THE CULT OF BECKET

History Revealed - - THOMAS BECKET -

Soon with emerged the af­ter cu­ra­tive at Becket’s Can­ter­bury power mar­tyr­dom, and of the claims arch­bishop a cult of mir­a­cles associated were Europe re­ported flocked at to his the tomb. city for Pil­grims Becket’s from in­ter­ces­sion all over and heal­ing. It be­came the most-vis­ited pil­grim­age site in the coun­try. Two monks of the cathe­dral, Bene­dict of Peter­bor­ough and Wil­liam of Can­ter­bury, were drafted in to chron­i­cle the mir­a­cles – 703 of them over ten years – which in­cluded heal­ing through prayer, drink­ing the “wa­ter of St Thomas” (his blood mixed with holy wa­ter), or sim­ply vis­it­ing his tomb. The mal­adies and dis­abil­i­ties cured ranged from le­prosy (de­fined as any skin dis­ease) and dropsy to blind­ness, paral­y­sis and de­monic pos­ses­sion. Yet, in a world with­out medicine, most made the jour­ney in the hope of as­suag­ing more com­mon prob­lems. The first recorded mirac­u­lous cure was on 4 Jan­uary 1171. A blind woman named Britheva re­gained her sight af­ter a neigh­bour touched her eyes with a rag soaked in Becket’s blood. An­other early mir­a­cle in­volved a lo­cal coun­try thief who, hav­ing been blinded and cas­trated, was sim­i­larly re­stored through the mer­its of St Thomas. Epilepsy-suf­ferer Petronella of Polesworth was cured af­ter bathing her feet in the saint’s wa­ter, while Ethelreda of Can­ter­bury, ailed with a malar­ial dis­ease known as quar­tan fever, fully re­cov­ered af­ter drink­ing the mix­ture. Each pil­grim then left with a to­ken of their visit – a me­tal badge or vial filled with his wa­ter, in re­turn for a donation.

Me­dieval pil­grims rushed to pray at Becket’s shrine ( be­low), where they could also buy badges bear­ing his like­ness ( left)

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