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Canterbury Cathedral

History

Blessed Sacrament windowA Warm Welcome

Canterbury Cathedral has a tradition of visitor welcome that reaches back to the days of medieval pilgrimages. Today we extend that welcome to all our visitors and hope that they too will enjoy sharing with us the beauty of one of the great holy places of Christendom.

The Cathedral and its history

St Augustine, sent by Pope Gregory the Great, arrived in 597AD as a missionary and became the first Archbishop, establishing his seat (or �Cathedra�) in Canterbury. In 1170 Archbishop Thomas Becket was murdered in the Cathedral and ever since, the Cathedral has attracted thousands of pilgrims, as told most famously in Geoffrey Chaucer�s Canterbury Tales.

Today the Cathedral is very much a working, living church and community, where Services, sung by our world-renowned choir, take place every day and where stonemasons and stained glass conservators continue the tradition of restoring old and adding new. For many millions of Anglicans all over the world the Cathedral is their Mother Church and the place where the Archbishop of Canterbury celebrates and presides over ceremonial Services.

World Heritage Site

Canterbury Cathedral, St Augustine�s Abbey and St Martin�s Church make up Canterbury�s World Heritage Site. St Martin�s Church, the building in which Augustine and his followers first worshipped, is the oldest working church in England. The ruins of St Augustine�s Abbey include the remains of the monastery where his monks lived and worshipped and where Kentish Kings and the first Archbishops were buried.

 

Architecture

The Precincts

The Cathedral is set within its own walled Precincts and surrounded by medieval buildings and ruins. Each building has its own story to tell � from the Water Tower, a Romanesque gem once the centre of the monastic water supply, to the monastery�s Granary, Bakery and Brewery now part of King�s School. The Chapter House, the largest of its kind in England, with its lofty oak roof and noble seat for the Prior, still stands as a tribute to the monks who assembled here daily to discuss the Cathedral�s business and who made the Cathedral into one of the most important churches in the world.

The Nave

One of the most magnificent surviving examples of English Perpendicular Gothic the present Nave was built in the 12th century, taking 28 years to complete and replacing a much smaller Romanesque Nave. Its tall columns rise up to meet in delicate vaulted arches and gilt roof bosses.

The Quire

The Quire was re-built and extended in the 12th century after a disastrous fire destroyed the earlier structure. It housed Thomas Becket�s shrine until it was demolished and removed during the Reformation by order of Henry VIII. Beautiful stained glass windows illustrate miracles and stories associated with St Thomas.

The Crypt

The Crypt is the oldest part of the Cathedral and the largest of its period in the country. It dates back to the 11th century and is Romanesque in style. Many of its details survive intact, including traces of contemporary wall painting in St Gabriel�s Chapel and an array of carved capitals and decorated columns.

Local Interest

Canterbury is one of the oldest cities in England with a continuous history. However the past is not its only inspiration and there are many other delights to enjoy. A rich and vibrant culture boasts more festivals than any other part of England. Shoppers will find a rich and satisfying range of goods from hand-painted pottery and fine foods to paintings and sculptures. The recently completed Whitefriars shopping quarter has over 70 stores to explore, among them famous brands such as Fenwick, Zara, H&M, Monsoon, Next and Top Shop.

�The Canterbury Tales� Visitor Attractions, 4 museums, St Augustine�s Abbey and a castle offer further evidence of the area�s rich and diverse history.