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Replication or rivalry? The ‘Becketization’ of pilgrimage in English Cathedrals

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DateAccepted/In press - 18 Aug 2018
DateE-pub ahead of print - 11 Sep 2018
DatePublished (current) - 2 Jan 2019
Issue number1
Number of pages24
Pages (from-to)24-47
Early online date11/09/18
Original languageEnglish


In 1170 the murder of Archbishop Thomas Becket in his own Cathedral sent shockwaves through Europe, yet few could have foreseen the spectacular expansion of his cult throughout Christendom in the following decade. While many of the individual structural and performative aspects of his hagiolatry were hardly new, the ‘Becket model’ was to shape the nature of cult within and beyond English cathedrals for the remainder of the Middle Ages. Following the initial burst of pilgrim activity, the monks of Canterbury carefully curated the shape of, and access to, the cult within the Cathedral in order to confirm their role as sole custodians and to promote their political influence. This article provides new readings of the use of sacred space in the cathedrals of Canterbury, Durham, and York, and foregrounds the significance of Becket’s cult in understandings of both medieval and modern constructions of the English pilgrimage experience.

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