessed that he had, though unwillingly, received the see of Canterbury by an election somewhat irregular and uncanonical, and had acquitted himself badly in it. He resigned his office, returned the episcopal ring to the Pope, and withdrew. After deliberation, the Pope called him back and reinstated him, with orders not to abandon his office, for to do so would be to abandon the cause of God. He then recommended Thomas to the Cistercian abbot at Pontigny.

Thomas then put on a monk's habit, and submitted himself to the strict rule of the monastery. Over in England King Henry was busy confiscating the goods of all the friends, relations, and servants of the archbishop, and banishing them, first binding them by oath to go to Thomas at Pontigny, that the sight of their distress might move him. Troops of these exiles soon appeared at the abbey. Then Henry notified the Cistercians that if they continued to harbor his enemy he would sequestrate all their houses in his dominions. After this, the abbot hinted that Thomas was no longer welcome in his abbey. The archbishop found refuge as the guest of King Louis at the royal abbey of St. Columba, near Sens.

This historic quarrel dragged on for three years. Thomas was named by the Pope as his legate for all England except York, whereupon Thomas excommunicated several of his adversaries; yet at times he showed himself conciliatory towards the King. The French king was also drawn into the struggle, and the two kings had a conference in 1169 at Montmirail. King Louis was inclined to take Thomas' side. A reconciliation was finally effected between Thomas and Henry, although the lines of power were not too clearly drawn. The archbishop now made preparations to return to his see. With a premonition of his fate, he remarked to the bishop of Paris in parting, "I am going to England to die." On December 1, 1172, he disembarked at Sandwich, and on the journey to Canterbury the way was lined with cheering people, welcoming him home. As he rode into the cathedral city at the head of a triumphal procession, every bell was ringing. Yet in spite of the public demonstration, there was an atmosphere of foreboding.

At the reconciliation in France, Henry had agreed to the punishment of Roger, archbishop of York, and the bishops of London and Salisbury, who had assisted at the coronation of Henry's son, despite the long-established right of the archbishop of Canterbury to perform this ceremony and in defiance of the Pope's explicit instructions. It had been another attempt to lower the prestige of the primate's see. Thomas had sent on in advance of his return the papal letters suspending Roger and confirming the excommunication of the two bishops involved. On the eve of his arrival a deputation waited on him to ask for the withdrawal of these sentences. He agreed on condition that the three would swear thenceforth to obey the Pope. This they refused to do, and together went to rejoin King Henry, who was visiting his domains in France.

At Canterbury Thomas was subjected to insult by one Ranulf de Broc, from whom he had demanded the restoration of Saltwood Castle, a manor previously belonging to the archbishop's see. After a week's stay there he went up to London, where Henry's son, "the young King," refused to see him. He arrived back in Canterbury on or about his fifty-second birthday. Meanwhile the three bishops had laid their complaints before the King at Bur, near Bayeux, and someone had exclaimed aloud that there would be no peace for the realm while Becket lived. At this, the King, in a fit of rage, pronounced some words which several of his hearers took as a rebuke to them for allowing Becket to continue to live and thereby disturb him. Four of his knights at once set off for England and made their way to the irate family at Saltwood. Their names were Reginald Fitzurse, William de Tracy, Hugh de Morville, and Richard le Bret.

On St. John's day Thomas received a letter warning him of danger, and all southeast Kent was in a state of ferment. On the afternoon of December 29, the four knights came to see him in his episcopal palace. During the interview they made several demands, in particular that Thomas remove the censures on the three bishops. The knights withdrew, uttering threats and oaths. A few minutes later there were loud outcries, a shattering of doors and clashing of arms, and the archbishop, urged on by his attendants, began moving slowly through the cloister passage to the cathedral. It was now twilight and vespers were being sung. At the door of the north transept he was met by some terrified monks, whom he commanded to get back to the choir. They withdrew a little and he entered the church, but the knights were seen behind him in the dim light. The monks slammed the door on them and bolted it. In their confusion they shut out several of their own brethren, who began beating loudly on the door.

Becket turned and cried, "Away, you cowards ! A church is not a castle." He reopened the door himself, then went towards the choir, accompanied by Robert de Merton, his aged teacher and confessor, William Fitzstephen, a cleric in his household, and a monk, Edward Grim. The others fled to the crypt and other hiding places, and Grim alone remained. At this point the knights broke in shouting, "Where is Thomas the traitor?" "Where is the archbishop?" "Here I am," he replied, "no traitor, but archbishop and priest of God!" He came down the steps to stand between the altars of Our Lady and St. Benedict.

