I am a medievalist in the process of completing a PhD (involving medieval medicine). I travel as much as possible at home (UK) and abroad. I'm always ready for new experiences!
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.
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.
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.
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.