Reliquary depicting St Thomas Becket’s martyrdom


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.

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Reliquary depicting St Thomas Becket’s martyrdom
1200-99, Limoges, Haute-Vienne, Limousin
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