Whilst perhaps for most people, the Becket's Cross is the name given to the broach unearthed in Canterbury, we have named the image1 on the left 'Becket Cross' for no other reason than it was featured in the 1964 movie based on Jean Anouilh's novel Becket (played by Richard Burton).
The story 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.
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.
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