Canterbury Cathedral

Canterbury Cathedral

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Canterbury Cathedral is one of England’s most famous cathedrals, both because of its prominent history dating back to the 6th century, and due to the famous murder of Archbishop Thomas Becket that took place there.

Canterbury Cathedral history

In 597, a missionary called St Augustine travelled to Kent from Rome, having been sent by the Pope to convert the English to Christianity. Settling in Canterbury, he soon established a seat or ‘cathedra’ there within the Roman walls, marking the beginning of Canterbury Cathedral. The remains of this original incarnation of the Cathedral lie underneath its current nave.

In Norman times, the community of Canterbury Cathedral became a Benedictine monastery, and in 1070 was completely rebuilt following a fire. A century later in 1170, Canterbury Cathedral became the site of an infamous crime – the murder and martyrdom of Archbishop Thomas Becket.

Becket, who had been made archbishop in 1162 by King Henry II, soon began to clash with the monarch, particularly as to whether his loyalty lay with the King or the Church. Frustrated at Becket’s refusal to bow to his will, the King famously said ‘Who will rid me of this meddlesome priest?’ Having overheard the King, four of his knights took his outburst quite literally and murdered Beckett at Canterbury Cathedral’s north-east transept. Becket was later canonised.

Canterbury Cathedral continued to operate as a monastery until 1540, when Henry VIII disbanded it as part of the Dissolution of the Monasteries. He also destroyed the shrine to Thomas Becket, a place of pilgrimage now symbolised by a lone candle.

Over the next few centuries, Canterbury Cathedral was renovated, rebuilt in parts and underwent many changes. Some of these were due to damage, such as that caused to the building during the English Civil War.

Canterbury Cathedral today

Today Canterbury Cathedral is a UNESCO World Heritage site, with some of its oldest parts – such as its crypt – dating back to the 12th century. Guided tours and audio guides are available at the site, however visitors are also free to explore its many mysteries at leisure.

A memorial to Thomas Becket is marked by a striking sculpture of two daggers descending downwards, with their shadows making up the four blades used to attack the Archbishop. Many notable figures are also buried in the Cathedral, including King Henry IV and Edward the Black Prince, whose detailed effigies offer a glimpse into what the medieval figures may have looked like.

Looking up, the Cathedral’s magnificent ceilings may be admired featuring stunning fan-vaulted designs and colourful detailing, while its stained glass windows are also a marvel. Outside the cloisters may be explored, as well as the Cathedral’s picturesque gardens.

Getting to Canterbury Cathedral

Canterbury Cathedral is located in Canterbury in Kent, and is easily reached by both the M20 and M2. There are a number of car parks in the centre of the city, with St Radigund’s Car Park a 6-minute walk away, while a Park and Ride service is also available into the centre. Both Canterbury West and Canterbury East train stations are around a 10-minute walk away, while Canterbury bus station is a 5-minute walk away.

Canterbury Cathedral

Canterbury Cathedral is one of the oldest and most famous churches in England. [1] The cathedral is in Canterbury, Kent. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. [2] It is also one of the greatest examples of mediaeval Norman architecture in Britain. The cathedral is the official 'seat' of the Archbishop of Canterbury. The archbishop is the leader of the Church of England. [3]

Assorted References

…destruction by fire (1174) of Canterbury Cathedral’s choir and its subsequent rebuilding by William. He was already famous at that time as a leading builder and “most subtle artisan” of Sens, Fr. Called to Canterbury in 1175, he was given the task of using the remaining foundation of the choir…

Its cathedral has been the primary ecclesiastical centre of England since the early 7th century ce . The city, a district within the administrative county of Kent, includes the town of Canterbury, the surrounding countryside, and an area extending to the Thames estuary, including the seaside towns…

In 1170 Canterbury Cathedral was the scene of the murder of Thomas Becket, the archbishop. Many pilgrims subsequently visited his shrine, and those of the 14th century were immortalized by Geoffrey Chaucer in his The Canterbury Tales.

