Becket – Man, martyr and legend for all time.

The Anglo-Saxon Minster Church of St Mary’s, Stow-in-Lindsey has an important 12th Century wall painting depicting the life and death in 1170AD of Thomas Beckett, Archbishop of Canterbury (1162 – 1170). The long hidden wall painting was rediscovered in 1865 during the removal of plaster from an alcove below the east window in the North Transept of the Minster. The wall painting dates to the late 12th century or early 13th century. On 7th July 1220 the relics Thomas Becket were ‘translated’ or moved from the crypt of Canterbury Cathedral to a shrine in the newly-constructed apse at the east end of that cathedral partly in response to the number of pilgrims visiting Canterbury following Thomas’s being made a Saint in 1173.

Becket Fresco in North Transept

The presence of the wall painting suggests that Stow Minster was a local site of pilgrimage to honour the life of the archbishop who defended the church against the King. The year 2020 recognises that it is 900 years since the birth of Thomas Becket (b.1120), 850 years since his death by assassination, and 800 years since his translation. Robert de Chesney, Bishop of Lincoln (1148 – 1166) was a supporter of Thomas and was involved in his election to the Archbishopric. Though it is not known if Thomas ever visited Robert in Lincoln, the presence of the wall painting points to a reasoned link for its location.

West Lindsey’s Open Churches Festival in 2020 celebrates “Adventurers and Pilgrims”, which happens over the weekends of 9th -10th and 16th – 17th May. Saint Mary’s, Stow will be focussing on Thomas Beckett, telling his story through drama, particularly over second weekend of the festival. Experience interactive historical drama that explores the life of Thomas and his time throughout the weekend. Mr Murderie’s Players take you on a pilgrimage to Canterbury and beyond – a medieval whydunnit. Meet characters from his life during the Saturday and attend a 45 minute drama starting at 4.00pm on Sunday 17th. ‘Becket’ is an original script penned by members of the group. Sadly this event has been postponed due to cancellation of the Open Churches Festival. A new date will be announced as soon as possible.