Keep your hands by your side

Music is THE BEST.

Also very exciting is when you see xkcd.com (1) in your Google Reader.  Oh, simple things.

Went to Canterbury today, and I can’t say I loved the town too much minus the guided tour of the cathedral, which was a great way to pass an hour and a half.  You have to appreciate an institution where both St Augustine and St Anselm served as archbishops, and where Roman architecture mixes with Gothic thanks to periodic additions to the church due to expanding needs or destruction.  Our guide also pointed out very interesting pagan influences, like carvings of goats playing flutes, whose existence in the bastion of the Anglican Church is a curiosity.

But perhaps most interesting to me was the history of Thomas Becket, who served as archbishop from 1162 until his death, in the halls of the cathedral, at the hands of four of the king’s knights in 1170.  From the church’s point of view, Becket is a hero and martyr — he championed the church’s rights in an era where the Norman kings systematically forced a centralization of state power, in the process creeping on the church’s territory.  For example, Becket defended the church’s right to maintain its own ecclesiastical courts, while the king wanted to establish a single standard of law across all of England (the Normans did eventually succeed in creating a “common law” across England).  The benefits of Norman reform were many, from the standardization of the levy of taxes to the elimination of problems that arose when individuals from different parts of the country, which inevitably had different legal customs, needed to resolve a dispute.  I understand that Becket displayed a a great deal of courage standing for the church’s interests against the crown, but really, what do you expect the king to do when the man he appoints as head of the Church of England refuses (or fails) to see his grand political vision?  I would have removed him too.

Incidentally, what I know about Norman statecraft comes from studying English common law in class.  Even though it is not-at-all surprising that institutions will write history in the light that favors them, it was still amusing to hear the church’s account of the political virtues of St Thomas Becket (no comment on his personal virtues, which as a clergyman, I assume were impeccable).

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