Contribution to

At Canterbury the crypt (dating from 1100) forms a large and complex church, with apse and chapels, and the extreme east end, under Trinity chapel, is famous as the original burial place of Thomas Becket. The earlier (late 11th century) crypts of Winchester, Worcester, and Gloucester…

…fashion was the choir of Canterbury Cathedral (1175–84), which has many of the features of Laon Cathedral. It is the decorative effects of Laon that are used rather than its overall architectural plan, however. There is only a rather depressed tribune gallery, and the building retains a passage at clerestory…

…and several manuscripts prepared at Canterbury have been identified (e.g., the Vespasian Psalter, c. 730–740 the Stockholm Codex Aureus, or “Golden Gospels,” c. 750). In early 9th-century books from the south, formal and iconographic elements introduced from Frankish scriptoria across the Channel are in evidence.

1178–1200) of Canterbury Cathedral, which resemble the Prophet windows in Saint-Remi at Reims. Their features show a new humanism, and there is a sense of movement, even tension, in their bodies and draperies, comparable to contemporary English manuscript painting.

Facts about Canterbury Cathedral 5: Thomas Becket

Thomas Becket is considered as an important archbishop in the cathedral. The murder of Becket became a key element in the history of this cathedral. On 29 December 1170, Becket was murdered in the north-west transept. Today, people call this murdering site as Martyrdom. The murderers were the knights of King Henry II.

Facts about Canterbury Cathedral 6: the conflict

There were a frequent conflict between Becket and King Henry II. Becket was killed by the knights in the cathedral. Actually he was not the first archbishop murdered. Becket is the second one.

Canterbury Cathedral Inside


The church was founded by Augustine of Canterbury in 597 AD. The present version was built on the remains of the old Saxon church by Lanfranc, starting in 1066. Lanfranc, the first Norman Archbishop, was put in position by William the Conqueror. His cathedral was dedicated in 1077. The architecture of the present cathedral is basically Romanesque, with many later repairs and additions. The nave (where the congregation sits) was rebuilt in the 14th century with newly discovered building methods. The new style of English Gothic architecture ('perpendicular') gave the building greater height and larger windows.

The cathedral area, called the precinct, has walls all around it, just as the centre of Canterbury was a walled city. Much of this is still standing. The cathedral precinct includes many other buildings: a school, a conference building, a number of houses and a Palace. The Deanery is where the Dean of Canterbury lives: he is the manager of the Cathedral. The Dean and Chapter (a committee) take the decisions the Archbishop's job is to run the Anglican Church.

The cathedral costs £12,000 a day to run and repair, Β] and there are no government grants. Because of this, fund-raising is one of the Dean's main jobs. The cathedral is a working church. On Sundays there are six services (of different kinds). On weekdays there are three services. These are free of any entry charge. Tourists visiting pay a fee to see the cathedral when there is no service.

The cathedral has seen every important change in English life for 1400 years. It was where Thomas Becket was murdered by the soldiers of Henry II, after Henry asked, supposedly, Γ] "Who will rid me of this turbulent priest?" Beckett was the second Archbishop of Canterbury to be murdered. The first was St. Alphege in 1012, the third was Thomas Cranmer, in 1533.

Canterbury Cathedral, the ruins of St Augustine's Abbey and St Martin's Church were together named a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1988. As a group, they are buildings which show the development of Christianity in Britain. ΐ]

Quick Facts on Canterbury Cathedral

Site Information
Names:Canterbury Cathedral · Cathedral and Metropolitical Church of Christ at Canterbury · Christchurch Cathedral
Categories:cathedrals World Heritage Sites Grade I listed buildings
Styles:Gothic Anglo-Norman
Dedication: Christ
Status: active
Visitor and Contact Information
Coordinates:51.279696° N, 1.082883° E
Address:The Precincts
Canterbury, England
Phone:01227 762 862
Email:[email protected]
Hours:Summer: Mon-Sat 9-5:30 Sun 12:30-2:30
Winter: Mon-Sat 9-5:00 Sun 12:30-2:30
Lodging:View hotels near Canterbury Cathedral
Note: This information was accurate when first published and we do our best to keep it updated, but details such as opening hours and prices can change without notice. To avoid disappointment, please check with the site directly before making a special trip.


The Roman settlement of Durovernum Cantiacorum ("Kentish Durovernum") occupied the location of an earlier British town whose ancient British name has been reconstructed as *Durou̯ernon ("stronghold by the alder grove"), [6] although the name is sometimes supposed to have derived from various British names for the Stour. [7] (Medieval variants of the Roman name include Dorobernia and Dorovernia.) [7] In Sub-Roman Britain, it was known in Old Welsh as Cair Ceint ("stronghold of Kent"). [8] [9] Occupied by the Jutes, it became known in Old English as Cantwareburh ("stronghold of the Kentish men"), [10] which developed into the present name.

