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Liturgies in Honour of Thomas Becket

Liturgies in Honour of Thomas Becket

Copyright Date: 2004
Pages: 320
  • Book Info
    Liturgies in Honour of Thomas Becket
    Book Description:

    Slocum analyzes the image of Thomas Becket as presented in the liturgies composed in his honour, and examines these within the context of the political and social history of the late twelfth and early thirteenth centuries.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-7674-9
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-2)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 3-14)

    Thomas Becket was one of the most charismatic figures of the Middle Ages. Fascination with his personality, his controversial relationship with Henry II, his martyrdom, and the legends surrounding his miracles continued to develop throughout the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, to be reborn in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. His memory was kept alive not only through the devotion of medieval and Renaissance pilgrims and by the sermons of medieval preachers, but also through the literary works of Chaucer, Erasmus, Tennyson, Christopher Fry, T.S. Eliot, and Jean Anouilh. The potency of his image was recognized by Henry VIII, who...


    • chapter one Becket as Royal Chancellor
      (pp. 17-28)

      The account of Becket’s life in all but one of the offices chosen for this study begins with a description of the spiritual transformation that occurred soon after his election as archbishop. The author of the office in theHyde Abbey Breviary, however, starts Lesson 1 by recounting Thomas’s parentage and his native qualities of intelligence and physical grace. The text consists of passages drawn from theVitaof John of Salisbury, although it not presented in complete form. Unlike many other saints, Thomas’s life did not provide examples of miracles performed in childhood, nor ecstatic states of devotion; hence,...

    • chapter two Becket as Archbishop of Canterbury
      (pp. 29-43)

      The construction of Becket’s saintly persona was dependent upon establishing the transformation of his character when he became archbishop, and all of Becket’s biographers agree that the new prelate, once consecrated, ‘put off the chancellor and put on the archbishop.’² As Herbert of Bosham reiterates, Thomas was not only a new archbishop, he was a newly ordained priest, who would be a new celebrant of the liturgy. He had to accustom himself to a new way of life and master new kinds of duties. The process whereby he entered the episcopal world entailed, according to his associates, his becoming a...

    • chapter three Becket in Exile
      (pp. 44-62)

      When the archbishop and his small group of companions arrived at Oye they were no doubt tired, dishevelled, and uncertain of their welcome; fear of being captured by representatives dispatched by the English king added to their uneasiness. They rested at Gravelines, and set off the next day for St Orner, where they would stop on the way to Sens. The situation was complicated by the arrival of an embassy from Henry, sent to the same princes whose protection Thomas sought: the count of Flanders, the king of France, and the pope. The king’s envoys were following a more southerly...

    • chapter four The Martyrdom
      (pp. 63-78)

      December 29, 1170, the last day in the life of Thomas Becket, has been thoroughly described by five eyewitnesses: his clerks John of Salisbury and William fitzStephen, the monks Benedict of Peterborough and William of Canterbury, and the visiting clerk, Edward Grim. Benedict furnishes the most complete description of the interview with the king’s barons, and William fitzStephen the aspects of events outside the chamber. Each of the biographers remembered or chose to include something slightly different from the others, and it seems appropriate to conflate the accounts for the purposes of this study.²

      Some of Thomas’s actions on the...

    • chapter five The Miracles
      (pp. 79-97)

      Lesson 9 of theSarum Breviarydetails the events that occurred soon after the murder, making claims that were substantiated by several of Thomas’s biographers, most notably Benedict of Peterborough and William of Canterbury:

      At first, at the time of his martyrdom, the martyr began to glisten with remarkable miracles, restoring sight to the blind, walking to the lame, hearing to the deaf, speech to the mute, and cleansing lepers, restoring paralytics, curing dropsy and all varieties of fatal, incurable disease, even resuscitating the dead. And miraculously exercising power over the demons and all the elements, he extended the touch...

    • chapter six The Development of the Cult of Becket
      (pp. 98-126)

      The cult of Thomas Becket became one of the most celebrated and widespread examples of popular devotion in the Middle Ages.¹ Following his murder in the cathedral, the legend of the Canterbury martyr spread rapidly throughout England and the Continent; as accounts of his miracles were disseminated, veneration of the saint escalated rapidly. Both Benedict of Peterborough and William of Canterbury stress the fame that St Thomas developed abroad, and their collections include accounts of miracles performed ‘east and west,’ in the Holy Land, Italy, and Norway.² Soon pilgrims from the various corners of Christendom began to come in crowds...


    • chapter seven Office for the Feast Day of St Thomas Becket, 29 December
      (pp. 129-238)

      The manuscript chosen for the preparation of this edition is a Breviary/Missal from the Cluniac priory of St Pancras at Lewes in Sussex. It is not known whether the manuscript was produced at Lewes or elsewhere, but it was probably copied and illuminated in England during the last part of the thirteenth century, between 1263 and 1300.¹ Heinrich Husmann thought the manuscript probably came directly from Canterbury to Lewes.² It is a small, but very thick book, measuring 7½ by 5¼ inches (19 × 13.5 cm), and containing 517 folios. Leroquais has suggested that the breviary might have been available...

    • chapter eight Office for the Translation of St Thomas Becket, 7 July
      (pp. 239-317)

      The translation of the relics of St Thomas Becket to the newly constructed apse of Canterbury Cathedral on 7 July 1220 was one of the most important and sumptuous state occasions of the thirteenth century. Attended by King Henry III, as well as political magnates and the chief prelates of the Church, the ceremony provided the opportunity for the composition of a new liturgical service.

      There are at least six versions of the office for the Translation, which was widely celebrated during the following centuries. One of these may be found in theSarum Breviary; the antiphons and responsories for...

  8. Conclusion
    (pp. 318-322)

    The authors of the varioushistoriaeof St Thomas Becket were faced with a challenge: how could they present an image of the life and martyrdom of a contumacious and difficult personality in ways that would succeed in engendering respect, honour, and devotion in the minds and hearts of the listeners? That they were successful is documented by the rapid growth and popularity of the cult of the martyr in England and throughout Europe; their characterization provided the impetus and the framework for the development of institutionalized devotion to the saint.

    In order to emphasize the extraordinary life and martyrdom...

  9. Notes
    (pp. 323-354)
  10. Bibliography
    (pp. 355-364)
  11. General Index
    (pp. 365-374)
  12. Index of Offices
    (pp. 375-379)