The Golden Legend or Lives Of The Saints
Compiled by Jacobus de Voragine, Archbishop of
Englished by William Caxton, First Edition 1483
Also available in Adobe Acrobat (.pdf) format
followeth the Life of S. Thomas, martyr, of
Thomas is as much to say as abisme or double, or trenched and hewn, he was an abisme profound in humility, as it appeared in the hair that he wore, and in washing of the feet of the poor people, double in prelation that was in word and in ensample, and hewn and trenched in his passion.
S. Thomas the martyr was son to Gilbert Beckett, a burgess of the city of
And from thence was sent the abbot of Evesham to the pope with other clerks for the pall which he gave and brought to him, and he full meekly received it. And under his habit he ware the habit of a monk, and so was he under within forth a monk, and outward a clerk, and did great abstinence making his body lean and his soul fat. And he used to be well served at his table, and took but little refection thereof, and lived holily in giving good ensample.
After this, many times the king went over into
And on a time when the sees of London and of
Winchester were vacant and void, the king kept them both long in his hand for
to have the profits of them; wherefore S. Thomas was heavy, and came to the
king and desired him to give those two bishopricks to
some virtuous men. And anon the king granted to him his desire and ordained one
master Roger, bishop of
And anon after S. Thomas hallowed the abbey of
Then the king rehearsed how [declared that] he would not suffer clerks that were thieves to have the execution of the law; to which S. Thomas said, that he ought not to execute them, but they longeth to the correction of holy church, and other divers points; to which S. Thomas would not agree.
To the which the king said: Now I see well that thou wouldest foredo [destroy] the laws of this land which have been used in the days of my predecessors, but it shall not lie in thy power, and so the king being wroth departed.
Then the bishops all counselled S. Thomas to follow the king's intent, or else the land should be in great trouble; and in like wise the lords temporal that were his friends counselled him the same, and S. Thomas said: I take God to record it was never mine intent to displease the king, or to take any thing that longeth to his right or honour. And then the lords were glad and brought him to the king to Oxenford, and the king deigned not to speak to him.
And then the king called all the lords spiritual and temporal tofore him, and said he would have all the laws of his forefathers there new confirmed, and there they were confirmed by all the lords spiritual and temporal. And after this the king charged them for to come to him to Clarendon to his parliament at a certain day assigned, on pain to run in his indignation, and at that time so departed. And this parliament was holden at Clarendon, the eleventh year of the king's reign, and the year of our Lord eleven hundred and sixty-four.
At this parliament were many lords which all were against S. Thomas. And then the king sitting in his parliament, in the presence of all his lords, demanded them if they would abide and keep the laws that had been used in his forefathers' days. Then S. Thomas spake for the part of holy church, and said: “All old laws that be good and rightful, and not against our mother holy church, I grant with good will to keep them.”
And then the king said that he would not leave one point of his law, and waxed wroth with S. Thomas. And then certain bishops required S. Thomas to obey to the king's desire and will, and S. Thomas desired respite to know the laws, and then to give him an answer. And when he understood them all, to some he consented, but many he denied and would never be agreeable to them, wherefore the king was wroth and said he would hold and keep them like as his predecessors had done before him, and would not minish [diminish] one point of them. Then S. Thomas said to the king with full great sorrow and heavy cheer, “Now, my most dear lord and gracious king, have pity on us of holy church, your bedemen [we who pray for you], and give to us respite for a certain time.”
And thus departed each man.
And S. Thomas went to Winchester, and there prayed our Lord devoutly for holy
church, and to give him aid and strength for to defend it, for utterly he
determined to abide by the liberties and franchise, and fell down on his knees
and said, full sore weeping: “O good Lord, I acknowledge that I have offended,
and for mine offence and trespass this trouble cometh to holy church, I
purpose, good Lord, to go to Rome for to be assoiled of mine offences.” And
[he] departed towards
And anon the king sent his officers to his manors and despoiled them, because he would not obey the king's statutes. And the king commanded to seize all his lands and goods into his hands, and then his servants departed from him, and he went to the seaside for to have gone over sea, but the wind was against him, and so thrice he took his ship and might not pass. And then he knew that it was not our Lord's will that he should yet depart, and returned secretly to Canterbury, of whose coming his meiny [colleagues] made great joy.
