Reliquary depicting St Thomas Becket’s martyrdom

Description

Thomas Becket was canonised in February 1173, less than three years after his death. The Church was shocked by Becket’s martyrdom and by the role played in that event by King Henry II. Meanwhile, people across Europe were fascinated by Becket’s murder, as reflected in a steady trade in relics and representations of his death. Particularly popular were champlevé enamel caskets, made in Limoges, which served both functions; outside, the caskets contained devotional imagery of Becket’s murder, while their interiors could be used to store relics associated with the saint. Dozens of such reliquaries survive to this day, this being a typical example. In the lower register, Becket, dressed in the mitre and robes of his office, stands before an altar while an assailant attacks him with a sword; another soldier threatens the Archbishop with an axe. Above this panel is the aftermath, with Becket being placed in his tomb in Canterbury Cathedral.

Full title:
Reliquary depicting St Thomas Becket’s martyrdom
Created:
1200-99, Limoges, Haute-Vienne, Limousin
Format:
Object
Copyright:
© Trustees of the British Museum
Usage terms

British Museum Standard Terms of Use

Held by
The British Museum
Shelfmark:
1854,0411.2

Related articles

Magna Carta and kingship

Article by:
Dan Jones
Theme:
Medieval origins

When Magna Carta was created, England had endured 16 years of John’s kingship – a rule based largely on extortion, legal chicanery, blackmail and violence. Here Dan Jones discusses King John's infamous reign.

The origins of Magna Carta

Article by:
Nicholas Vincent
Theme:
Medieval origins

Professor Nicholas Vincent explores the medieval context in which the historic agreement at Runnymede was created, examining King John’s Plantagenet heritage, his loss of French territory and his relationship with the Church and the barons.

Medicine in the Middle Ages

Article by:
Alixe Bovey

Dr Alixe Bovey investigates the influence of astrology, religion and magic on medical knowledge and practice.

Related collection items

Related people