Murdered St Thomas Becket's bloodstained tunic to return to Canterbury Cathedral

A tunic Thomas Becket, the murdered Archbishop of Canterbury, was wearing when he was stabbed by knights loyal to King Henry II in December 1170 is set to return to Canterbury Cathedral.

Thomas Becket's tunic could return to Canterbury Cathedral.Reuters

It is believed the bloodstained tunic was given to the pope in 1485 by Henry VII – whose son Henry VIII would destroy Becket's shrine and dissolve the monasteries as part of the English Reformation.

It has been housed in the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore ever since, but could now be returned to Canterbury as part of the commemorations in 2020 of the 850th anniversary of Becket's death and the 850th anniversary of the establishment of his shrine.

The murder of Thomas Becket, who was formerly a close friend of the king but broke with him over what he believed were his infringements on the rights and liberties of the Church, shocked Europe. Henry, then in France, famously flew into a rage and asked, 'What miserable drones and traitors have I nourished and brought up in my household, who let their lord be treated with such shameful contempt by a low-born cleric?' In another version, he added, "Who will rid me of this turbulent priest?' Four knights – Reginald FitzUrse, Hugh de Morville, William de Tracy and Richard le Breton, sailed to England assassinated Becket in his cathedral. Henry bitterly regretted the result of his outburst.