Sunday, February 10, 2008

St Thomas Becket
Archbishop of Canterbury
St. Thomas Becket, St. Thomas of Canterbury (c.1118 – December 29, 1170) was Archbishop of Canterbury from 1162 to 1170. He is venerated as a saint and martyr by both the Roman Catholic Church and the Anglican Church. He engaged in a conflict with King Henry II over the rights and privileges of the Church and was assassinated by followers of the king in Canterbury Cathedral. He is also commonly known as Thomas à Becket, although this form may not have been contemporary. The "à" is now believed to be a complete error. Historian John Strype wrote in his Memorials of Thomas Cranmer (1694): "It is a small error, but being so oft repeated deserveth to be observed into corrected. The name of that archbishop was Thomas Becket. If the vulgar did formerly, as it doth now, call him 'Thomas à Becket' their mistake is not to be followed by learned men."
Notwithstanding, the Oxford Dictionary of English, the New Oxford Dictionary for Writers and Editors and Chambers Biographical Dictionary all prefer St. Thomas à Becket.

St Thomas Becket Primacy

For more details on this topic, see Constitutions of Clarendon. Assassination
Local legends in England connected with Becket arose after his canonisation. Though they are typical hagiographical stories, they also display Becket's particular gruffness. Becket's Well, in Otford, Kent, is said to have been created after Becket had become displeased with the taste of the local water. Two springs of clear water are said to have bubbled up after he struck the ground with his crozier. The absence of nightingales in Otford is also ascribed to Becket, who is said to have been so disturbed in his devotions by the song of a nightingale that he commanded that none should sing in the town ever again. In the town of Strood, also in Kent, Becket is said to have caused the inhabitants of the town and their descendants to be born with tails. The men of Strood had sided with the king in his struggles against the archbishop, and to demonstrate their support, had cut off the tail of Becket's horse as he passed through the town.
Geoffrey Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales is set in a company of pilgrims on their way from Southwark to the shrine of St. Thomas Becket in Canterbury Cathedral.
Modern works based on the story of Thomas Becket include T. S. Eliot's play Murder in the Cathedral, Jean Anouilh's play Becket, which was made into a movie with the same title, and Paul Webb's play Four Nights in Knaresborough, a film version of which is in pre-production.
Thomas Becket was played by Sir Laurence Olivier in the broadway run of Jean Anouilh's play Becket, and by Richard Burton in the film version.
An opera by Ildebrando Pizzetti based on the murder of Thomas Becket, Assassinio nella cattedrale, was first produced at La Scala in Milan, Italy, in 1958. There is a famous live recording of the opera from the Vienna State Opera on 9 March 1960 with Hans Hotter as Becket on Deutsche Grammophon conducted by Herbert von Karajan (457 671-2).
In The Black Adder, King Richard IV of England is telling the tale of the words spoken by Henry II, and a pair of knights act under his interpreted order to kill Prince Edmund, who was Archbishop of Canterbury at the time.
In the 19th century, Conrad Ferdinand Meyer wrote the novella Der Heilige (The Saint) about Thomas Becket.
Ken Follett's historical novel The Pillars of the Earth, which is mostly an account of the building of a Gothic architecture cathedral, also depicts the struggles between the Church, the gentry, and the monarchy, culminating in the assassination and martyrdom of Becket by Henry's men. This fictionalised account is considered largely historically accurate, but adds one of the book's fictional villains as the fifth attacker).
An episode of History Bites is set in the aftermath of Becket's assassination.
W. J. Williams has suggested that the story of the murder of Thomas Becket may have inspired the masonic legend of the death of Hiram Abif. This theory included reference to a company of masons in the City of London making a procession to St. Thomas's Chapel on his saint's day. He suggests that they may have been an emblematic performance concerning the death of Thomas on that day. They also supported St. Thomas' Hospital which was the headquarters of the Knights of St. Thomas, a military order, during the crusades, which was very close to the Templars.
The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, a nonprofit, nonpartisan, interfaith, legal and educational institute dedicated to protecting the free expression of all religious traditions, took its inspiration and namesake from Thomas Becket.

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