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The “Water Of Thomas Becket”: Water As Medium, Metaphor, And Relic

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Chapter Summary

This chapter examines Thomas Becket's miracles, together with the liturgies and surviving medieval imagery devoted to his life, in an attempt to elucidate some of the literal and symbolic ways in which water shaped the hagiographic legacy of this celebrated saint. The meticulous records of Beckets miracles compiled by Benedict and William FitzStephen have allowed scholars to systematically track the rapid geographic expansion of his cult and analyze the spectrum of maladies he cured. Depictions of Thomas traveling by ship comprise one of the standard types of ampullae available at Canterbury cathedral. Other models of Canterbury ampullae frequently incorporated visual elements that similarly foregrounded the connection between Thomas Becket and Christ. The subsequent dilution of Thomas blood with water resulted in a tincture that retained all the import of a corporeal relic and that was readily expandable.

Keywords: Canterbury cathedral; Christ; water of Thomas Becket; William FitzStephen



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