Canterbury Tales – Part II

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It has occurred to me that since I have been spending time in beautiful Canterbury that I should write a little about the town and its long history. So I thought I should do a few Canterbury feature posts with little pieces of history and photos, some of interesting places and details. If the photos are a bit shabby sorry, they’re all taken by me. If you would like to use them please mention the blog you took them from.

Canterbury is best known for its Cathedral, which is the seat of the Archbishop, and Canterbury Tales written by Chaucer which refers to the pilgrimage to Canterbury (but more on that later). The cobbles have been worn by the footsteps of pilgrims heading to the shrine of Thomas Becket.

But who was Thomas Becket?

The relationship between King Henry II and the Archbishop Thomas Becket was tempestuous at best. Thomas Becket had been Henry’s friend until he was appointed by the King as Archbishop of Canterbury. King Henry thought that if he appointed his friend as Archbishop, he would break the hold of the Pope in England. The was a big clash between the King and the Church (represented in England by the Archbishop of Canterbury) who would be in charge and who would be subordinate. Would the Church be subordinate to the King or the King to the Church?

They clashed numerous times, one significant issue was who would judge clerics who broke the law. The king thought that they should be subject to his law while the archbishop was adamant that they were men of the cloth and could only be judged by ecclesiastic law. During one particularly bad conflict the king exclaimed:

“Will no one rid me of this turbulent priest?”

Four knights heard and took it as a command to kill Becket. They rode to Canterbury, broke down the doors and cut down Thomas Becket. The archbishop was proclaimed a martyr. The king was sorry for the death of his friend and eventually did penance at the church of St. Dunstan at Canterbury. The Pope made Becket a saint. The cult of Saint Thomas grew and soon people from all over Britain came as a pilgrimage to Canterbury, to the shrine of Becket. Geoffrey Chaucer wrote Canterbury Tales, where pilgrims on the way to Canterbury exchange tales to pass the time.

More about Canterbury in my next post.

Also have a look:

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