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History of England
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Medieval Religion

Was Thomas Becket a monk?


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Answered 2011-02-13 15:33:39

Thomas Becket was initially educated at Merton Priory before joining the household staff of Archbishop Theobald of Canterbury, where he showed a talent for administration. He was a clerk in minor orders at this time; he was appointed archdeacon of Canterbury in 1154 before being made Chancellor of England by king Henry II. On the death of Theobald in 1161, Becket was made Archbishop of Canterbury.

At no time was Thomas Becket a monk, nor was he ordained a priest before becoming Archbishop. His "seat" was at Canterbury Cathedral Priory, where many priests, clerics and monks were based - it functioned both as a monastery for the monks and as a secular church for the local population.

At the time of his murder, the monks were in the cathedral and about to sing Vespers - because he was not a monk, Becket was not among them but he requested them to continue even in the knowledge that knights had come to kill him.

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Thomas Becket was not called Thomas à Becket during his own lifetime. He was called Thomas à Becket, by people who wrote about him much later, possibly in imitation of the name Thomas à Kempis, who was another medieval monk. Also Thomas Becket was commonly known as "Thomas à Becket", although this form seems not to have been contemporaneous, but a post-Reformation adornment, possibly in imitation ofThomas à Kempis.


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