The knights clamored at him to absolve the bishops, and Thomas answered firmly, "I cannot do other than I have done. Reginald, you have received many favors from me.

Why do you come into my church armed?" Fitzurse made a threatening gesture with his axe. "I am ready to die," said Thomas, "but God's curse on you if you harm my people." There was some scuffling as they tried to carry Thomas outside bodily.

Fitzurse flung down his axe and drew his sword. "You pander, you owe me fealty and submission!" exclaimed the archbishop. Fitzurse shouted back, "I owe no fealty contrary to the King ! " and knocked off Thomas' cap. At this, Thomas covered his face and called aloud on God and the saints. Tracy struck a blow, which Grim intercepted with his own arm, but it grazed Thomas' skull and blood ran down into his eyes. He wiped the stain away and cried, "Into Thy hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit!" Another blow from Tracy beat him to his knees, and he pitched forward onto his face, murmuring, "For the name of Jesus and in defense of the Church I am willing to die." With a vigorous thrust Le Bret struck deep into his head, breaking his sword against the pavement, and Hugh of Horsea added a blow, although the archbishop was now dying. Hugh de Morville stood by but struck no blow. The murderers, brandishing their swords, now dashed away through the cloisters, shouting "The King's men! The King's men!" The cathedral itself was filling with people unaware of the catastrophe, and a thunderstorm was breaking overhead.[2] The archbishop's body lay in the middle of the transept, and for a time no one dared approach it. A deed of such sacrilege was bound to be regarded with horror and indignation. When the news was brought to the King, he shut himself up and fasted for forty days, for he knew that his chance remark had sped the courtiers to England bent on vengeance. He later performed public penance in Canterbury Cathedral and in 1172 received absolution from the papal delegates.

Within three years of his death the archbishop had been canonized as a martyr. Though far from a faultless character, Thomas Becket, when his time of testing came, had the courage to lay down his life to defend the ancient rights of the Church against an aggressive state. The discovery of his hairshirt and other evidences of austerity, and the many miracles which were reported at his tomb, increased the veneration in which he was held. The shrine of the "holy blessed martyr," as Chaucer called him, soon became famous, and the old Roman road running from London to Canterbury known as "Pilgrim's Way." His tomb was magnificently adorned with gold, silver, and jewels, only to be despoiled by Henry VIII; the fate of his relics is uncertain. They may have been destroyed as a part of Henry's policy to subordinate the English Church to the civil authority. Mementoes of this saint are preserved at the cathedral of Sens. The feast of St. Thomas of Canterbury is now kept throughout the Roman Catholic Church, and in England he is regarded as the protector of the secular clergy.

11 posted on 12/29/2004 8:14:58 AM PST by Salvation (†With God all things are possible.†)
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To: Salvation
What was the name of the movie?

Becket. One of my husband's favorites.

12 posted on 12/29/2004 8:20:52 AM PST by murphE ("I ain't no physicist, but I know what matters." - Popeye)
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To: murphE
image of Thomas Becket being murdered by knights
Knights of Henry II murder Thomas
Becket as he prays, Canterbury, 1170

13 posted on 12/29/2004 8:28:36 AM PST by Salvation (†With God all things are possible.†)
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To: Salvation

St. Thomas Becket

Thomas Becket was murdered in Canterbury Cathedral in the afternoon of December 29, 1170.

Thomas Becket's death shocked the whole of the Christian world, and his tomb in Canterbury became an immediate shrine. He was canonised in 1173, and in the following year Henry was forced by the weight of public revulsion to do penance at the saint's tomb. The shrine of St Thomas Becket continued to be popular throughout the Middle Ages. Canterbury's pre-eminence as a place of pilgrimage (immortalised in Chaucer's Canterbury Tales) continued until the shrine was destroyed, probably along with the martyr's remains, under Henry VIII in 1538.

St Thomas Becket's feast day is celebrated on December 29 and The Becket School is named after him.

