Reliquary of Thomas Becket1180s
Champlevé enamel, 28 x 39 x 12 cm
British Museum, London
In 1170 four knights, acting on behalf of King Henry II, assassinated Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury, in Canterbury cathedral. The action was universally condemned and Henry was forced to do penance. Within a short period miraculous events had came to be associated with Becket's grave, and he was made a saint three years later, after which his relics were distributed throughout Europe. At least thirty-two caskets were made in precious Limoges enamel to house them.
The picture shows one of the earliest caskets depicting Becket's murder while celebrating mass, his burial, and the ascent of his soul into heaven.