Where history happened: the cult of Thomas Becket

Anne Duggan looks at seven places with links to a man whose martyrdom has inspired Christians across Europe for 800 years

Effigy of Thomas a Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury, Canterbury Cathedral, UNESCO World Heritage Site, Canterbury, Kent, England, United Kingdom, Europe

This article first appeared in the December 2012 issue of BBC History Magazine

The brutal murder of Archbishop Thomas Becket in Canterbury Cathedral on 29 December 1170 shocked the whole of Europe, threatened the stability of the Angevin empire, made the murder victim into one of the most celebrated saints in the Middle Ages, and established Canterbury as the centre of a pilgrimage cult that embraced the whole of the Latin west. From Trondheim in Norway to Monreale in Sicily, churches, chapels and altars were dedicated to Becket, and the feast of St Thomas the Martyr was universally celebrated. Iceland had its own saga of Thomas the archbishop and 11 Thomas churches.

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