Becket's early career and time as Chancellor

Thomas Becket was born in London on 21 December around the year 1118. He came from a middle-class Norman family who had settled in England some years before his birth. He was well educated, studying in London at Merton Abbey before completing his studies at the University of Paris. On leaving Paris he was employed as a secretary first by Sir Richer de l'Aigle and then by his kinsman, Osbert Huitdeniers, who was "Justiciar" of London. After his father's death around 1142 he entered the household of Theobald, Archbishop of Canterbury, in whose service he performed several delicate missions to Rome. Theobald apparently sent him to Bologna and to Auxerre and financed his education there in civil and canon law (the law of the Church). In 1154 he was ordained deacon and appointed Archdeacon of Canterbury.

In the same year the young Henry II, acting on the advice of Theobald, appointed him Chancellor of England. Thomas was 36 and the King was about twelve years younger. Apart from King Henry and possibly the Justiciar, Becket was effectively the most powerful man in England. Archbishop Theobald and the clergy expected Becket to represent their interests at court, but the Chancellor, who rapidly became an intimate friend of the King, devoted himself largely to secular affairs. He lived in luxury and had a magnificent lifestyle, took an unclerical part on the battlefield in the Toulouse campaign of 1159 and, when at this time a clash of interests arose between Church and State, he usually, but not always, supported the King. He seems at all times to have had clear principles with regard to the claims of the Church, and even during this period of his Chancellorship he more than once risked Henry's grievous displeasure. For example, he opposed the dispensation which Henry for political reasons extorted from the Pope, and strove to prevent the marriage of Mary, Abbess of Romsey, to Matthew of Boulogne. But, to the very limits of what his conscience permitted, Thomas identified himself with the King's interests. It is not surprising, therefore, that when Theobald died in 1161, Henry, who hoped to curb the growth of Church power, nominated his friend to become the Archbishop of Canterbury, the highest ecclesistical post in the land. Becket, foreseeing the conflict that lay ahead, was reluctant to accept, but the King insisted, petitioned the Pope who agreed and, on June 1, 1162, Becket was ordained priest. He was consecrated as Archbishop of Canterbury the next day.

Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury

Apparently determined to be Archbishop as conscientiously as he had been Chancellor, Becket immediately changed his way of life. He abandoned his worldly ways for a life of extreme asceticism, angered the king by resigning the Chancellorship, and began to work exclusively for the interests of the Church. He soon came into conflict with Henry, and as the tension between the two men mounted, a series of minor disputes developed into a major quarrel. Becket showed open resistance to the king's proposal that a voluntary offering to the sheriffs should be paid into the royal treasury. As the first recorded instance of any determined opposition to the king's arbitrary will in a matter of taxation, the incident is of much constitutional importance. The protest seems to have been successful, but the relations with the king only grew more strained.

Matters came to a head over the question of punishing "criminous clerks." In 1163, a Canon, accused of murder, was acquitted by a Church Court. The public outcry demanded justice and the Canon was brought before a court of the King. Becket's protest halted this attempt but the action spurred King Henry to change the laws to extend his courts' jurisdiction over the clergy. At the Council of Westminster in 1163, Henry claimed that such clerics, once tried and convicted in the ecclesiastical courts, should be punished by the secular authorities. Becket rejected this claim and also persuaded the other bishops to attach the qualification "saving our order" to their assent to the king's demand that they swear obedience to the (unspecified) "ancient customs" of the realm. Under pressure from the Pope, Becket subsequently withdrew this reservation. The following year Henry codified these customs (including his claim concerning the "criminous clerks") in the Constitutions of Clarendon and Becket, although he refused to sign them, did give his oral assent.

The Constitutions of Clarendon were, for the most part, an accurate statement of the customs governing relations between Church and State in the reign of Henry's grandfather, Henry I. Several of the practices were, however, contrary to Canon Law, and the Pope now refused to approve them. This stiffened Becket's resolution, and he publicly indicated that he had perjured himself at Clarendon. His stand prompted a period of unworthy and vindictive persecution. When opposing a claim made against him by John the Marshal, Thomas, upon a frivolous pretext, was found guilty of contempt of court. For this he was sentenced to pay £500. Other demands for large sums of money followed, and in October 1164, though a complete release of all claims against him as Chancellor had been given on his becoming Archbishop, he received a royal summons to Henry's court at the Council of Northampton. A sum of nearly £30,000 was demanded and he was required to render an account of nearly all the moneys which had passed through his hands when he was Chancellor. His fellow bishops implored him to throw himself unreservedly upon the King's mercy, but Thomas, instead of yielding, solemnly warned them and threatened them. Then, after celebrating Mass, he took hold of his Archiepiscopal Cross and presented himself in the Royal Council Chamber. There in a stormy meeting he openly breached two clauses of the Constitutions; by denying the jurisdiction of the Council over himself and by appealing to the Pope. The King demanded that sentence should be passed upon him, but in the confusion and discussion which ensued Becket, with uplifted cross, made his escape through the mob of angry courtiers. He fled immediately after.