Early history Edit

The Canterbury area has been inhabited since prehistoric times. Lower Paleolithic axes, and Neolithic and Bronze Age pots have been found in the area. [11] Canterbury was first recorded as the main settlement of the Celtic tribe of the Cantiaci, which inhabited most of modern-day Kent. In the 1st century AD, the Romans captured the settlement and named it Durovernum Cantiacorum. [6] The Romans rebuilt the city, with new streets in a grid pattern, a theatre, a temple, a forum, and public baths. [12] Although they did not maintain a major military garrison, its position on Watling Street relative to the major Kentish ports of Rutupiae (Richborough), Dubrae (Dover), and Lemanae (Lymne) gave it considerable strategic importance. [13] In the late 3rd century, to defend against attack from barbarians, the Romans built an earth bank around the city and a wall with seven gates, which enclosed an area of 130 acres (53 ha). [12]

Despite being counted as one of the 28 cities of Sub-Roman Britain, [8] [9] it seems that after the Romans left Britain in 410 Durovernum Cantiacorum was abandoned for around 100 years, except by a few farmers and gradually decayed. [14] Over the next 100 years, an Anglo-Saxon community formed within the city walls, as Jutish refugees arrived, possibly intermarrying with the locals. [15] In 597, Pope Gregory the Great sent Augustine to convert its King Æthelberht to Christianity. After the conversion, Canterbury, being a Roman town, was chosen by Augustine as the centre for his episcopal see in Kent, and an abbey and cathedral were built. Augustine thus became the first Archbishop of Canterbury. [16] The town's new importance led to its revival, and trades developed in pottery, textiles, and leather. By 630, gold coins were being struck at the Canterbury mint. [17] In 672, the Synod of Hertford gave the see of Canterbury authority over the entire English Church. [10]

In 842 and 851, Canterbury suffered great loss of life during Danish raids. In 978, Archbishop Dunstan refounded the abbey built by Augustine, and named it St Augustine's Abbey. [18] The siege of Canterbury saw a large Viking army besiege Canterbury in 1011, culminating in the city being pillaged and the eventual murder of Archbishop Alphege in 19 April 1012. [19] Remembering the destruction caused by the Danes, the inhabitants of Canterbury did not resist William the Conqueror's invasion in 1066. [10] William immediately ordered a wooden motte-and-bailey castle to be built by the Roman city wall. In the early 12th century, the castle was rebuilt with stone. [20]

After the murder of the Archbishop Thomas Becket at the cathedral in 1170, Canterbury became one of the most notable towns in Europe, as pilgrims from all parts of Christendom came to visit his shrine. [21] This pilgrimage provided the framework for Geoffrey Chaucer's 14th-century collection of stories, The Canterbury Tales. [22] Canterbury Castle was captured by the French Prince Louis during his 1215 invasion of England, before the death of John caused his English supporters to desert his cause and support the young Henry III. [13]

Canterbury is associated with several saints from this period who lived in Canterbury:

  • Saint Augustine of Canterbury
  • Saint Anselm of Canterbury
  • Saint Thomas Becket
  • Saint Mellitus
  • Saint Theodore of Tarsus
  • Saint Dunstan
  • Saint Adrian of Canterbury
  • Saint Alphege
  • Saint Æthelberht of Kent

14th–17th centuries Edit

The Black Death hit Canterbury in 1348. At 10,000, Canterbury had the 10th largest population in England by the early 16th century, the population had fallen to 3,000. In 1363, during the Hundred Years' War, a Commission of Inquiry found that disrepair, stone-robbing and ditch-filling had led to the Roman wall becoming eroded. Between 1378 and 1402, the wall was virtually rebuilt, and new wall towers were added. [23] In 1381, during Wat Tyler's Peasants' Revolt, the castle and Archbishop's Palace were sacked, and Archbishop Sudbury was beheaded in London. Sudbury is still remembered annually by the Christmas mayoral procession to his tomb at Canterbury Cathedral. In 1413 Henry IV became the only sovereign to be buried at the cathedral. In 1448 Canterbury was granted a City Charter, which gave it a mayor and a high sheriff the city still has a Lord Mayor and Sheriff. [24] In 1504 the cathedral's main tower, the Bell Harry Tower, was completed, ending 400 years of building.

