20 May – 22 August 2021
The Joseph Hotung Great Court Gallery
Sign up to our emails and be the first to hear about upcoming exhibitions and events.
This five-star exhibition explored the murder that shook the Middle Ages through 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 presented 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.
Visitors could 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 included eyewitness accounts of the murder, to jewellery and sacred reliquaries. The exhibition featured 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.