Installation Scene From Becket

Friday, October 23, AD 2009

In honor of the Anglican initiative of Pope Benedict this week, a reminder of the history of Catholic England, when Catholics were willing to stand against the State if need be to protect the Honor of God.   Becket (1964), although inheriting the historical howlers that existed in the play, and were known by the playwright Jean Anouilh who wisely preferred a poetic story to prosaic fact,  (Becket was Norman not Saxon, Henry II was not a crowned juvenile delinquent, the armor, as is usual in medieval epics, is all wrong for the period, etc.), this classic film helped awaken in me a desire to learn about the history of the Church.  With masterful performances by Richard Burton as “the holy blessed martyr” and Peter O’Toole as Henry II, the film brought alive to me as a child the high Middle Ages.  The installation sequence brought home to me the important role of ceremony, tradition and symbolism in our Faith, a lesson I have never forgotten.

5 Responses to Installation Scene From Becket

  • Watching the excommunication scene is still frightening to me. As it should be, I suppose. I would half expect a large chasm to open up under Lord Gilbert the moment the Archbishop snuffs out the candle.

  • That was a very good scene. My favorite line from the movie is uttered after Becket has announced he is appealing to the Pope and a Baron calls him a traitor and advances upon him with sword drawn. “Sheathe your sword, Morville, before you impale your soul upon it!”

  • Huh. I just realized that Peter O’Toole was Henry II twice. Too bad there’s no Eleanor of Aquitane cameo by Katherine Hepburn! 🙂

  • My forebears (Becketts) came from London. They owned a brickworks on the Thames. In 1970 I had a young englishman from London working for me when I lived in Rotorua – his father was a builder in London, and John Oakes worked with him – they used to buy Beckett’s bricks for their building work.
    My father tried to dig further back than the 17th.century, but ran out of time, and couldn’t afford to go back to London from here (NZ)
    So we don’t know whether or not our family line is the same as St.Thomas.

    But I claim it anyway 🙂

    Don Beckett.

  • This moment in history is not only significant with respect to the great matter of Catholic/Anglican reunification but also to vindicate those who were literally severely tortured to death at Tyburn (i.e., <a href=''the 105 martyrs) several centuries ago and all subsequent English recusants who likewise suffered a similar fate; that these did not die in vain!

    From 1535 to 1681 Tyburn was transformed into a place of cruelty, torture and execution for men and women who suffered on Tyburn Tree for their religious belief. According to the laws of the land in force at that time, it became an act of high treason to be a Catholic priest, or to associate with Catholic priests. It was also legal treason to refuse to accept the King as “the only Supreme Head on earth of the Church of England”, in the reign of King Henry VIII from 1534 onwards. Under Queen Elizabeth I similar laws continued. Under Charles I and Charles II especially similar laws brought many Catholic priests to martyrdom on Tyburn Tree. The infamous Titus Oates Plot and the persecution following it from 1678 to 1681 was the final stage of this one hundred and fifty years of religious persecution against Catholics.

    These 105 Catholic Martyrs of Tyburn suffered death then, because they freely chose fidelity to the Bishop of Rome as the true Head of the Church on earth. They also suffered death at Tyburn because they were ‘Mass saying priests”‘ or helped such priests.

    In the words of one historical account, “To inflict the extremity of torture on a Catholic was the highest joy.”

    May these who have long since joined the Communion of Saints experience certain satisfaction at the prospect that those very elements which made what once was Catholic England are now rightly being recovered and its ancient patrimony restored.

    P.S. Anybody seen the miniseries entitled, “Augustine: The Decline of the Roman Empire”, which Pope Benedict XVI actually previewed in September where the Pope himself gave a positive review?

    If so, I’d be interested in knowing their personal opinion of it and the details of where and when they saw it. Thanks.

    Here’s a link to its Trailer: