Ken Follett (testo completo)
The Pillars of the Earth by K. Follett (1949-)
The episode of the assassination of Thomas Becket is vividly presented in The Pillars of the Earth (1989). by Ken Follett. The novel is set in the twelfth century. The action revolves around the building of a magnificent cathedra! at Kingsbridge, in the South of England. With powerful narrative drive. Follett draws the reader into a world of intrigue. religious strife. civil wars and battles over royal succession. which forms the background to the lives of his characters. The book concludes with the presentation of an event which marked English history: the assassination of Thomas’Becket. Archbishop of Canterbury This fact created a sensation. and Becket was mode a saint after a fewyears.
In the following passage a group of knights have burst into Canterbury cathedra! and are trying to carry the Archbishop out of there. Note the powerful realism of the description of the violent aggression. the people’s actions which reveal their feelings. and the ultimate effect of Becket’s assassination which became a victory for the Church. because people saw Becket as a martyr.
Thomas lost his balance, flailed his arms, and began to struggle. The other knights joined in trying lo lift him up and carry him. The only people left from Thomas’s entourage were Philip and a priest called Edward Grim. They both rushed forward to help Thomas, grabbed Thomas’s mantle and clung on tight. One of the knights turned and lashed out at Philip with a mailed list-The blow struck the side of Philip’s head, and down, dazed.
When he recovered, the knight had released Thomas, who was standing with his head bowed and his hands together in an attitude of prayer. One of the knight raised his sword.
Philip, still on the floor, gave a long helpless yell of protest: “Noooo!”
Edward Grim held out his arm towards off the blow.
Thomas said: “I commend myself to God-“
The sword fell.
It struck both Thomas and Edward. Philip heard himself scream. The sword cut into the archbishop’s skull and sliced the priest’s arm. As blood spurted from Edward’s arm, Thomas fell to his knees.
Philip stared aghast at the app wound to Thomas’s head.
The archbishop fell slowly forward onto his hands, supported himself only for an instant, then crashed onto his face on the stone floor.
Another knight lifted his sword and struck. Philip gave an involuntary howl of grief. The second blow landed in the place as the first, and sliced off the Thomas’s skull. Il was such a forceful swing that the sword struck the pavement and snapped in two. The knight dropped the stump .
A third knight committed an act which would burn in Philip’s memeory for the rest of his life: he struck the point of his sword into the opend head of the archbishop and spilled the brain out onto the floor.
Philip’s legs felt weak and he sank to his knees, overcome with horror.
The knight said: “He won’t get up again – let’s be off!”
Shortly after wards people flock in
A woman bent down swiftly and touched as if for luck. Several other people followed suit9. Then Philip saw the first woman furtively collecting some of the blood in a tiny flask10, as if Thomas were a martyr.
The clergy began to come to their senses. The archibishop’s chamberlain, Osbert, with tears streaming down his face, took out a knife and cut a strip from his own shirt, then bent down by the body and clumsily, gruesomely tied Thomas’s skull back on his head, in a pathetic attempt to restore a modicum of dignity to the horribly violated person of the archbishop. As he did so, a low collective groan went up from the crowd all around.
Some monks brought a stretcher”. They lifted Thomas onto it gently. Many reached out to hel them. Philip saw that the archibishop’s handsome face was only sign of violence being a thin line of blood running from the right temple, across the nose, to the left cheek.
As they lifted the stretcher, Philip picked up the broken stump of the sword that had killed Thomas. He kept thinking of the woman who had collected the archbishop’s blood in a bottle, as if he were a saint. There was a massive15 significance to that small act of hers, but Philip was not yet sure exactly what it was.
The people followed the stretcher, drawn by an invisible force. Philip went with the crowd, feeling the weird”’ compulsion that gripped them all17. The monks carried the body through the chancel18 and lowered it gently to the ground in front of the high altar. The crowd, many of them praying aloud, watched as a priest brought a clean cloth and bandaged the head neatly, then covered most of the bandage with a new cap.
A monk cut through the black archbishop’s mantle, which was soiled with blood, and removed it. The man seemed unsure what to do with the bloody garment, and turned as if to throw it to one side. A citizen stepped forward quickly and took it from him as if it were a precious object.
The thought that had been hovering uncertainly in1” the back of Philip’s mind now came to the foreground in an inspirational flash. The citizens were treating Thomas like a martyr, eagerly collecting his blood and his clothes as if they had the supernatural powers of saints’ relics-“. Philip had been regarding the murder as a political defeat for the Church, but the people here did not see it that way: they saw a martyrdom. And the death of a martyr, while it might look like a defeat, never failed to provide inspiration and strength to the Church in the end.
[from Part VI, Chapter 18]