Thomas Becket, a Great Medieval Martyr

Archbishop Jerome Lloyd OSJVPosted by

The murder of St. Thomas Becket may be the most shocking martyrdom in the medieval Church.

The murder of St. Thomas Becket may be the most shocking martyrdom in the medieval Church.

First, there’s the location—the heart of the cathedral of Canterbury, hence the title of T.S. Eliot’s play on the martyrdom (Murder in the Cathedral). Then, there’s the man who was martyred: Thomas Becket, not only an archbishop, but formerly the chancellor of England, a top position akin to Attorney General today. And its timing—just four days after Christmas, on December 29, must have sent a shiver of horror through the Christmas cheer of that year.

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But it is the year it happened that might be most shocking.

This was 1170. Catholic Christianity was ascendant over all Europe. The days of persecutions and martyrdoms under imperial Rome were centuries in the past. The disaster of the Reformation was still a few centuries away in the future. This was the year St. Dominic was born, soon to be followed by St. Francis of Assisi. The next century would burn bright with the geniuses of Thomas Aquinas and Dante. It was not for nothing that the great Catholic historian Warren Carroll titled his volume of history encompassing this period The Glory of Christendom.

Read on below…

Thomas Becket, a Great Medieval Martyr

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