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London-Born Archbishop
St. Thomas Becket - Turbulent Priest


St. Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury -  Nash Ford Publishing

 

  • Thomas Becket was the son of a rich London landlord. He was born in Cheapside in London in 1118.
  • Thomas went to school at Merton Priory and probably the school at St. Paul's Cathedral.
  • Becket got a job working for the Archbishop of Canterbury. He was a good administrator (organising & managing things, especially money). He was appointed to lots of important jobs like being an Archdeacon.
  • In 1155, King Henry II made him Lord Chancellor of England. This was like being Prime Minister. He helped the King run the country. The two were good friends.
  • In 1162, Becket was appointed Archbishop of Canterbury, head of the Roman Catholic Church in England. Becket was not really a churchman & had to be ordained a priest first. The King thought he would help increase Royal power over the Church.
  • King Henry was wrong. Becket took his new duties very seriously. The two argued a lot about who was in charge in different situations.
  • In 1164, Henry tried to restrict the power of the Church in England by getting all the bishops to sign the 'Constitutions of Clarendon'. Becket refused & was convicted of not obeying the King.
  • The Archbishop fled to France where he lived for 6 years. Eventually the Pope persuaded Henry to let him come back.
  • However, in 1170, Henry got 3 bishops to crown his son as the future king. The Archbishop of Canterbury should have done this. So Becket excommunicated them (threw them out of the Church).
  • King Henry ranted & raved about Becket. He shouted, "Who will rid me of this turbulent priest?".
  • He was overheard by three knights. They rode off to Canterbury and sliced through the Archbishop's skull in the Cathedral. Becket died immediately.
  • He was canonised (made a saint) only 2 years later. His Shrine at Canterbury became the most popular pilgrim destination in the Country, especially with London pilgrims. The 'Canterbury Tales' were written about them.
  • The house where Becket was born was built upon by the Hospital of St. Thomas of Acon. Acon is Acre in the Holy Land. The city was captured in the Crusades by Christian soldiers when they prayed to him. The chapel there was also popular with pilgrims. It is now the site of the Mercers' Hall.
  • St. Thomas also had a chapel dedicated to him on London Bridge. Travellers & pilgrims often stopped there when leaving the City. They prayed for a safe journey.

 


 

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