An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church

Becket, Thomas

(c. 1118-Dec. 29, 1170). Archbishop of Canterbury and martyr for the church. He was born in London and educated at the University of Paris. After serving for a time as archdeacon of Canterbury, he became chancellor to King Henry II. He and Henry were friends and allies. When Archbishop Theobald died in 1161, Henry saw an opportunity to extend his authority over the church by having Becket become archbishop. Becket was consecrated Archbishop of Canterbury on June 3, 1162. He immediately became a great defender of the rights and liberties of the church. He and Henry disagreed over a number of church/state issues, and Becket fled to France. After a reconciliation with the King in 1170, he returned to Canterbury. But they were soon in conflict again. On Dec. 29, 1170, Becket was murdered by four overzealous knights who overheard the king murmur that someone should rid him of the archbishop. He was canonized by the Roman Catholic Church in 1173, and his shrine was a major pilgrimage destination until it was destroyed by King Henry VIII in 1538. Becket is commemorated in the Episcopal calendar of the church year on Dec. 29.

Glossary definitions provided courtesy of Church Publishing Incorporated, New York, NY,(All Rights reserved) from “An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church, A User Friendly Reference for Episcopalians,” Don S. Armentrout and Robert Boak Slocum, editors.