Various Authors noon, Dec. 15
Dead but a saint
San Diego Opera provides historic presentation of Henry II vs. Thomas Becket
I wandered into the Cuvier Center of St. James by the Sea in La Jolla to attend a talk about San Diego Opera's upcoming production of Murder in the Cathedral. The event was well attended and almost every seat was full.
Nancy Caciola, PH.D. Associate Professor of History at UCSD was the featured speaker along with Nic Reveles, the director of outreach at SDO.
We can’t get into the details here but we can touch on some of the highlights.
The talk was about the historic conflict between Thomas Becket and King Henry II. More specifically, the presentation focused on the death of Becket.
Becket had been one of Henry’s closest advisers and was chancellor when Henry appointed him as archbishop of Canterbury.
Becket was ordained as a priest and the next day became archbishop.
To Henry’s surprise, Becket resigned as chancellor and dedicated himself to the church. Becket sought to extend the influence of his new position and became at odds with Henry.
The larger context was the struggle between the authority of the state and that of the church.
Since the next talk will focus on the legal aspects of the conflict we moved to Becket’s murder--in the cathedral at Canterbury.
Henry did not command Becket’s death but he did ask a question.
“What miserable drones and traitors have I nourished and brought up in my household, who let their Lord be treated with such shameful contempt by a low born cleric?”
Four knights took this question to heart and murdered Becket while he clung to a pillar in the cathedral.
Dr, Caciola emphasized that Becket was canonized as a saint two years after his death. This was a quickening of the process and points to Rome as disapproving of Henry’s action.
Henry later took a pilgrimage to Canterbury to pray at Becket’s shrine and was flogged by priests to atone for his sin.