Canterbury Cathedral. A Stunning Building

By Lyn Funnell

Canterbury is a beautiful city, and luckily it has been well-preserved through the centuries.

Parking was easy and reasonably priced, and then a short walk to the Cathedral along a pedestrianised road.

The streets still retain their Medieval names. They would have had a row of shops selling the same things, like Butchery Lane.

In the main road leading to the Cathedral there were a lot of charity shops. But thinking about it, Canterbury was a city of charity, so they’re not really out of place.

The Cathedral dominates the skyline, so it wasn’t hard to find.

We entered through the main door, and oh, the stunning sight stops you in your tracks.

How on earth did they build it all those hundreds of years ago, with no safe scaffolding? It’s absolutely mind-blowing!

It was the murder of the Archbishop Thomas a Becket on the 29th December, 1170 that made the Cathedral world famous for pilgrimages. King Henry ll and Thomas a Becket were good friends, but when Beckett was made Archbishop of Canterbury by the king, he became seriously dedicated to his role and the two former friends fell out. Henry was supposed to have said, ‘What a parcel of fools and dastards have I nourished in my house, and not one of them will avenge me of this one upstart clerk.’

Four knights set out to murder Beckett and, realising what they planned, the King tried to stop them. But he was too late.

The world was shocked at the news of the Archbishop’s death and miracles began happening in his name at once. The Pope canonised him soon afterwards, on 21st February, 1173.

We went into the 11th Century Crypt where Beckett’s body laid until there was a huge fire in the Cathedral in 1174.

Above the site is a sculpture of a man in the air. It was made by Antony Gormley out of Medieval nails from the renovated roof of the Cathedral.

It’s called Transport and it was installed in 2011.

I noticed that the old pillars were stone, but the two each end of Becket’s body site beneath Gormley’s sculpture were marble. But the guide couldn’t tell us why.

The Cathedral was rebuilt in 1180-90 completely inside the Nave. Under it is an Anglo-Saxon Cathedral, exactly the same size, and under that is a Roman temple. Every time any repairs are carried out, Roman remains have been found, including a complete skeleton.

In 1220 Becket’s body was placed in a new elaborate shrine upstairs in the Cathedral. But it was completely destroyed by Henry Vlll.

His body disappeared, and now all that remains of him is a candle that perpetually burns on the site where he was murdered. The candle is filled with oil every morning between 7 and 8. It’s not known, but the candle has been extinguished a couple of times when strong winds have blown a draught through the ancient Cathedral.

We walked back down the well-worn stone steps and along to the rear of the Cathedral. Then with a last longing look at the magnificent Nave, we left.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re religious or not, you can’t help being moved and affected by the site and the atmosphere of that magnificent building. It’s wonderful!


  • Lyn Funnell

    Lyn is the co-owner of Unknown Kent and Sussex. She lives in Sussex. Lyn has been writing for most of her life, both Fiction & Non-Fiction. She loves cookery & creating original recipes. She's won a lot of prizes, including Good Housekeeping Millenium Menu & on BBC The One Show as a runner-up, making her Britain's Spag Bol Queen! She has had nine books published so far. History, Travel & Restaurant Reviews are her main interests.

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