Cardinal Wolsey visited in June 1518 and was given a present of fruit, nuts, and marchpane. In 1519 a public cage for talkative women and other wrongdoers was set up next to the town's pillory at the Bullstake, now the Buttermarket. In 1522 a stone cross with gilt lead stars was erected at the same place, and painted with bice and gilded by Florence the painter. [25] During the Dissolution of the Monasteries, the city's priory, nunnery and three friaries were closed. St Augustine's Abbey, the 14th richest in England at the time, was surrendered to the Crown, and its church and cloister were levelled. The rest of the abbey was dismantled over the next 15 years, although part of the site was converted to a palace. [26] Thomas Becket's shrine in the cathedral was demolished and all the gold, silver and jewels were removed to the Tower of London, and Becket's images, name and feasts were obliterated throughout the kingdom, ending the pilgrimages.

By the 17th century, Canterbury's population was 5,000 of whom 2,000 were French-speaking Protestant Huguenots, who had begun fleeing persecution and war in the Spanish Netherlands in the mid-16th century. The Huguenots introduced silk weaving into the city, which by 1676 had outstripped wool weaving. [27]

In 1620 Robert Cushman negotiated the lease of the Mayflower at 59 Palace Street for the purpose of transporting the Pilgrims to America. Charles I and Henrietta Maria came in 1625 and musicians played while the couple entered the town under a velvet canopy held by six men holding poles. [28]

In 1647, during the English Civil War, riots broke out when Canterbury's puritan mayor banned church services on Christmas Day. The rioters' trial the following year led to a Kent revolt against the Parliamentarian forces, contributing to the start of the second phase of the war. However, Canterbury surrendered peacefully to the Parliamentarians after their victory at the Battle of Maidstone. [29]

18th century–present Edit

The city's first newspaper, the Kentish Post, was founded in 1717. [30] It merged with the newly founded Kentish Gazette in 1768. [31]

By 1770, the castle had fallen into disrepair, and many parts of it were demolished during the late 18th century and early 19th century. [32] In 1787 all the gates in the city wall, except for Westgate—the city jail—were demolished as a result of a commission that found them impeding to new coach travel. [33] Canterbury Prison was opened in 1808 just outside the city boundary. [34] By 1820 the city's silk industry had been killed by imported Indian muslins [27] its trade was thereafter mostly limited to hops and wheat. [13] The Canterbury & Whitstable Railway (The Crab and Winkle Way), the world's first passenger railway, [35] was opened in 1830 [36] bankrupt by 1844, it was purchased by the South Eastern Railway, which connected the town to its larger network in 1846. [37] The London, Chatham, and Dover arrived in 1860 [38] the competition and cost-cutting between the lines was resolved by merging them as the South Eastern and Chatham in 1899. [39] In 1848, St Augustine's Abbey was refurbished for use as a missionary college for the Church of England's representatives in the British colonies. [13] Between 1830 and 1900, the city's population grew from 15,000 to 24,000. [35]

During the First World War, a number of barracks and voluntary hospitals were set up around the city, and in 1917 a German bomber crash-landed near Broad Oak Road. [40]

During the Second World War, 10,445 bombs dropped during 135 separate raids destroyed 731 homes and 296 other buildings in the city, including the missionary college and Simon Langton Girls' Grammar Schools. [41] 119 civilian lives were lost through enemy action in the borough. [42] The most devastating raid was on 1 June 1942 during the Baedeker Blitz. [40] On that day alone, 43 people were killed and nearly 100 sustained wounds. Some 800 buildings were destroyed with 1,000 seriously damaged. Although its library was destroyed, [43] the cathedral did not sustain extensive bomb damage and the local Fire Wardens doused any flames on the wooden roof. [44] On 31 October 1942, the Luftwaffe made a further raid on Canterbury when thirty Focke-Wulf fighter-bombers, supported by sixty fighter escorts, launched a low-level raid on Canterbury. Civilians were strafed and bombed throughout the city resulting in twenty-eight bombs dropped and 30 people killed. Three German planes were shot down by the RAF.

