Where: Canterbury, Kent, Southeast England
When: 1170 AD
History: Pilgrimage site and home of the head of the Church of England, where Thomas Becket was murdered by Henry II and depicted in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales
Go there for: Fantastic Norman and Gothic Medieval art and architecture and an insight into English Christianity
Canterbury has been home to the Head of the Church of England (the Archbishop of Canterbury) for more than five centuries but its history stretches back a lot further.
History of Canterbury as a pilgrimage site
The first Archbishop of Canterbury was St. Augustine who arrived as a missionary to England in the sixth century. However, it was after 1170 that the Cathedral became a place of pilgrimage. Thomas Becket, Archbishop during the reign of Henry the Second, was murdered in the cathedral by four knights after the King proclaimed: ‘Who will rid me of this low born priest?” Since then, thousand of worshippers have flocked to this small historic town to pay homage. Chaucer‘s famed poem The Canterbury Tales, written in the fourteenth century, tells of the importance of these journeys to ordinary people.
The cathedral itself is a beautiful building which is admired around the world for its architecture as well as its religious significance. The crypt is the only remaining Norman structure in the building while the majority of the cathedral has a French gothic style from its re-construction five hundred years ago. The ancient stained glass of the cathedral is a great example of Medieval art. The windows depict scenes from the Bible and important moments in the lives of saints.
Canterbury cathedral is still home to the archbishop today and plays an important role in the Church of England. Residential courses on Christian faith are held for people from around the world in the specially built learning centre. Life still focuses on daily prayer with morning and evening worships that are open to the public. A large team of Welcomers, Guides, Cathedral Assistants, and Chaplains are there to give all visitors a warm welcome.
Getting to Canterbury
Canterbury Cathedral lies at the centre of the city which has good rail and coach links from London. It is open year round although access is limited at the times of services.
11 The Precincts
Tel +44(0) 1227-762862
Fax +44(0) 1227-865222
See this fully comprehensive website for tour and visitor information.
By Emma Jones