And on the morn came the king's officers for to
seize all his goods, for the noise was that S. Thomas
had fled the land; wherefore they had despoiled all his manors and seized them
into the king's hand. And when they came they found him at
And anon after S. Thomas came to
the king to
To whom S. Thomas answered: “Sire, that was never my thought, but I would fain please you, and do all that you desire so that ye hurt not the liberties of holy church, for them will I maintain while I live, ever to my power.”
With which words the king was sore moved, and swore that he would have them kept, and especial if a clerk were a thief he should be judged and executed by the king's law, and by no spiritual law, and said he would never suffer a clerk to be his master in his own land, and charged S. Thomas to appear before him at Northampton, and to bring all the bishops of this land with him, and so departed.
S. Thomas besought God of help and succour, for the bishops which ought to be with him were most against him. After this S. Thomas went to Northampton where the king had then his great council in the castle with all his lords, and when he came tofore the king he said: “I am come to obey your commandment, but before this time was never bishop of Canterbury thus entreated, for I am head of the Church of England, and am to you, Sir King, your ghostly [spiritual] father, and it was never God's law that the son should destroy his father which hath charge of his soul. And by your striving have you made all the bishops that should abide by the right of the church to be against holy church and me, and ye know well that I may not fight, but am ready to suffer death rather than I should consent to lose the right of holy church.”
Then said the king, “Thou speakest as a proud clerk, but I shall abate thy pride ere I leave thee, for I must reckon with thee. Thou understandest well that thou wert my chancellor many years, and once I lent to thee £500 which thou never yet hast repaid, which I will that thou pay me again or else incontinent [immediately] thou shalt go to prison.”
And then S. Thomas answered: “Ye gave me that £500, and it is not fitting to demand that which ye have given.” Notwithstanding he found surety for the said £500 and departed for that day.
And after this, the next day the king demanded £30,000 that he had surmised on him to have stolen, he being chancellor, whereupon he desired day to answer, at which time he said that when he was archbishop he set him free therein without any claim or debt before good record, wherefore he ought not to answer unto that demand.
And the bishops desired S. Thomas to obey the king but in no wise he would not agree to such things as should touch against the liberties of the church. And then they came to the king, and forsook S. Thomas, and agreed to all the king's desire, and the proper servants of S. Thomas fled from him and forsook him, and then poor people came and accompanied him. And on the night came to him two lords and told to him that the king's meiny [companions] had emprised [undertaken] to slay him. And the next night after he departed in the habit of a brother of Sempringham, and so chevissed [succeeded] that he went over sea.
And in the meanwhile certain bishops went to
In this meanwhile the king of England sent certain
lords into the pope complaining on the Archbishop Thomas, which made grievous
complaints, which when the pope had heard said, he would give none answer till
that he had heard the Archbishop Thomas speak, which would hastily come
thither. But they would not abide his coming, but departed without speeding
[the success] of their intents [endeavors], and came into
And anon after, S. Thomas came to Rome on S. Mark's day at afternoon, and when his caterer should have bought fish for his dinner because it was fasting day, he could get none for no money, and came and told to his lord S. Thomas so, and he bade him buy such as he could get, and then he bought flesh and made it ready for their dinner. And S. Thomas was served with a capon roasted, and his meiny with boiled meat. And so it was that the pope heard that he was come, and sent a cardinal to welcome him, and he found him at his dinner eating flesh, which anon returned and told to the pope how he was not so perfect a man as he had supposed, “for contrary to the rule of the church he eateth this day flesh.” The pope would not believe him, but sent another cardinal which for more evidence took the leg of the capon in his kerchief and affirmed the same, and opened his kerchief tofore the pope, and he found the leg turned into a fish called a carp. And when the pope saw it, he said, they were not true men to say such things of this good bishop. They said faithfully that it was flesh that he ate.
