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Canterbury Cathedral

Home > London > Architecture | Churches | Day Trips | Places of Worship
Published December 10th 2012
The Canterbury Tales brought to life
Canterbury Cathedral is possibly the most famous of all England's churches. Every secondary school student has had to read some portion of Geoffrey Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, which reveals that Canterbury was a popular tourist destination all the way back to medieval times.

Canterbury Cathedral. Photo by Erin Connelly.

Chaucer states in his prologue:

And specially from every shires ende / Of Engelond to Caunterbury they wende / The hooly blisful martir for to seke / That hem hath holpen whan that they were seeke.

(Especially from every shire in England / Pilgrims travel to Canterbury / To see the holy, blissful martyr / That heals them when they're sick.)

Canterbury Cathedral. Photo by Erin Connelly.

The 'holy, blissful martyr' referred to by Chaucer is Thomas Becket, who was Archbishop of Canterbury until his brutal murder by four knights in 1170. Becket was murdered in front of the cathedral altar and was found to be wearing a haircloth (traditional penitential garment), which quickly promoted him to saintly status in the eyes of the people. In later decades cults of pilgrims devoted to Becket flooded Canterbury hoping to receive healing from his tomb.

Thomas Becket Memorial. Photo by Adam Bishop.

The original medieval shrine to Becket was destroyed during the Reformation. The Corona, in the modern cathedral, contains a piece of Becket's skull, while a memorial with three swords and an altar is located in the spot where Becket was martyred. Beautiful stained glass images throughout the church capture Becket's life and supposed posthumous miracles.

Thomas Becket stained glass. Public Domain.

Apart from Becket-related artefacts, the cathedral contains a magnificent nave, an 11th century crypt, and gardens with an Herbarium, while the town of Canterbury is also an interesting place for exploration.

Entrance to cathedral. Photo by Erin Connelly.

Only 1.5 hours from London, Canterbury Cathedral is an easy and educational day trip for people of all ages.
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Why? Encounter Chaucer's pilgrims in this historic cathedral
When: Variable; see website
Phone: 44 (0) 1227 762862
Where: Canterbury Cathedral, Cathedral House, 11 The Precincts, Canterbury, CT1 2EH
Cost: 9.50 (adult)
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