Thomas Becket canonisation anniversary

St Thomas Becket shared by the artist Alison Merry to mark the anniversary.

Today Shrove Tuesday 2023 is the 850th anniversary of Archbishop Thomas Becket’s canonisation.

In 1173 this day 21 February was Ash Wednesday.

St Thomas of Canterbury, as he is also known, was murdered on 29 December 1170 during Vespers in Canterbury Cathedral.

The news which had shocked England, including even Henry II, reached Pope Alexander III in February 1171.

Alexander had succeeded Adrian IV, the only English Pope, and canonised Edward the Confessor. The Pope was aware of Becket in his lifetime.

Much of the pressure for a quick Becket canonisation came from Europe and when miracles had been established Alexander, living at Segni thirty miles south-east of Rome, presided at the canonisation.

Just before mid-Lent letters announcing the event were sent out from Segni with the one for Canterbury ordering the translation of the body to a better tomb. This papal demand was eventually fulfilled in July 1220 but pilgrimage had already begun.

The illustration is available as a postcard (80p) from Alison Merry shop.

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