Exile and Death

Becket landed in France on 2 November 1164 where he remained in exile for six years. He was cordially welcomed by Louis VII of France. Pope Alexander III, then at Sens, received him on 23 November. The Pope, who had given a cold reception to certain episcopal envoys sent by Henry, welcomed Becket very kindly, and refused to accept his resignation of his See. On 30 November, Thomas took up residence at the Cistercian Abbey of Pontigny in Burgundy, though he was compelled to leave this refuge a year later, as Henry, after confiscating the Archbishop's property and banishing all the Becket kinsfolk, threatened to wreak his vengeance on the whole Cistercian Order if they continued to harbour him.

The negotiations between Henry, the Pope, and the Archbishop dragged on for the next four years without the position being sensibly changed. Although Becket remained firm in his resistance to the principle of the Constitutions of Clarendon, he was willing to make any concessions that could be reasonably asked of him, and on 6 January, 1169, when the Kings of England and France were in conference at Montmirail, he threw himself at Henry's feet but, as he still refused to agree to the Constitutions of Clarendon, this was to no avail. The two former friends appeared to resolve their dispute in 1170 when King Henry and Becket met in Normandy. In June, 1170, Henry had his eldest son crowned by the Archbishop of York, in direct violation of custom and of a papal ban. Becket reacted by threatening, with papal support, to place England under an interdict. Under this threat the king hastily made his peace with his former friend.

The peace did not last long, however. Before returning to England in December 1170, Becket released papal letters suspending the bishops who had taken part in the York coronation. After his return to England he excommunicated them. The King, who was still in France, was infuriated by these actions. In his rage he is purported to have shouted "What sluggards, what cowards have I brought up in my court, who care nothing for their allegiance to their lord. Who will rid me of this meddlesome priest?"

Four knights of his household acted on his words and sailed to England. They hurried to Canterbury, arrived in the afternoon of December 29, 1170, and immediately searched for Becket. Thomas was found at the altar in the Cathedral where a service was in progress. Edward Grim, a companion of Becket and who carried his cross, was present and injured in the process, records, "The murderers followed him; 'Absolve', they cried, 'and restore to communion those whom you have excommunicated, and restore their powers to those whom you have suspended.'

He answered, 'There has been no satisfaction, and I will not absolve them.'

'Then you shall die,' they cried, 'and receive what you deserve.'"

The Knights later said that they tried to drag Becket outside to kill him there or take him prisoner. Whatever the truth of the situation they drew their swords and murdered him in the Cathedral and scattered his brains on the stone floor before leaving.

14 posted on 12/29/2004 8:30:19 AM PST by Salvation (†With God all things are possible.†)
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To: Lady In Blue

15 posted on 12/29/2004 8:32:27 AM PST by Salvation (†With God all things are possible.†)
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To: murphE; Salvation

16 posted on 12/29/2004 8:39:45 AM PST by Pyro7480 (Sub tuum praesidium confugimus, sancta Dei Genitrix.... sed a periculis cunctis libera nos semper...)
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To: Pyro7480; father_elijah; nickcarraway; SMEDLEYBUTLER; Siobhan; Lady In Blue; attagirl; ...
Saint of the Day Ping!

Please notify me via FReepmail if you would like to be added to or taken off the Saint of the Day Ping List.

17 posted on 12/29/2004 12:44:12 PM PST by Salvation (†With God all things are possible.†)
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To: Salvation


18 posted on 12/29/2004 1:01:56 PM PST by Jaded (Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society. - Mark Twain)
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To: Salvation

19 posted on 12/29/2004 4:27:22 PM PST by Smartass (BUSH & CHENEY to 2008 Si vis pacem, para bellum - Por el dedo de Dios se escribió)
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To: murphE; Salvation

I think the movie you are referring to is "A Man for All Sesons." Excellent film.

20 posted on 12/29/2004 5:43:37 PM PST by PennsylvaniaMom (FreeMartha)
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