After this S. Thomas came to the pope and did his reverence and obedience, whom the pope welcomed, and after communication he demanded him what meat he had eaten, and he said flesh as ye have heard tofore, because he could find no fish and very need compelled him thereto.
Then the pope understood of the miracle that the
capon's leg was turned into a carp, and of his goodness granted to him and to
all them of the diocese of
And then S. Thomas informed the pope how the king
And then S. Thomas offered to the pope his bishopric up into the pope's hand, and his mitre with the cross and ring, and the pope commanded him to keep it still, and said he knew no man more able than he was. And after S. Thomas said mass tofore the pope in a white chasuble; and after mass he said to the pope that he knew by revelation that he should suffer death for the right of holy church, and when it should fall that chasuble should be turned from white into red.
And after he departed from the pope and came down into France unto the abbey of Pontigny, and there he had knowledge that when the lords spiritual and temporal which had been at Rome were come home and had told the king that they might in no wise have their intent, that the king was greatly wroth [angry], and anon banished all the kinsmen that were longing to S. Thomas that they should incontinent void [immediately leave] his land, and made them swear that they should go to him and tell to him that for his sake they were exiled, and so they went over sea to him at Pontigny and he being there was full sorry for them.
And after there was a great chapter in
After this the king of
And then S. Thomas wist
[knew] not whither to go, but comforted his kinsmen as well as he might, and
purposed to have gone in to
And in the meanwhile the king of England ordained his son king, and made him to be crowned by the Archbishop of York, and other bishops, which was against the statutes of the land, for the Archbishop of Canterbury should have consented and also have crowned him, wherefore S. Thomas gat [obtained] a bull [papal proclamation] for to do accurse them that so did against him, and also on them that occupied the goods longing to him. And yet after this the king laboured so much that he accorded the king of England and S. Thomas which accord endured not long, for the king varied from it afterward.
But S. Thomas, upon this accord, came home to
And forthwith four knights took their counsel
together and thought they would do to the king a pleasure, and emprised [undertook] to slay S. Thomas, and suddenly
departed and took their shipping towards
These be the names of the four knights: Sir Reginald Fitzurse, Sir Hugh de Morville, Sir William de Tracy, Sir Richard le Breton. On Christmas day S. Thomas made a sermon at Canterbury in his own church, and weeping, prayed the people to pray for him, for he knew well his time was nigh, and there executed the sentence on them that were against the right of holy church. And that same day as the king sat at meat [dinner] all the bread that he handled waxed anon mouldy and hoar, that no man might eat of it, and the bread that they touched not was fair and good for to eat.
And these four knights aforesaid came to Canterbury on the Tuesday in Christmas week about Evensong time [Vespers, Evening Prayer], and came to S. Thomas and said that the king commanded him to make amends for the wrongs that he had done, and also that he should assoil [pardon] all them that he had accursed anon, or else they should slay him.
Then said Thomas: “All that I ought to do by right, that will I with a good will do, but as to the sentence that is executed I may not undo, but that they will submit them to the correction of holy church, for it was done by our holy father the pope and not by me.”
Then said Sir Reginald: “But if [unless] thou assoil [pardon] the king and all other[s] standing in the curse, it shall cost thee thy life.”
And S. Thomas said: “Thou knowest well enough that the king and I were accorded on Mary Magdalene day, and that this curse should go forth on them that had offended the church.”
Then one of the knights smote him as he kneeled before the altar on the head. And one Sir Edward Grim, that was his crossier [cross-bearer, i.e. in processions] put forth his arm with the cross to bear off the stroke, and the stroke smote the cross asunder [split the cross in two] and his arm almost off, wherefore he fled for fear, and so did all the monks, that were that time at compline [night prayer]. And then smote each at him, that they smote off a great piece of the skull of his head, that his brain fell on the pavement. And so they slew and martyred him, and were so cruel [violent] that one of them brake the point of his sword against the pavement. And thus this holy and blessed Archbishop S. Thomas suffered death in his own church for the right of all holy church.
