CHAPTERS OF MEDIEVAL HISTORY. I. THOMAS Á BECKET (Spanish Edition)


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In death, however, he seemed to have the last laugh. His murder in the cathedral was seen as martyrdom, which resonated with the medieval people. An immense following built up after his death, with reports of miraculous healing occurring near his place of death, and ecclesiastical writers hastened to promote his cult with a flurry of hagiographical writings.

L.A. Desmond, "Becket and the Cistercians"

The cult became so widespread, in fact, that it overtook St Cuthbert's cult in Durham as the most popular saint cult in England during the late Middle Ages, eventually reaching an international level of fame. The impact of Becket's cult was not limited to hagiography either. Clearly Becket's cult had appealed to many different members of society by the end of the fourteenth century. For a holy man lauded as the most popular saint in England during the late Middle Ages, however, the question remains: what generated such polarised controversy?

Despite the surge of devoted hagiographical texts in the wake of his demise, not everyone spoke highly of Becket. In Draco normannicus , royalist Stephen Rouen viewed him as a villain who was guilty of peculation. Cluniac monk Gilbert Foliot's opinion of Becket was particularly critical, showing that some members of the ecclesiastical community were responding unfavourably to Becket as well. Other accounts criticised Becket for his stubborn and self-indulging behaviour, which made him dangerous, and that he showed few signs of piety and saintliness in life.

The implications of hagiographic rhetoric are worth considering as well.

Chapter 8: The Making of Medieval Europe

Hagiography idealises the saint with the intention of edification in imitation of Christ. The ecclesiastical community wanted to promote his cult and tailor his life to fit a Christian image.


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The success of this rhetoric benefitted them financially and spiritually, and thus it was essential that they idealised Becket's death, comparing him to a martyr dying for his faith. Moreover, it probably did not help matters that both Henry II and Becket had such strong, adamant personalities. Henry II was known for his volatile tempers and wanted absolute power over his realm.

Becket was proud and arrogant, standing his ground despite regal impositions.

He was also disobedient, refusing to obey even the king. While he was interested in promoting the welfare of the Church, he had his own motives as well. In the past, Anselm of Bec had some disputes with Henry I over ecclesiastical and regal authority, but the turbulence of Henry II and Becket's relationship was unprecedented.

When Henry decreed a law that would try clerks in lay courts instead of the ecclesiastical courts, Becket refused to obey his wishes. Henry II saw this as betrayal. Frank Barlow argues that Becket's own bishops thought that he was unsuitable for the job of archbishop because he was driven by his personal motives, namely proving himself as a capable archbishop rather than acting in the best interests of the Church and respecting the king's authority.

Vol. 5, Chapter IV (Cont’d) – Thomas Becket and Henry II of England

The events reached boiling point when Henry demanded to know where all the ecclesiastical money had vanished to when Thomas had been chancellor. He was also disobedient, refusing to obey even the king. While he was interested in promoting the welfare of the Church, he had his own motives as well. In the past, Anselm of Bec had some disputes with Henry I over ecclesiastical and regal authority, but the turbulence of Henry II and Becket's relationship was unprecedented. When Henry decreed a law that would try clerks in lay courts instead of the ecclesiastical courts, Becket refused to obey his wishes.


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Henry II saw this as betrayal. Frank Barlow argues that Becket's own bishops thought that he was unsuitable for the job of archbishop because he was driven by his personal motives, namely proving himself as a capable archbishop rather than acting in the best interests of the Church and respecting the king's authority. The events reached boiling point when Henry demanded to know where all the ecclesiastical money had vanished to when Thomas had been chancellor. In response, Thomas tried to leave England without Henry's permission, which was a serious offense. To make matters worse, he did not appear in court when he was called upon, or have a proper excuse for his absence.

While in France, he excommunicated several of the English bishops.

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Naturally, the English bishops did not want him back when he returned. Despite Henry's pleas, Thomas was adamant, refusing to absolve the excommunicated.

The Trouble with Thomas: The Controversies of St Thomas Becket

This proved to be the last straw for Henry. One December night, while either in a rage, inebriated, or perhaps both, Henry declared his distaste for the priest, and the opportunistic knights who overhead him went to Canterbury to seize the archbishop. While the interpretation of his historical role is ultimately complex and disputable, Becket's controversial nature is understandable.

Becket had plenty of criticism in life and in death, but the impact of his cult is undeniable, influencing the literature, history, life, and even spirituality of the medieval world and beyond. There are still traces of Becket across England, with numerous churches named after him.

Although Henry VIII reportedly destroyed his bones during the Dissolution of the Monasteries in the sixteenth century, Becket's memory lives on in the subconscious of the English people, whether one views him as a saint or quite the opposite. Skip to main content. Google Tag Manager. Curtis Runstedler Published 12 February Related Articles. The Book of Becket.


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CHAPTERS OF MEDIEVAL HISTORY. I. THOMAS Á BECKET (Spanish Edition) CHAPTERS OF MEDIEVAL HISTORY. I. THOMAS Á BECKET (Spanish Edition)
CHAPTERS OF MEDIEVAL HISTORY. I. THOMAS Á BECKET (Spanish Edition) CHAPTERS OF MEDIEVAL HISTORY. I. THOMAS Á BECKET (Spanish Edition)
CHAPTERS OF MEDIEVAL HISTORY. I. THOMAS Á BECKET (Spanish Edition) CHAPTERS OF MEDIEVAL HISTORY. I. THOMAS Á BECKET (Spanish Edition)
CHAPTERS OF MEDIEVAL HISTORY. I. THOMAS Á BECKET (Spanish Edition) CHAPTERS OF MEDIEVAL HISTORY. I. THOMAS Á BECKET (Spanish Edition)
CHAPTERS OF MEDIEVAL HISTORY. I. THOMAS Á BECKET (Spanish Edition) CHAPTERS OF MEDIEVAL HISTORY. I. THOMAS Á BECKET (Spanish Edition)
CHAPTERS OF MEDIEVAL HISTORY. I. THOMAS Á BECKET (Spanish Edition) CHAPTERS OF MEDIEVAL HISTORY. I. THOMAS Á BECKET (Spanish Edition)
CHAPTERS OF MEDIEVAL HISTORY. I. THOMAS Á BECKET (Spanish Edition) CHAPTERS OF MEDIEVAL HISTORY. I. THOMAS Á BECKET (Spanish Edition)

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