Canterbury, UK - Canterbury Cathedral Saint Thomas Becket Pilgrimage Badge



Canterbury, UK - Canterbury Cathedral Saint Thomas Becket Pilgrimage Badge

Catalog Entry

Saint Thomas Becket, the Archbishop of Canterbury, has been attributed many miracles before and mostly after his death. One example was of a court jester who slipped in the kitchen and hit his head causing him to lose the ability to speak or eat and his movement became very limited. Becket gave this jester a phial of some unknown liquid that began to heal the jester like no accident or injury had ever occurred at all; the jester was able to talk and eat and drink like he could before. Becket was able to cure an injury that could have resulted in permanent disability or eventually death (Rembis, Kudlick, and Nielsen). This was one event of healing attributed to Becket, and after his death on December 29, 1170, when he was killed by a knight of King Henry II while praying, he was given credit for 703 miracles that were performed at his shrine, including cures of leprosy, paralysis, epilepsy, and blindness ("The Miracles of St Thomas Becket").

Saint Thomas held an important role as he was the archbishop of Canterbury Cathedral, and the king of England and the Archbishop of Canterbury usually worked together because of the connection between religion and state in medieval Europe. As many people listen to both the king and the Pope, the Church has power because it can excommunicate the king, or by condemning his soul to Hell, giving the people the justification to disobey the king ("History - Thomas Becket"). 

King Henry trusted Thomas Becket because they were good friends, and when the Archbishop of Canterbury passed in 1162, King Henry gave more power to his friend Becket by appointing him the new Archbishop. They soon fell into disagreement when King Henry passed a law saying those punished in Church courts would be punished by the royal courts, and Becket did not agree with this law and refused to follow it. This disagreement led Becket to flee the country and exile himself in France for several years. He later came out of exile and returned from France to continue his role as Archbishop in his home county. The disagreements between King Henry and Becket only continued as Becket was dedicated to the Church and believed more in the power of God than the king. Archbishop Becket tried to excommunicate the Archbishop of York because he was trying to side with the king and Becket did not approve as God should be greater than the king ("History - Thomas Becket").

After a (possible) miscommunication, four knights of the king believed Henry wanted Becket dead,
so they murdered him. After the murder King Henry begged forgiveness and prayed at the site of Becket’s murder while being whipped ("Thomas Becket"). Becket was quickly declared a saint soon after his murder in 1173 ("History - Thomas Becket").

After he was killed, his brain was separated from him and his body and brain were placed in the Cathedral's tomb and opened to the public in April of 1171, which is when the miracles started. These miracles made Canterbury Cathedral and the shrine of Saint Thomas Becket both locations highly visited by those looking for miracles or those looking to travel to holy sites. Many of his miracles can be seen on the stained glass windows of Canterbury Cathedral ("The Miracles of St Thomas Becket").

Thomas Becket is an important saint because he was believed to be able to cure illnesses and disabling conditions. People would be cured of their blindness and paralysis and serious illnesses such as leprosy. Thomas Becket should be studied when observing disability through history because it was believed he could and did cure those with disabling injuries or illnesses before what we consider modern medicine.

This artifact is a small replica metal badge of a bust of Saint Thomas Becket. Pins such as these are known as badges or trinkets special to a place. These are similar to modern-day souvenirs such as a t-shirt from a beach or a coffee mug with your name on it. This badge is representative of the Shrine of Saint Thomas Becket in Canterbury Cathedral.

Badges like these signify an area or event that many travellers would visit, and these badges were souvenirs of their travels. The badges carried an image of a person, place, or object that was of significance, such as the Canterbury Cathedral or this bust of Saint Thomas. As some of the stained glass windows do depict the miracles of St. Becket, some of them include the travel of people to the holy site of Canterbury Cathedral. What Becket was said to be able to do made the cathedral a location that was heavily visited. The amount of people that passed through the site caused the church to include pilgrimages of people to St. Becket’s site in their stained glass windows in the church and create pilgrim badges for their travellers ("Discovery of Earliest Known Image of Pilgrims on the Road to Canterbury").

There were many people who made these travels, or pilgrimages, so these pins are scattered mainly in harbors or riverbanks where the pins have fallen off of pilgrim bags or hats where the badges were pinned. Canterbury Cathedral became one of the wealthiest and famous shrines of Europe due to the immense number of people who would visit in search of miracles or to observe the cathedral. 

Due to the fact that many of the badges are already weathered and tarnished from being left outside in harsher conditions, many museums have digital versions where visitors can explore the badges without the risk of further deteriorating them (Jeffs). 


"Discovery of Earliest Known Image of Pilgrims on the Road to Canterbury.",​ 21 Sept. 2018, ury/. 

"History - Thomas Becket."
BBC , 29 Mar. 2011,

Jeffs, Amy."Tourist Trinkets: The Medieval Pilgrim Badge." History Today, 9 Aug. 2017,

"The Miracles of St Thomas Becket."
Historic UK​, 19 Nov. 2019, 

"Pilgrim's Badge of the Shrine of St. Thomas Becket at Canterbury | British | The Met." The Metropolitan Museum of Art,2001,

Rembis, Michael, Kudlick, Catherine, and Nielsen, Kim E. The Oxford Handbook of Disability History. Oxford University Press, 2018.

"Thomas Becket." History Learning Site, 5 Mar. 2015, 

Thurston, Herbert. "St. Thomas Becket." ​New Advent, 

Artifact Owner

Kisha G. Tracy (acquired at Canterbury Cathedral)

Artifact Material


Catalog Entry Author(s)

Jason Langlais, Student, Fitchburg State University


Kisha G. Tracy



“Canterbury, UK - Canterbury Cathedral Saint Thomas Becket Pilgrimage Badge,” Cultural Heritage through Image, accessed April 13, 2024,

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