Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury

Thomas Becket

In 1170, four knights assassinated the English Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Becket before the high altar of Canterbury Cathedral.

Born to a well-connected man, Thomas Becket studied in Paris until going to work for the Archbishop of Canterbury, Theobald. King Henry II appointed Becket to the position of Chancellor of England on the advice of Theobald. Becket and the king became best friends, hunting, gaming, and traveling together.

When the position of Archbishop of Canterbury became vacant, Henry pushed for Becket to receive it. Henry hoped to exert more control over the Catholic Church with his friend as Archbishop. This did not happen. Becket chose instead to follow a pious path. He refused to give control to Henry. This shattered their friendship.

At one point, Becket fled to Paris to avoid the wrath of the king. After six years in exile, Henry agreed to open up a conversation with Becket and allow him home. Becket chose to excommunicate several bishops on his way home. The bishops complained to King Henry. Aggravated, he wished to be rid of the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Hearing the wish, four knights rode to Canterbury to arrest the Archbishop. Becket sought sanctuary in the Canterbury Cathedral, kneeling in front of the altar. The knights followed him and killed him. The Pope canonized Thomas Becket within four years of his death. One of the fastest canonizations on record.

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