A Garner of Saints – Saint Thomas a Becket

Article

Born at London on 21st December 1117. He began his studies at London, and proceeded afterwards to Oxford and Paris. His taste for secular pleasures obscured his religious bent of mind, but one day while hunting his falcon dashed with its prey into a river. Thomas plunged in after it, but was carried away by the current to a great mill wheel, which stopped by a miracle just as he reached it. Greatly impressed by this event Thomas definitely took up the ecclesiastical profession and entered the household of Theobald, Archbishop of Canterbury. The archbishop recognised his talents and sent him to study law at Bologna, and when he returned to England he obtained rapid preferment in the church. Recommended by the archbishop to Henry II, Thomas soon became a favourite with the king, and was appointed chancellor in 1157. This was only a step in his upward career, for on the death of Theobald in 1160 he became Archbishop of Canterbury. Almost immediately afterwards he quarrelled with the king on the question of investitures. The dispute became very bitter and he was obliged to flee to France. In 1164 he signed the Constitutions of Clarendon, thus apparently leaving victory with the king, but crossing to France soon after, he met Pope Alexander III at Sens, and obtained from him absolution for this fault. From this time the quarrel grew in intensity until one day the king exclaimed “Will no one rid me of this pestilent priest.” Four knights, taking him at his word, set out for Canterbury and killed Becket at the foot of the altar in the year 1170. The king was struck with consternation at the result of his hasty words, and subsequently did penance at the magnificent shrine set up to the murdered archbishop in Canterbury Cathedral. Becket was canonised by Alexander III in 1173. 29th December. Translation, 7th July.

Attributes

  • Archbishop’s habit, wears a red chasuble; in his head is a wound, sometimes with a sword in it.

MLA Citation

  • Allen Banks Hinds, M.A. “Saint Thomas a Becket”. A Garner of Saints, 1900. CatholicSaints.Info. 26 April 2017. Web. 23 September 2017. <>