Before the end of the war, architect Charles Holden drew up plans to redevelop the city centre, but locals were so opposed that the Citizens' Defence Association was formed and swept to power in the 1945 municipal elections. Rebuilding of the city centre eventually began 10 years after the war. [45] A ring road was constructed in stages outside the city walls some time afterwards to alleviate growing traffic problems in the city centre, which was later pedestrianised. The biggest expansion of the city occurred in the 1960s, with the arrival of the University of Kent at Canterbury and Christ Church College. [45]

The 1980s saw visits from Pope John Paul II and Queen Elizabeth II, and the beginning of the annual Canterbury Festival. [46] Canterbury received its own radio station in CTFM, now KMFM Canterbury, in 1997. Between 1999 and 2005, the Whitefriars Shopping Centre underwent major redevelopment. In 2000, during the redevelopment, a major archaeological project was undertaken by the Canterbury Archaeological Trust, known as the Big Dig, [47] which was supported by Channel Four's Time Team. [48]

Another famous visitor was Mahatma Gandhi, who came to the city [49] in October 1931 he met [50] Hewlett Johnson, the pro-communist then Dean of Canterbury.

The extensive restoration of the cathedral that was underway in mid 2018 was part of a 2016-2021 schedule that includes replacement of the nave roof, improved landscaping and accessibility, new visitor facilities and a general external restoration. [51] The so-called Canterbury Journey project was expected to cost nearly £25 million. [52]

The Member of Parliament for the Canterbury constituency, which includes Whitstable, is Rosie Duffield of the Labour Party.

The city became a county corporate in 1461, and later a county borough under the Local Government Act 1888. In 1974 it lost its status as the smallest county borough in England, after the Local Government Act 1972, and came under the control of Kent County Council. Canterbury, along with Whitstable and Herne Bay, is now in the City of Canterbury local government district. The city's urban area consists of the six electoral wards of Barton, Blean Forest, Northgate, St Stephens, Westgate, and Wincheap. These wards have eleven of the fifty seats on the Canterbury City Council. Six of these seats are held by the Liberal Democrats, four by the Conservatives and one by Labour. Canterbury City Council's meeting place is the former Church of the Holy Cross. After it was declared redundant and de-consecrated in 1972, it was acquired by the city council and converted for municipal use: it was officially re-opened by the Prince of Wales as the new Guildhall and meeting place of the city council on 9 November 1978. [53]

Canterbury is in east Kent, about 55 miles (89 km) east-southeast of London. The coastal towns of Herne Bay and Whitstable are 6 miles (10 km) to the north, and Faversham is 8 miles (13 km) to the northwest. Nearby villages include Chartham, Rough Common, Sturry and Tyler Hill. The civil parish of Thanington Without is to the southwest the rest of the city is unparished. St Dunstan's, St Stephen's, Longport, Stuppington, Wincheap and Hales Place are suburbs of the city.

The city is on the River Stour or Great Stour, flowing from its source at Lenham north-east through Ashford to the English Channel at Sandwich. As it flows north-east, the river divides west of the city, one branch flowing through the city centre, and the other around the position of the former walls. The two branches create several river islands before finally recombining around the town of Fordwich on the edge of the marshland north east of the city. [54] The Stour is navigable on the tidal section to Fordwich, although above this point canoes and other small craft can be used. Punts and rowed river boats are available for hire in Canterbury. [55] The geology of the area consists mainly of brickearth overlying chalk. Tertiary sands overlain by London clay form St. Thomas's Hill and St. Stephen's Hill about a mile northwest of the city centre. [56]

Canterbury experiences an oceanic climate (Köppen climate classification Cfb), similar to almost all of the United Kingdom. Canterbury enjoys mild temperatures all year round, being between 1.8 °C (35.2 °F) and 22.8 °C (73 °F). There is relatively little rainfall throughout the year.

