For those of you who have been on Rick Steves' Southern England tour, you certainly remember your visit to Canterbury Cathedral, and you may remember the event that happened on today's date in 1170, at Canterbury Cathedral.
On December 29, 1170,
Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury, was assassinated inside Canterbury Cathedral by followers of King Henry II; he subsequently became a saint and martyr in the Anglican Communion and the Catholic Church.
Thomas Becket had been a member of King Henry II's court, and one of his best friends. The two drank together, and sometimes went hunting and to brothels together. When the elderly Archbishop of Canterbury died, Henry saw it as a chance to put a friend into his position, someone who would not oppose him on various issues. Beckett was made Archbishop of Canterbury by Henry II. Shortly thereafter, Becket sided with the Church and the Pope on issues, throwing Henry into a fury. Beckett took his office seriously, became a pious and holy man, communicated with the Pope, and took a stand against Henry and his unholy lifestyle. Henry saw this as a betrayal.
During one of his drunken rages Henry asked "Will no one rid me of this meddlesome priest?" His barons and knights heard this and went to Canterbury, where they put Thomas and his deputy, Brother John, to death. Henry declared that he was drunk, and did not mean for his old friend to be killed. Henry arranged for himself a penance by whipping at the hands of monks. He arranged for Thomas Becket to be canonized a saint.
This event in English history is (loosely) depicted in the movie, "Beckett", starring Richard Burton, Peter O'Toole, and John Gielgud.
"Beckett" (1964) was filmed at Alnwick Castle, Bamburgh Castle and Bamburgh Beach in Northumberland, England, all worthy travel destinations.
Canterbury Cathedral is a must-see for any visitor to England who loves English history, with its beautiful interior, stained glass windows, and exterior. A sculpture of crossed swords marks the spot near the altar where Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury, was killed.
For those of you who have been to Canterbury Cathedral, do you remember seeing this spot?
What are your memories of Canterbury Cathedral?