Thomas Becket relic comes to England

The reliquary holding Thomas Becket's arm fragment

Story highlights

  • Holy relic of murdered saint Thomas Becket returns to England for first time in centuries
  • It arrives from Hungary's Esztergom Basilica, where it has been venerated for 800 years

(CNN)A holy relic of the murdered saint Thomas Becket is to return to England for the first time in centuries as part of a pilgrimage tour.

The relic, a fragment of bone thought to come from Becket's arm, is coming all the way from Hungary's Esztergom Basilica, where it has been venerated for almost 800 years.
    Hungary's President Janos Ader and Cardinal Erdo, Archbishop of Esztergom-Budapest, Primate of Hungary will attend a celebratory mass in London's Westminster Cathedral.
    The bone fragment will then be put on display at Westminster Abbey and St Magnus the Martyr Church in London, Rochester Cathedral and Canterbury -- site of Becket's murder -- before being returned to Hungary.

    "Who will rid me of this troublesome priest?"

    Thomas Becket was a priest, who became Archbishop of Canterbury in 1161, during the reign of his friend, Henry II.
    In 1170, when their friendship soured over dissensions between the Church and the monarchy, the king is reputed to have asked: "Who will rid me of this troublesome priest?"
    Richard Burton playing Thomas Becket opposite John Gielgud as Louis VII of France in the 1964 movie "Becket."
    A short time later, Becket was murdered by four knights inside Canterbury Cathedral.
    Becket was canonized in 1173 and the first shrine dedicated to him, in the cathedral where he was killed, attracted pilgrims from around Europe, including Hungary.
    In 1220, when his tomb was opened and moved to a different burial place inside the cathedral's Trinity Chapel, it is rumored that two Hungarian priests were present.
    It is thought they may have taken the hand fragment back to Hungary, but exactly how it got to its present home remains a mystery.
    Becket became particularly important to Hungary in the 20th century, during the country's communist regime, when he was seen as a symbol of resistance against the State's interference in the Church.
    The pilgrimage to Thomas Becket's tomb became so well known that Geoffrey Chaucer used it as the background to "The Canterbury Tales."
    Becket's shrine was destroyed in 1538, on the orders of Henry VIII.