Saturday, December 21, 2013

Happy birthday, Thomas Becket

It is the birthday of English clergyman Thomas Becket (1118), who became Archbishop of Canterbury in 1162, fought with King Henry II over the government's intrusion into the church, and was ultimately murdered in 1170 by four knights as he prayed at Canterbury Cathedral. Pope Alexander III canonized Becket in 1173. The assassins were excommunicated, hid out for a time, then went to Rome to seek forgiveness. Pope Alexander sent them to fight in the Crusades for 14 years. A pilgrimage on the way to Becket's shrine at Canterbury is the backdrop for Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales. Alfred Lord Tennyson wrote a play about Becket and Henry II, Becket (1884). T.S. Eliot wrote a verse drama, Murder in the Cathedral (1935).

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