Tag Archives: Canterbury Cathedral

Conference to commemorate Thomas Becket’s life, death and legacy (28-30 April)

A three-day virtual conference organised by the University (28-30 April) will explore the life and times of the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Becket, just over 850 years after his murder in Canterbury Cathedral. The conference is open to all.

Each day of the conference will focus on one of three areas of scholarly and popular interest: Becket’s life story and true character; his murder and its lasting international repercussions; and the breadth of his legacy, beginning with his becoming a martyr idol, through the attempted eradication of his name from history, and ending with his saintly rebirth in the 19th Century and onward.

Organised by Dr Emily Guerry, Senior Lecturer in Medieval European History at Kent’s School of History, the conference will feature contributions from over 40 leading Becket experts from 11 countries. Keynote papers will be presented by: Rachel Koopmans, Associate Professor, York University (Canada); Paul Webster, Teaching Associate, Cardiff University; and Alec Ryrie, Professor of the History of Christianity at Durham University.

The conference’s partners are Canterbury Cathedral and Canterbury Christ Church University, with support from the British Academy and the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

Delegates will also be given virtual tours of Canterbury Cathedral, each with focus on a unique theme including; mosaics, architecture, stained glass, relics, and medieval graffiti. The tours will reveal the extent to which Thomas Becket is embedded in English history and in the Cathedral, including relics both attacked and preserved in the wake of Henry VIII’s reformation, including the identifiable knife marks in manuscripts from which Becket’s name was ripped.

The British Museum is holding an exhibition in parallel with the conference: ‘Thomas Becket – murder and the making of a saint’.

Dr Guerry said: ‘This conference is the greatest collaboration of the world’s leading experts on Thomas Becket to date and is a tremendous opportunity for sharing insights, research and resources on a subject that is of vital importance to history. Speakers will demonstrate that the life, death and legacy of Becket are crucial in appreciating the evolution of English literature, humour, religion, politics and its position in Europe and the world.’

Conference tickets, with a student reduction, can be purchased here.

Dr Emily Guerry co-organising international conference on Thomas Becket: Life, Death and Legacy

The year 2020 marked the 850th anniversary of the brutal martyrdom of St Thomas Becket inside Canterbury Cathedral and, in a matter of months, Becket had become one of the most popular saints in all of medieval Europe, attracting hundreds of thousands of pilgrims and inspiring countless legends and works of art, including Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. To commemorate Becket’s legacy, Dr Emily Guerry (Co-Director of MEMS) is co-organising an international online conference 28-30 April (Thomas Becket: Life, Death, and Legacy) with papers from over 40 speakers from around the globe.

Emily is working with colleagues at Christ Church University and Canterbury Cathedral to host this conference, with generous support from the British Academy. You can reserve a ticket, please note that ALL Kent students can book for free.

Our conference coincides with the launch of an exciting exhibition on Becket at the British Museum, which will feature a 6-meter-tall 800-year-old stained glass window showing the miracles of Becket, on loan from Canterbury Cathedral. For any queries about either of these events, please get in touch with Emily Guerry.

Material Witness: Maps, Manuscripts, and Medieval Graffiti

On 16th of May 2019 Canterbury Cathedral hosted the 6th session of this year’s Material Witness, the ‘interdisciplinary training programme for the interrogation of physical objects in the digital age’ organised by CHASE, a Consortium of nine universities in the South-East of England that fosters doctoral research in the Arts and Humanities. A group of PhD students undertook a journey in time, looking and interpreting historical relics under the guidance of University of Kent’s Drs Emily Guerry and David Rundle.

The afternoon started in the Cloister, from where Emily enthusiastically led the group to explore the Cathedral’s precincts with the support of a 12th century map from the Eadwine Psalter. This was a useful tool to navigate the Medieval spaces and a source of inspiration not only to rethink the current visible aspect of the buildings, but also to better imagine the Romanesque past of Christ Church, whose few vestiges survive surrounded by later Gothic architecture.

After having followed the steps, stories and works of figures like Prior Wybert, William of Sens and William the Englishman, in an itinerary across the northern area outside the Cathedral, the congregation retired to the dark of the crypts.There they could rediscover the thin scratches, unnoticeable to distracted eyes, of the medieval graffiti, and the wall paintings of Gabriel Chapel, which for centuries had been forgotten and precluded from sight.

At this point it was time to climb the Dean’s steps up to the Howley Library to be warmly welcomed by Ms Fawn Todd, the Cathedral’s librarian, who introduced the collection, its history, and even displayed some of its treasures. Having the group made acquaintance with the library, David took the lead, encouraging observations about the space, its organisation and features. He expanded on those comments, to build more general discourses, that bridged the Cathedral’s library to other notable examples, and gave insights about all aspects of a book’s life: from their production to their conservation and usage.

A brief pause with tea and biscuits stopped the flowing rhythm of the session, in order to provide the energy to enter the last part of the afternoon. In the seminar room of the Archives, David concluded the day, presenting some manuscripts from the Cathedral’s collections, and demonstrating how much these sources can say when interrogated by a skilful researcher.

Thanks to the personnel of Canterbury Cathedral Archives and Library, and to Emily’s and David’s energy, this rich and interdisciplinary session was a splendid opportunity to see how historical sources can be read and used to rethink the past, even to try to virtually recreate it. Indeed, material witnesses, be they made of stone or paper, often tell their stories and prove keen to answer our questions.