Saint of the Day – 29 December – St Thomas à Becket (1118-1170) – Born on 21 December 1118 at London, England and was murdered on 29 December 1170 in the Cathedral at Canterbury, England. Patronages – • clergy• Exeter College, Oxford, England•Portsmouth, England• secular clergy. Attributes – Sword, Martyrdom, episcopal vestments. St Thomas was Archbishop of Canterbury from 1162 until his murder in 1170. He engaged in conflict with Henry II, King of England, over the rights and privileges of the Church and was murdered by followers of the King in Canterbury Cathedral. Soon after his death, he was Canonised by Pope Alexander III. Someof his relics are enshrined at the Ladyewell Shrine in Lancaster, England.
Thomas was appointed Chancellor of England in 1155 and was a close associate of King Henry II. However, shortly after Thomas was named Archbishop of Canterbury, their relationship soured, eventually resulting in Thomas’ six-year exile in France. Not long after his return to England, Thomas was murdered by four of the King’s knights inside Canterbury Cathedral, making him an instant martyr. Miracles began to occur soon after his death and Canterbury became one of the most popular pilgrimage destinations in Europe.
Excerpt from The Golden Legend
And forthwith four knights took their counsel together and thought they would do to the king a pleasure and [devised] to slay St Thomas and suddenly departed and took their shipping towards England. And when the king knew of their departing he was sorry and sent after them but they were on the sea and departed [before] the messengers came, wherefore the king was heavy and sorry … And these four knights aforesaid came to Canterbury on the Tuesday in Christmas week about Evensong time and came to St Thomas and said that the king commanded him to make amends for the wrongs that he had done and also that he should assoil all them that he had accursed anon, or else they should slay him … And then smote each at him, that they smote off a great piece of the skull of his head, that his brain fell on the pavement. And so they slew and martyred him and were so cruel that one of them [broke] the point of his sword against the pavement.
And thus this holy and blessed Archbishop St Thomas suffered death in his own church for the right of all holy church…And anon it was known all about, how that he was martyred and anon after took this holy body and unclothed him and found bishop’s clothing above and the habit of a monk under. And next his flesh he wore hard hair, full of knots, which was his shirt. And his breech was of the same and the knots slicked fast within the skin and all his body full of worms; he suffered great pain. And he was thus martyred the year of our Lord one thousand one hundred and seventy-one and was fifty-three years old. And soon after tidings came to the king how he was slain, wherefore the king took great sorrow and sent to Rome for his absolution.
Below is the Reliquary Chasse with Scenes of the Martyrdom of Thomas Becket.