>Today is the Feast of the great English archbishop and martyr, St. Thomas Becket, put to death on December 29, 1170 at the behest of Henry II. St. Thomas Becket and St. Thomas More must have a great deal to talk about in heaven, since both men were put to death by kings named Henry, both for refusing to put the will of the king before the will of God. It is not surprising that Henry VIII had the shrine of the earlier St. Thomas at Canterbury desecrated.
The cult of St. Thomas Becket spread incredibly rapidly in the Norman world, and there are paintings, mosaics, and sculptures depicting the saint and his life to be found at very early dates in places far from Canterbury. This fact allows me an opportunity to point to a wonderful example of Catalan art, an area still comparatively unstudied (in English anyway.) Below appears an example from a fresco cycle of the life of St. Thomas Becket, still in situ in the old cathedral in Terrassa, a city in Catalonia about a 20-30 minute drive east of Barcelona. What is remarkable is that this fresco dates from the 12th century, so it must have been painted not very long after Becket’s martyrdom. The iconography of the story is already quickly and clearly established, in an age long before instant communication over long distances.