Becket’s body remained in the North West transept for most of the night. Early the next morning, he was prepared for burial. As the monks were preparing the body, they discovered that Becket had been wearing a hair shirt (sackcloth) and a monastic habit under his clothes. To the monks, this was a sign of Thomas’ sainthood, as hair shirts, which were made of rough material, were worn by saintly individuals as a form of constant punishment.
Once the monks had discovered a hair shirt under Becket’s clothes, they began to treat the rest of his body as if it were a saint’s. In the Middle Ages, saints were believed to enact powerful miracles through their bodily remains, such as their bones or their blood. These objects were known as the saint’s relics. In the hope that it would become an important relic, some of the monks collected Becket’s blood, which still covered the floor of the church, in containers or on cloth.
Fearing that the knights may return and take away Becket’s body, the monks buried him quickly, on the day immediately following the murder. Thomas was dressed in the garments he would have worn as archbishop and buried in a marble tomb in the Cathedral crypt.
A Breviary (book of monastic prayers) written in Canterbury in the fourteenth century and damaged in a fire in the seventeenth century. The book once contained prayers in honour of Becket, which were removed, probably during the Reformation.