Detail of Alabaster panel from an altarpiece showing Becket’s consecration as archbishop. England, first half of the 15th century. Private Collection. © Nicholas and Jane Ferguson.

Becket – Life, Death, and Legacy

The celebrations and activities surrounding the anniversary year 2020 have suffered due to the pandemic. Luckily, the important conference planned for 2020 have only been postponed. And sifted to zoom. Which means anyone interested in the past and future of Becket-studies can participate.

One of the six "Miracle Windows" in Canterbury Cathedral, early 1200s. © The Chapter, Canterbury Cathedral.
One of the six “Miracle Windows” in Canterbury Cathedral, early 1200s. © The Chapter, Canterbury Cathedral.

On 29 December 1170, four of King Henry II’s knights murdered Archbishop Thomas Becket inside Canterbury Cathedral. News of this sacrilegious violence spread quickly and, in a matter of months, this merchant’s son from Cheapside had transformed into one of the most famous martyrs in medieval Europe.

Supported by the circulation of new liturgies, miracle stories, sacred objects and holy relics, the cult of Becket dominated the sacred landscape of Christendom, stretching from Trondheim (Norway) to Monreale (Sicily) and reaching from Reykjavik (Iceland) to Tarsus (Turkey). His cult also attracted devotion from all ranks of society. Before the destruction of his shrine during the Reformation in 1538, innumerable pilgrims, including peasants, kings, lepers, monks, prisoners, mothers, and soldiers, ventured to Canterbury and returned with their very own relics and souvenirs. From Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales to T. S. Eliot’s Murder in the Cathedral, the stories of Becket’s martyrdom and of the pilgrims who journeyed to Canterbury have continued to captivate the public imagination.

The year 2020 marked the 850th anniversary of Becket’s martyrdom and the 800th anniversary of the translation of his body into the Trinity Chapel of Canterbury Cathedral. To commemorate his extraordinary life and legacy at Canterbury, scholars at Canterbury Cathedral, Canterbury Christ Church University, and the University of Kent will co-host an academic conference to be held online via the Zoom Video Conferencing website.

Join us for three days of exciting papers, from 28-30th April 2021, examining the history, visual and material culture, archaeology, architecture, literature, liturgy, musicology, and reception of Becket’s cult at Canterbury, across Europe and beyond, with keynote papers by Rachel Koopmans, Paul Webster, and Alec Ryrie. Be guided by experts on a series of virtual tours, taking you right into the heart of Canterbury Cathedral and the surrounding area, allowing you to get up close with some of the stunning architecture and artefacts from Becket’s long and storied history.

The conference will cost £25 per day, £10 per day for students, and free for a limited number of students of Canterbury Christ Church University and the University of Kent. Click here to get your tickets.

FEATURED PHOTO:

Detail of Alabaster panel from an altarpiece showing Becket’s consecration as archbishop. England, first half of the 15th century. Private Collection. © Nicholas and Jane Ferguson.

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