And when he was dead they stirred his brain, and
after went into his chamber and took away his goods, and his horse out of his
stable, and took away his bulls and writings, and delivered them to Sir Robert
Broke to bear into
And anon it was known all about, how that he was
martyred, and anon after took this holy body, and unclothed him, and found
bishop's clothing above, and the habit of a monk under. And next his flesh he
wore hard hair, full of knots, which was his shirt. And his breech was of the
same, and the knots slicked fast within the skin, and all his body full of
worms; he suffered great pain. And he was thus martyred the year of our Lord
one thousand one hundred and seventy-one, and was fifty-three years old. And
soon after tidings came to the king how he was slain, wherefore the king took
great sorrow, and sent to
Now after that S. Thomas departed from the pope, the pope would daily look upon the white chasuble that S. Thomas had said mass in, and the same day that he was martyred he saw it turned into red, whereby he knew well that that same day he suffered martyrdom for the right of holy church, and commanded a mass of requiem solemnly to be sung for his soul. And when the quire [choir] began to sing requiem, an angel on high above began the office of a martyr: Letabitur justus, and then all the quire followed singing forth the mass of the office of a martyr. And the pope thanked God that it pleased him to show such miracles for his holy martyr, at whose tomb by the merits and prayers of this holy martyr our blessed Lord hath showed many miracles. The blind have recovered their sight, the dumb their speech, the deaf their hearing, the lame their limbs, and the dead their life.
If I should here express all the miracles that it hath pleased God to show for this holy saint it should contain a whole volume, therefore at this time, I pass over unto the feast of his translation, where I propose with the grace of God to recite some of them. Then let us pray to this glorious martyr to be our advocate, that by his petition we may come to everlasting bliss. Amen.
[The following is a separate entry, composed by or for Caxton
and included in his 4th volume, covering the feast of the
Translation (that is, the moving of the relics) of
the Translation of S. Thomas
The translation of the glorious martyr, S. Thomas of
Then how this holy translation was fulfilled now ye shall hear. The reverend father in God, Stephen, Archbishop of Canterbury, Richard, bishop of Salisbury, Walter, the prior of the same place, with the convent, with spiritual songs and devout hymns, when it was night, went to the sepulchre of this holy martyr, and all that night and day of his translation, they persevered in prayers and fastings. And after , four priests, elected and thereto chosen, approaching to his body, took up the holy head with great devotion and reverence, and unto them all offered it for to kiss it. Then the archbishop, and all the others, made great honour to it, and took all the relics of the precious body, and laid them in a chest, and shut it fast with iron locks, and set it in a place for to be kept unto the day that the translation should be solemnised.
The day then of this holy translation being come, there were present a great innumerable multitude of people, as well of rich as of poor. There was Pandulphus, a legate of our holy father the pope, and two archbishops of France, of Rheims and Arles, with many other bishops and abbots, and also king Harry the Third with earls and barons, which king himself took the chest upon his shoulders, and with the other prelates and lords, brought it with great joy and honour in to the place where it is now worshipped, and was laid in a fair and much rich shrine. At whose holy translation were showed, by the merits of this holy martyr, S. Thomas, many miracles. To blind men was given their sight, to deaf men their hearing, to dumb men their speech, and to dead men was restored life.
Among all others there was a man, because of great devotion that he had to be at this holy translation and visit the holy martyr, which came to the bridge at Brentford by London; and when he was in the middle of the bridge, meeting there one, was cast into the water. This man, not forgetting himself, called S. Thomas unto his help, and besought him not to suffer his pilgrim to perish, ne [nor] to be there drowned. And five times he sank down to the ground [bottom], and five times arose above the water, and then he was cast to the dry ground. Then he affirmed that he received no water into his mouth, ne into his ears that did to him grievance ne hurt that he felt, save in his falling he felt in his mouth a little salt water; and added more thereto, saying that, when he sank, a bishop held him up that he might not sink.
