Illustration from the

Carrow Psalter, c.1250
Martyrdom of St. Thomas of Canterbury in 1171

Murder of Becket: the four knights; Becket kneeling; Grim with cross.
East Anglia, England

This miniature from an English Psalter presents a spirited account of the murder of Thomas Becket. Three of the four knights attack the archbishop, who is kneeling in prayer before the altar. One of the knights kicks Thomas to the floor, and sends his miter flying as his sword strikes Thomas's head.

This English manuscript was made in East Anglia in the mid-thirteenth century for a patron with special veneration for St. Olaf, whose life and martyrdom are prominently portrayed in the Beatus initial of Psalm 1. Known as the "Carrow Psalter" due to its later use by the nunnery of Carrow near Norwich, it is more accurately described as a psalter-hours, as it contains, among other texts, the Office of the Dead and the Hours of the Virgin. The manuscript is striking for its rich variety of illuminations, including full-page cycles of saints, martyrs, and biblical scenes, as well as historiated initials within the Psalter, and heraldry added in the fifteenth century to undecorated initials in the Hours of the Virgin.

Especially notable is this miniature portraying the martyrdom of St. Thomas Becket, for after Henry VIII found him guilty of treason in 1538, his image was concealed by gluing a piece of paper over it rather than destroying it, and it has since been rediscovered.

Creator: English (Artist)
Period: ca. 1250 (Medieval)
Medium: ink and paint on medium-weight cream-colored parchment; slightly heavier-weight parchment used for full-page miniatures
Accession number: W.34.15V
Measurements: Folio H: 9 3/4 W: 6 15/16 in. (24.7 17.6 cm)
Geographies: United Kingdom, England, East Anglia (Place of Origin)
Source: The Walters Art Museum. W.34. 15V

Other Medieval illustrations of the Murder of Thomas Becket
Other 13th Century Illustrations of Costume & Soldiers