A Murder that Shocked Europe

05th March 2020

2020 Thomas Becket – Merchant’s Son, Chancellor, Archbishop, Traitor, Saint.

It was a murder that shocked Europe, and created a cult of pilgrimage that endures today.

2020 marks an important dual anniversary for the extraordinary figure of Thomas Becket – merchant’s son, chancellor, archbishop, traitor, saint. It will be 850 years since his dramatic murder in Canterbury Cathedral and 800 years since his body was moved in 1220 from a tomb in the crypt of the cathedral into a shrine. The events of 1220 reinvigorated the cult of Becket and ensured that Canterbury became the principal pilgrimage destination in England and one of Europe’s major pilgrimage sites.

And this year, 2020, will be no different as Canterbury Cathedral leads on a year-long programme of events developed with partners, to commemorate Becket’s extraordinary life and death which will see the return to Canterbury of the bloodstained tunic he was wearing when he was murdered.

Thomas Becket 2020 Anniversary

Events include lectures, a medieval pageant, exhibitions, pilgrimages, musical events, film screenings, a special production of T S Eliot’s Murder in the Cathedral, a new mural, and a special choral evensong to commemorate Becket’s Martyrdom on the anniversary of his murder on December 29.

This October, the British Museum will open its doors for the first ever Thomas Becket Exhibition which will explore his life and his death.

Southwark, Peterborough, and Portsmouth Cathedrals all have Becket connections and will be marking this anniversary year – Southwark has just opened its Lent Art Installation, Pilgrimage which features a candle “Measured to the Saint” for Thomas Becket and a group of pilgrims will leave Southwark on May 23 to retrace Becket’s last steps to Canterbury Cathedral. There will be a joint choral evensong in October with Portsmouth.

Becket was killed in Canterbury Cathedral by four knights after what was interpreted as an order from King Henry II. Becket was made a saint by the Pope just over two years later and his shrine in Canterbury became a destination for pilgrims from across Europe before it was destroyed on the orders of Henry VIII in the early years of the Reformation.

A new website was launched this week to tell the extraordinary story of Thomas Becket.

And you can find details of all the Becket 2020 events here.