First Year Seminar: The Archbishop's Bones – Art, Architecture and Pilgrimage at Canterbury Cathedral
On 29 December 1170, Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury, was murdered in his own cathedral. Fifty years later, Canterbury Cathedral had become one of the major centers of pilgrimage in western Christendom, drawing pilgrims – like those described in Chaucer's 'Canterbury Tales' – from all over Europe. The goal of the pilgrimage were Thomas Becket's mortal remains, staged within the rich and luminous architecture of Canterbury's new choir, one of the first, and most important, Gothic structures in England. Our seminar will explore the extraordinary story of Becket's martyrdom, the posthumous veneration of his relics, but above all, the magnificent architecture and stained glass of Canterbury Cathedral. The discussions will introduce you to the spatial lay-out, structure, function and imagery of a great Gothic church, and sharpen your skills of visual and architectural analysis. You will also learn how to read primary textual sources (such as contemporary accounts of Becket's murder), and secondary literature (for instance a scholarly article analyzing medieval imagery depicting Becket's murder).