Thursday, February 9, 2012

Photo February Day Nine

Daggers, Canterbury Cathedral, 2006

I'm one for pilgrimages. I have this desire to do the Camino Compostella de Santiago one day, traipsing across the North of Spain checking out cathedrals and pondering the steps that millions have taken over centuries.

This photo is of one of my pilgrimage places.

Every time I'm in England I like to come here and sit for a while and ponder. I've been drawn to this place since I read the Canterbury Tales at uni. These daggers mark the spot where St Thomas a Becket was murdered. The place - Canterbury Cathedral.

So why does a murdered twelfth century saint have such meaning for a woman in the 21st Century? Thomas a Becket, a common man, a merchant's son, a soldier and a lawyer, who rose his way up through the ranks to finally make Archbishop of Canterbury, the most powerful role in the country beside the king at the time, tha king being Henry II. Henry and the turbulent priest were the best of friends in the early days. Once a Becket rose to the bishopric, he wouldn't let Henry walk all over him, stopping his old friends desires for the throne to take on more power and to weaken ties with Rome. Thomas, agreeing with what the king was saying, but had massive reservations wouldn't sign Constitutions of Clarendon - stormed out of the talks and fled to France, effectively exiling himself. During his time as Archbishop of Canterbury, Becket was exiled many times. Becket was seen as a bit of a ratbag.

Thomas returned to Canterbury some time later and took up his place back at the Cathedral, but the King was pissed, and whether by royal decree or misunderstanding, sent four knights after him after asking who would rid him of the turbulent priest.

These daggers mark the spot where he died on 29 December 1170.

Thomas a Becket was a man of principle. A man who believed that he was accountable to his faith first and his government second. A man who was taunted and tainted and stood up for what he believed. A man who overcame many odds. A self-made man.

It may also have something to do with the fact I saw Derek Jacobi and Robert Lindsay in Anouilh's plau, Becket on the London stage in the early nineties- still one of the best performances I've ever witnessed.

I'll go back to Canterbury and commune with Becket once again. I can sit at the place where he died and feel him, stomping around in his sandals and hair shirt, uncomfortable in body, but still in mind. He stood his ground in times of struggle.

Thomas a Becket will continue to fascinate me, no matter my faith, beliefs or reasoning. He's somebody I mention in my fantasy dinner party guest list.

He's somebody who holds a great deal of meaning for me. There is something very inspiring and very special about this man and this place.


The Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi Pand,

Sadly, I have never been to Canterbury. But one day I will pop down the road.

Also, I'd quite like to visit a few cathedrals in Northern Spain.




Kath Lockett said...

A terrific photograph of a truly magnificent spot.

Hmmm, I won't dare question your knowledge of the man but 'ol Thomas was a 'bit of a ratbag' as you say, and I'm not sure whether a 'man of principle' would chop and change and bugger off as often as he did....

Still, the utter shock of something happening in so-sacred a place was, and is, undeniable.

Pandora Behr said...

@ PM - do try to get to Canterbury - it's magnificent, teh ring road, however, is one of the worst I've encountered - and I've been round some bad ones.

@ Kath - that he chops and change and had the guts to say no - that's enough for me. He's fascinated me for years.