Walking Around Canterbury Cathedral

Canterbury Cathedral is THE cathedral in the UK … it’s the home of the Archbishop of Canterbury, who is second only to the Queen as the head of the Church of England.

The Cathedral at Canterbury was founded by Augustine in 597. He was sent by Pope Gregory to talk some religious sense into the foolish (and Pagan) Anglo-Saxons (whether he succeeded is still a matter for debate, by the way). Apparently they excavated beneath the cathedral in the 1990s and found evidence of the original Saxon church, conveniently located on the Roman Road to London. It seems like almost every Archbishop since Augustine has made an attempt to expand or renovate the building, with layer upon layer of new construction and additions and subtractions resulting in a quite a mish-mash of history.

But I know you all are waiting to hear about Thomas Becket, the famous saint of Canterbury Cathedral.  According to Wikipedia:  “A pivotal moment in the history of Canterbury Cathedral was the murder of Thomas Becket in the north-east transept on Tuesday 29 December 1170 by knights of King Henry II. The king had frequent conflicts with the strong-willed Becket and is said to have exclaimed in frustration, “Who will rid me of this turbulent priest?” The knights took it literally and murdered Becket in his own cathedral.”  And rather than bore you with a really long and detailed history of Henry II, Eleanor of Aquitane, and Thomas Becket, I’m just going to refer you to my favorite author, Sharon Kay Penman. (Read her Angevin trilogy. It’s long but worth it!)

The Cathedral was badly damaged by an earthquake in 1382. The prior at the time decided to rebuild the nave in the Perpendicular style, although the rest of the building was left in the Norman and Early English styles.

Canterbury didn’t suffer as much as some other churches when Henry VIII dissolved the church. The shrine of Thomas Becket was dismantled, but few structural changes took place. Today you can see a candle placed on the floor where the original shrine was once located.

The imposing front entrance; luckily for us the side door is where people go in and out these days!

Looking up at the tower. The stones are quite worn and rough looking, in need of some restoration work!

The other side of the building is in much better shape, as it's been restored recently. New stones were brought from France for the work.

Look closely at the flying buttresses. They are so short and squat! I've never seen a buttress so close to the ceiling below, usually they fly a bit more regally!

A look down the exterior hallway in the cloisters. The stone here was really in horrible condition.

Looking out on the cloister.

Not sure what these ruins are (just north of the Cathedral, but still on church grounds). They looked lovely in the afternoon light.

Alex on the grounds of the King's School.


Posted on 20/04/2011, in Castles & Cathedrals, Exploring the UK, travel and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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