For many reasons, Canterbury Cathedral has been called as the cradle of English Christianity. The magnificent cathedral, along with St.Augustine’s Abbey and St.Martin’s Church is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site. The cathedral has been receiving visitors from Middle Ages. Since then, many pilgrims and tourists have visited this mecca, some for spiritual, and some for tourist reasons.
Enter the cathedral through the imposing gates and grand wooden door with intricate work. The ceilings at the entrance quickly caught our attention and so does the magnificent gothic architecture of the Cathedral.
St.Augustine arrived in 597 AD as a missionary and founded the cathedral within the Roman city walls. He was made the first archbishop of Canterbury, and since then there were daily prayers and offerings to God by the local community.
Centuries later, Thomas Becket who was the then Archibishop of Canterbury from 1162 was murdered by Henry II of England over a conflict. The flow of pilgrims around the world increased after this event.
Random interior of the cathedral
The grand choir screen or pulpitium was built around 1455 by Richard Beke and it originally had the statues of the Christ and 12 apostles along with shield bearing angels and six kings. What survives today is just the sculpture of the six kings.
This is the principal and central part of the church called Nave. The grand perpendicular nave extends from the entrance to until the aisle. The soaring arches and imposing pillars are indeed spectacular.
One of the most spectacular part of the cathedral is its gothic lierne vault. It’s an architectural term of tertiary rib spanning between two other ribs.
The grandeur of the gothic architecture reflects the historic and religious significance. So does the medieval stained glasses that depict scenes from holy bible and its saints.
The massive crypt beneath the east end of cathedral is another interesting part. It features Romanesque murals and carved pillars. In the above picture is the tomb of Archbishop Morton who was also a cardinal and archbishop until his death in 1486. He was also renowned as financial administrator. As his wish, he was buried before the altar of Our Lady Undercroft (background).
This is the picture of St.Michael’s Chapel which was rebuilt in 1440 after the previous chapel was demolished. This is one of the beautiful corners of the Cathedral.
This chapel is also known as Warrior’s Chapel, which is evident from the hanging standards and memorials for those in the armed services and were killed in the Gibraltar seige.
The beautiful masonry on the exterior walls of the cathedral are sure to be one not missed out. The statues include greatest of the archbishops, influential kings and queens who were connected with the cathedral.
Some of the figures are William the conqueror, Archbishop Theodore, Becket, Kings like Henry I,Henry II, Edward VI etc. These niches were filled back in 1862 and can be seen in the south porch and west end of the cathedral.
Here’s a short video we put together that captures the interiors of the cathedral.
Canterbury is a historic city and a UNESCO designated site located in the district of Kent along River Stour. Its about 55 miles from London. It’s also the most popular one day tour option from London that covers Canterbury Cathedral, Leeds Castle in Kent and White Cliffs of Dover. Practical Information
1) The cathedral is located right in the middle of Canterbury city centre, and is about 5-10 minute walk from railway station/bus stop. Car parking are available around the cathedral, but can be really crowded all through the year.
2) Parts of the cathedral may be closed for service or other events or restoration. It is best to check the website before visiting the cathedral.
3) It is free entry to walk around the cathedral gardens, but to enter the cathedral there is an entrance fee.
4) If you are really keen in exploring the cathedral, it is advisable to take the audio guide
5) It is best to avoid visiting during Sundays, and peak holiday season, as it can get really crowded. Alternatively, you can reach the cathedral early (check opening timings in their website) to avoid the crowd.