Outside the cathedral were the old cloisters.
Much of it was disused after the Dissolution of Monasteries by Henry VIII, but one can still imagine robed monks, priests and bishops shuffling down these paths and catacombs.
Well, that ends our trip around England. But it’s definitely not the end of our journey. Oh no, if you can believe it, we’ve only just started. Next up, a country I touched on briefly during my visit to the British Museum – Greece.
The cathedral has its darker side. In the basement lies this altar – the place where St Thomas Becket died.
Thomas Becket was Archbishop of Canterbury in the 12th Century, in the time of King Henry II. He and Henry were friends (Becket was Henry’s chancellor at one stage), but fell out over the rights and privileges of the church versus that of the monarchy. Henry wanted the church to live by the rules of the land, but Becket maintained that the church and its clerics should be judged by their own rules (strangely topical given the revelations this week about how the contemporary Catholic church handled its crimes and criminals).
The controversy lasted for a good part of a decade, and by the time Becket had excommunicated many of his advisers Henry had had enough and said so to his court. This inspired four of Henry’s supporters to come to their king’s aid and assassinate the archibishop while he said his prayers.
So Henry got rid of the ‘rogue’ Becket and was able to reassert his position. Becket meanwhile became a martyr of the church and was made saint within two years of his death. His shrine in the cathedral became the main attraction for pilgrims over the centuries. So in my humble opinion, in the end it was even-stevens between the two.
It was Easter Saturday when we visited, so there were reminders of the Paschal season all around the cathedral.
We walked inside and was greeted by such a sight. The nave was bigger and higher than any church in London – the church did really seem to go forever. And it was was heated too. One wonders about their heating bills. I think most of the entrance fee would go towards this.
The main altar and seats were rather modern, yet organic, which I quite liked. None of your jewelled thrones here.
But the bell tower was something else. It’s gothic style at its best.
But our prime destination for the day was the great Canterbury Cathedral, which is right in the middle of the old town. The entrance is via this stunning gate.
The central figure looks rather scary. Even though it looks like he’s been there forever, it’s only a recent add-in and a mere twenty years old.
Once through the gate, we were struck by the size and majesty of this gothic church. It’s certainly worthy as the central place of worship in the Anglican Church.
We’ll have a better look around in my next post.
Not Canterbury in New South Wales, or even Victoria. It’s the original Canterbury in Kent, east of London. To get there nowadays takes a mere hour due to the Channel Tunnel line. Add to that being the Easter long weekend, it’s no wonder that the town was filled to the brim.
The town is the seat of the Archibishop of Canterbury, the leading cleric of the Church of England, and has been the prime pilgrimage spot in England since the 7th Century. It’s no wonder that so much of the city is well-preserved, like the main gate, which has existed since Roman times, although the current version is medieval.
Being a pilgrimage, and now a tourist town, there were plenty of restaurants, accommodation and souvenir shops around.
But I liked how the old town is still full of half-timbered buildings that houses all the shops, even somewhere as pedestrian as Starbucks.