Alabaster panel showing Thomas Becket praying on his knees, as a sword, carried by a man behind him, comes down on his head.

Exhibition information

20 May – 22 August 2021

Daily: 10.00–17.00 (Fridays 20.30)
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Room 35

The Joseph Hotung Great Court Gallery

Tickets

Adults from £17, Members and under 16s free
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Discover the murder that shook the Middle Ages in this dramatic exhibition about the life, death and legacy of Thomas Becket.

On 29 December 1170, Becket was assassinated in Canterbury Cathedral by four knights with close ties to King Henry II, an act that left Medieval Europe reeling. Becket was one of the most powerful figures of his time, serving as royal chancellor and later as Archbishop of Canterbury. Initially a close friend of Henry, the two men became engaged in a bitter dispute that culminated in his violent and public death – an event that sent shockwaves across Europe and caused an immense political fallout.

Marking the 850th anniversary of his brutal murder, this special exhibition presents Becket's tumultuous journey from a merchant's son to an archbishop, and from a revered saint in death to a 'traitor' in the eyes of Henry VIII more than 350 years later.

Get up close to the man, the murder and the legend through an incredible array of objects associated with Becket; from illuminated manuscripts, some of which include eyewitness accounts of the murder, to jewellery and sacred reliquaries. The exhibition features objects from the British Museum collection as well as important loans from major collections across the UK and Europe, including an entire medieval stained glass window on loan for the first time from Canterbury Cathedral.

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Ticket information

Access

A hearing loop accompanies the animation Murder in the cathedral. The hearing loop symbol shows where it's available. You'll be sent a link to the animated film in an email after your visit.

The exhibition contains audio content that you can listen to on your own device. You can access this with a QR code or link in the exhibition.

There are a few benches where you can sit down in the exhibition. A limited number of folding stools are available at the Main entrance on Great Russell Street. Please drop these off as you exit the Museum on Montague Place.

There is no hard copy of our large print guide in the exhibition. Download the large print guide before or during your visit. 
 

Schools

Discover ideas for learning in the exhibition and in the classroom with free downloadable resources for teachers.

For children aged 7–18.

 

Exhibition supporters

Supported by

The Hintze Family Charitable Foundation

The Hintze Family Charitable Foundation has provided funding to over 200 charities. The Foundation has made significant contributions in the areas of education, culture and art, health, the armed services and natural history, among others. Major donations include sponsoring two major galleries at the Victoria & Albert Museum; providing vital funding to the Old Vic Theatre in London; enabling the restoration of Michelangelo’s frescoes in the Pauline Chapel at the Vatican; supporting the restoration of the Scala Santa, or 'Holy Staircase'; and supporting the refurbishment of a number of gallery spaces in The National Gallery. In recognition, Room 8 of the National Gallery was named 'The Dorothy and Michael Hintze Room'. The Foundation has also assisted The National Gallery in securing Titian's Diana and Actaeon for the nation, supported Tate Britain's acquisition of an important British impressionist work, and supported ambitious redevelopment programmes at the Natural History Museum and the Australian Museum.

The Ruddock Foundation for the Arts
The Ruddock Foundation for the Arts supports museums and performing art with a focus on education and conservation. Its Chair, Sir Paul Ruddock is a trustee of the British Museum and the family were the major supporters of the renovation of the Medieval Europe Gallery and the Sutton Hoo and Early Medieval Europe Gallery at the Museum.

Jack Ryan and Zemen Paulos

The Project Curator for Thomas Becket is supported by the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art.

We would also like to thank members of the Becket Curators’ Circle for their generous support of the exhibition:
•    Claudio Chittaro 
•    Pamela Cross
•    Nicholas and Jane Ferguson
•    Nicholas and Judith Goodison
•    The Sandra Hindman Foundation
•    Steven Larcombe and Sonya Leydecker
•    Richard and Amicia Oldfield
•    Vogelgezang Foundation