Photo: Hans Musil

Canterbury Cathedral was the first Church of England, although the cathedral dates back to 597. The impressive structure sits in the middle of Canterbury, with its own grounds and a surrounding wall. Canterbury Cathedral was originally one of the most important medieval pilgrimage sites in England.

Its lore only increased after Thomas Becket was murdered there. In one of the most famous stories of miscommunication, King Henry was heard by several knights to say, “Who will rid me of this meddlesome priest?” referring to Archbishop Becket’s habit of excommunicating his political rivals, which annoyed the king. The knights interpreted that as an order for assassination and duly set off to Canterbury to rid the king of the meddlesome priest. However, because of Becket’s accidental murder, he was seen as a martyr by many and pilgrims continue to flock to the place where he took his final breaths and pay their respects.

As you pass through the gate, make sure you look up to see if you can find the Spanish coat of arms, left over from when Henry VIII married Catherine of Aragon. Within the cathedral grounds, you can see the old priory and the Chapter House. The House was where monks would meet and discuss daily business of the priory. While the monks were disbanded when Henry VIII created the Church of England, the Chapter House remains a wonderful insight into the daily lives of the monks.

A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Canterbury Cathedral contains the tombs of the Black Prince of Wales, as well as King Henry IV and his second wife, Joan of Navarre. Walk over to the eastern end of the cathedral to admire the stained glass windows that depict scenes from the Bible. Don’t forget to stop and admire the impressive stonework that survives throughout the cathedral.

 

11 The Precincts, Canterbury, CT1 2EH
Tel: +44 (0) 1227 762862
Times: Monday-Saturday 9:00 – 17:30, Sundays 12:30 – 14:30