Praise for the exhibition
***** The Times
***** The Telegraph
***** The Guardian
***** Evening Standard
Praise for the book
‘If you cannot make it to the show itself, then I implore you to buy the catalogue, which is one of the best I’ve ever read – scholarly and entertaining, a good history book in its own right.’ – Tim Stanley, The Telegraph
‘A marvellous and consistently enthralling account’ – Christopher de Hamel, bestselling author of The Book in the Cathedral
“[The book] provides an up-to-date, highly readable and lavishly illustrated text that will finally supplant Borenius’s book as the definitive account of the art of Thomas Becket” – Dr Tom Nickson, Arts Journal
The murder of Thomas Becket in Canterbury Cathedral on 29 December 1170 sent shockwaves across medieval Europe. He rose from ordinary beginnings in London to become chancellor to King Henry II and then Archbishop of Canterbury, making him one of the most powerful men in England. Becket’s fortunes changed when a bitter dispute with Henry forced him into a six-year exile. Less than a month after his return to England, he was killed by four knights with close ties to the king. In the wake of Becket’s death, hundreds of miracles were attributed to him and, just over two years later, he was canonised. All across Europe he was celebrated as a defender of the Church against royal tyranny.
Lloyd de Beer and Naomi Speakman tell the story of Becket’s dramatic life, death and legacy through a stunning array of objects, including medieval stained glass, manuscripts, jewellery and sacred reliquaries. They reveal Canterbury Cathedral’s transformation into one of Europe’s most popular pilgrimage destinations. Over the centuries pilgrims visited Becket’s shrine in their thousands, a journey famously reimagined by Geoffrey Chaucer in The Canterbury Tales. A dedicated section by Rachel Koopmans, which features groundbreaking new research, delves deeper into Becket’s miracle stories through the lens of one of the stained-glass miracle windows from the cathedral. The cult of Thomas Becket endured in spite of the English Reformation, during which his shrine at Canterbury was dramatically destroyed and his image and name outlawed. From twelfth-century London to the Tudor court, this magnificent book takes you through the twists and turns of one of the most remarkable stories of the Middle Ages.