More on Thomas Becket

More on Thomas Becket: Thomas was an able man who, in 1154, rose to be Chancellor of England. He was a loyal supporter of his king, Henry II, for eight years. When Henry secured Thomas' appointment as Archbishop of Canterbury in 1162, he expected him to do his bidding in respect of the Church as well. Thomas put his sacred duties as archbishop first, and resigned the Chancellorship, which did not please Henry. Their relations soured as Thomas continued defending the rights of the Church, even when it meant clashing with the King. Their differences became more and more acrimonious.

Things got so bad that in 1164 Thomas went into exile in France. Henry's anger at Thomas's actions apparently led four knights to Thomas Becket's murderbelieve that the King literally wanted him dead. When Thomas returned to England in 1170, they went to Canterbury and, on Christmas Day, murdered him in the cathedral. There was huge shock throughout the Christian world and Thomas was immediately seen as a martyr. He was declared a saint in 1173 and the practice of making a pilgrimage to his shrine in Canterbury Cathedral soon became established. Before St George became established in the fifteenth century as England's national saint, St Thomas in many ways was the country's national saint.

Among the miracles credited to Thomas were many examples of healing the sick. Sometimes he seemed to heal people from a distance, if they prayed to him, and in such cases it was usual to make the pilgrimage later to the actual shrine, give an offering and give thanks to the saint there. Chaucer's opening lines in The Canterbury Tales mention that as a motive for his pilgrims' journey.
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