To mark the 850th anniversary of the murder of Thomas Becket, the Vatican will be sending back the martyred saint’s bloodstained tunic to Canterbury Cathedral.
Becket served as Archbishop of Canterbury from 1162 until his murder in 1170 by followers of King Henry II, following a dispute over the rights and privileges of the Catholic Church.
While they had long been friends, Henry and Thomas fell out over the Church’s independence from and authority over the crown.
According to tradition, Henry once famously said of Becket’s insistence on the independence of the Church, “Will no one rid me of this turbulent priest?” Historian Simon Schama contends that Becket’s contemporary biographer got the quotation right, when he recorded him as saying:
“What miserable drones and traitors have I nourished and brought up in my household, who let their lord be treated with such shameful contempt by a low-born cleric?”
Becket was murdered on December 29, 1170, and soon after was venerated across Europe as a martyr. Pope Alexander III canonized him only two years after his death. Canterbury Cathedral, where he was murdered, then became home to his shrine, attracting pilgrims from all over England and Europe, until Henry VIII destroyed the shrine in 1538.
The popular devotion to Becket inspired Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, which is structured as a story-telling contest among a group of pilgrims traveling from London to visit Becket’s shrine in Canterbury.
Becket’s tunic managed to survive the Reformation and the subsequent looting of the monasteries, because Henry VII had sent it as a gift to the pope 50 years earlier.
Go here to read the rest. If the members of the Church of England now wish to commemorate the “Holy, Blessed Martyr” I guess that is a good thing, but these words of Christ come strongly to mind:
Woe to you who build the monuments of the prophets: and your fathers killed them.
However, if even one man, woman or child comes to the Faith as a result of this, it is worth it.