The Date of the Translation
This holy translation was done and accomplished the year of our Lord twelve hundred and twenty, in the nones of July [i.e., July 7], at , in the fiftieth year after his passion.
A Vision of
For this glorious saint our Lord hath showed many great miracles, as well by
his life, as after his death and martyrdom. For a little tofore
his death a young man died and was raised again by miracle. And he said that he
was led to see the holy order of saints in heaven, and there he saw a seat void
[empty], and he asked for whom it was, and it was answered to him that, it was
kept for the great bishop of
The Priest who Sang Our Lady’s Mass
There was also a simple priest that daily sang no other mass but of our Lady, whereof he was put to S. Thomas his ordinary [St. Thomas’s ordinary, the subordinate bishop who sees to the “ordinary” administration of the archdiocese], whom accused, he opposed [questioned], and found him full simple of conning, wherefore he suspended him, and inhibited him his mass [forbade him to say mass]. Wherefore this priest was full sorry, and prayed humbly to our blessed Lady that he might be restored again to say his mass.
And then our blessed Lady appeared to this priest, and bade him go to S. Thomas, and bid him by the token that “the lady whom thou servest” hath sewed his shirt of hair with red silk, which he shall find there as he laid it, that he give thee leave to sing mass, and assoil thee of his suspending and thine inhibiting [i.e., release you from the prohibition about saying mass], and restore thee again to thy service.
And when S. Thomas heard this he was greatly abashed [amazed], and went and found like as the priest had said, and then assoiled him to say mass as he did before, commanding him to keep this thing secret as long as he lived.
The Lady Who Wanted Grey Eyes
There was a lady in
The Thieving Carver
Also there was a lord's carver that brought water to him at his table, to whom the lord said: If thou hast ever stolen anything of mine, I pray God and S. Thomas that thou have no water in the bason, and suddenly it was all void of the water and dry, and there was he proved a thief.
The Tame Bird and the Sparrowhawk
There was a tame bird kept in a cage whicb was learned to speak. And on a time he fled out of the cage and flew into the field; and there came a sparrowhawk, and would have taken this bird and pursued after. And the bird being in great dread cried: S. Thomas! help! like as he had heard others speak, and the sparrowhawk fell down dead. and the bird escaped harmless.
The Man Who Prayed for Health
Also there was a man that S. Thomas loved much in his days, and he fell in a grievous sickness, wherefore he went to the tomb of S. Thomas to pray for his health, and anon he had his desire and was all whole. And as he turned homeward, being all whole, then he began to dread lest this health should not be most profitable for his soul. Then he returned again to the tomb of S. Thomas, and prayed if his health were not profitable to his soul, that his old sickness might come again to him. And it came anon again to him, and endured unto his life's end.
The Blind Man
And in like wise there was a devout blind man which had his sight restored to him again by the merit of S. Thomas; but after, he repented him for he could not be so quiet in his mind as he was before, he had then so much letting by seeing the vanities of the world. Wherefore he prayed to our Lord that by the merits of S. Thomas, he might be blind again to the world as he was before, and anon he had his desire, and lived after full holily to his life's end.
Who should tell all the miracles that our blessed Lord hath showed for this holy martyr, it should overmuch endure, for ever sith [since] his passion unto this day, God hath showed continually for him many great miracles. Then let us pray this holy saint to be a special advocate for us wretched sinners unto our Lord God, who bring us unto his everlasting bliss in heaven.
For other saints, see the index to this Golden Legend website.
Scanned by Robert Blackmon. firstname.lastname@example.org.
This text was taken from the Internet Medieval Source Book. The Sourcebook is a collection of public domain and copy-permitted texts related to medieval and Byzantine history.
Permission is granted for electronic copying, distribution in print form for educational purposes and personal use. If you do reduplicate the document, indicate the source. No permission is granted for commercial use.
E-text © Paul Halsall, September 2000 email@example.com
Reformatted with paragraphs, rubrics, italics, and explanatory insertions by Richard Stracke