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SociologiaSpagnoloStoriaTedesco » Umanistiche » Appunti di Inglese » A tale of canterbury

A tale of canterbury

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Canterbury was the religious capital of England, because its cathedral was the seat of the Archbishop of Canterbury, who is the head of the  Church of England.

From the 12th to the 15th century, it was a place of pilgrimage.


During the 12th century, king Henry II decided that the church had too much power. In 1162, he made Thomas Becket archbishop of Canterbury, thinking  that his friend would help him to weaken the position of the Church.

The noblemen were jealous of his friendship with the king, and they also disliked him because he was not a nobleman.

Thomas began to defend the position of the Church against the king and left England because relation between him and the king had become very bad. He lived in exile for five years.

The people, the Bishop and the Pope were causing the king problems because they all wanted Thomas to continue as Archbishop of Canterbury.

When Thomas returned he brought authorisation from the Pope to excommunicate the priests and noblemen who had acted against him. The king sent  four knights to murder Thomas on the steps of the altar.

Becket was made a saint, and his tomb became the destination of thousands of pilgrims for three centuries.

In the 16th century, when king Henry VIII separated from the Roman Catholic Church and established the Church of England, he said Becket was not considered a saint anymore and his tomb was destroyed.


The best-known Canterbury pilgrims are probably those who appear in the book by Geoffrey Chaucer, 'The Canterbury Tales', it was written in the 14th century, when the pilgrimage had become a rather pleasant holiday for the groups of people who travelled together to go to pray in the Cathedral of Canterbury.

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