St Thomas Becket

(c. 1120—1170) archbishop of Canterbury

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(c. 1118–70)

English prelate and statesman. A close and influential friend of Henry II, he served as his Chancellor and in 1162 became Archbishop of Canterbury, a position Becket accepted with reluctance, foreseeing the inevitable conflict of interests between the king and the Church. He soon found himself in open opposition to Henry, first on a matter of taxation and later over the coronation of Henry's son. The king in anger uttered words that motivated four knights to assassinate Becket in his cathedral on 29 December. The murder aroused indignation throughout Europe, miracles were soon reported at his tomb, and Henry was obliged to do public penance there. The shrine became a major centre of pilgrimage until its destruction under Henry VIII (1538).

Subjects: Christianity — History.

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