Becket Cross

Whilst perhaps for most people, the Becket's Cross is the name given to the broach unearthed in Canterbury, we have named the image on this page. Becket Cross for no other reason than it was featured in the 1964 movie based on Jean Anouilh's novel Becket.

By Paul Harding, with
thanks to Sean Wright
for his inspiration.

Becket Cross

Becket Cross
Becket Cross
(Click image to enlarge)

Becket Cross
(Click image to enlarge)

'Becket' (1964) Starring Richard Burton, Peter O'Toole, John Gielgud, Donald Wolfit, Martita Hunt, Pamela Brown & Siân Phillips. Distributed by Paramount Pictures.

Jean Anouilh's novel Becket (played by Richard Burton) relates the conflict between Archbishop of Canterbury Thomas Becket and England's King Henry II. As is the custom, a monk carries the Archiepiscopal Cross facing backwards, so that the Archbishop following the cross can keep his eyes on the corpus (see upper film clip).

In Act III of the play Becket says "Now give me my silver cross. I must hold it." as he prepares himself for martyrdom (see lower film clip). Archiepiscopal crosses are often made of silver to reflect their special importance, and Becket decided it was time to hold this ceremonial cross for himself, just as Jesus had carried the cross to Golgotha.

Patriarchal Cross

The interesting feature of this cross is that the titulus (the short upper crossbar) is at the very top of the cross like a Tau Cross. In the West, the titulus of an Archiepiscopal Cross is usually shown lower down. The titulus at the very top of the cross is popular throughout Ukraine and Russia.

There seems to be no reason why the titulus can't be at the very top of an Archiepiscopal cross, as with this 'Becket Cross'. Indeed, such a design could be used as a crutch for an aging prelate to place under his armpit for support whilst standing. But tradition seems to dictate that the titulus is lower down.

If you have seen an Archiepiscopal cross similar to this design, please send us details and we'll update the site. We've called it the 'Becket' for want of a better name, so if you know a more established name we would be delighted to know.

Comments, photos and/or references can be emailed to us.

Asian languages have a similar symbol, albeit the upper bar is much longer. In Chinese and Japanese it represents "dry", amongst other things, and originates from a pictograph of food (fish, meat, etc.) atop a pole, drying in the wind. In old Korean, the symbol represented the monarch of the kingdom of Silla.


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