Climate data for Canterbury
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °C (°F) 7.6
Daily mean °C (°F) 4.3
Average low °C (°F) 2.1
Average precipitation mm (inches) 62.2
Mean monthly sunshine hours 60.9 80.7 116.5 174.2 206.0 206.4 221.8 214.9 155.2 125.0 73.3 48.6 1,683.3
Source 1: [57]
Source 2: [58]
Canterbury compared
2001 UK Census Canterbury city Canterbury district England
Total population 43,432 135,278 49,138,831
Foreign born 11.6% 5.1% 9.2%
White 95% 97% 91%
Asian 1.8% 1.6% 4.6%
Black 0.7% 0.5% 2.3%
Christian 68% 73% 72%
Muslim 1.1% 0.6% 3.1%
Hindu 0.8% 0.4% 1.1%
No religion 20% 17% 15%
Unemployed 3.0% 2.7% 3.3%

At the 2001 UK census, [59] [60] [61] [62] [63] [64] the total population of the city itself was 43,432, and 135,278 within the Canterbury district. In 2011, the total district population was counted as 151,200, with an 11.7% increase from 2001. [65]

By 2011, the population of the city had grown to over 55,000. [66]

In both cases, the city concentrates about one third of the district population.

By 2001, residents of the city had an average age of 37.1 years, younger than the 40.2 average of the district and the 38.6 average for England. Of the 17,536 households, 35% were one-person households, 39% were couples, 10% were lone parents, and 15% other. Of those aged 16–74 in the city, 27% had a higher education qualification, higher than the 20% national average.

Compared with the rest of England, the city had an above-average proportion of foreign-born residents, at around 12%. Ninety-five percent of residents were recorded as white the largest minority group was recorded as Asian, at 1.8% of the population. Religion was recorded as 68.2% Christian, 1.1% Muslim, 0.5% Buddhist, 0.8% Hindu, 0.2% Jewish, and 0.1% Sikh. The rest either had no religion, an alternative religion, or did not state their religion.

Population growth in Canterbury since 1901
Year 1901 1911 1921 1931 1939 1951 1961 1971 2001
Population 24,899 24,626 23,737 24,446 26,999 27,795 30,415 33,155 43,432
Source: A Vision of Britain through Time

Canterbury district retained approximately 4,761 businesses, up to 60,000 full and part-time employees and was worth £1.3 billion in 2001. [67] This made the district the second largest economy in Kent. [67] Today, the three primary sectors are tourism, higher education and retail. [68]

In 2015, the value of tourism to the city of Canterbury was over £450 million 7.2 million people visited that year. A full 9,378 jobs were supported by tourism, an increase of 6% over the previous year. [69] The two universities provided an even greater benefit. In 2014/2015, the University of Kent and Canterbury Christ Church University were worth £909m to city's economy and accounted for 16% of all jobs. [70]

Unemployment in the city has dropped significantly since 2001 owing to the opening of the Whitefriars shopping complex which introduced thousands of job opportunities. [71] The city's economy benefits mainly from significant economic projects such as the Canterbury Enterprise Hub, Lakesview International Business Park and the Whitefriars retail development. [67]

The registered unemployment rate as of September 2011 stood at 5.7%. By May 2018, the rate had dropped to 1.8% in fact, Kent in general had a moderate unemployment rate of 2%. This data considers only people claiming either Jobseekers Allowance or Universal Credit principally for the reason of being unemployed. It does not include those without access to such benefits. [72] At the time, the national rate was 4.2%. [73]

Landmarks Edit

Canterbury Cathedral is the Mother Church of the Anglican Communion and seat of the Archbishop of Canterbury. Founded in 597 AD by Augustine, it forms a World Heritage Site, along with the Saxon St. Martin's Church and the ruins of St Augustine's Abbey. With one million visitors per year, it is one of the most visited places in the country. Services are held at the cathedral three or more times a day. [74] [75]

The Roman Museum houses an in situ mosaic pavement dating from around 300 AD. [76] Surviving structures from the Roman times include Queningate, a blocked gate in the city wall, and the Dane John Mound, once part of a Roman cemetery. [77] The Dane John Gardens were built beside the mound in the 18th century, and a memorial was placed on the mound's summit. [78] A windmill was on the mound between 1731 and 1839.

The Westgate is now a museum relating to its history as a jail. The medieval church of St Alphege became redundant in 1982 but had a new lease of life as the Canterbury Urban Studies Centre, later renamed the Canterbury Environment Centre the building is used by the King's School. The Old Synagogue, now the King's School Music Room, is one of only two Egyptian Revival synagogues still standing. The city centre contains many timber-framed 16th and 17th century houses, however there are far fewer than there were before the Second World War, as many were damaged during the Baedeker Blitz. Many are still standing, including the "Old Weaver's House" used by the Huguenots. [79] St Martin's Mill is the only surviving mill out of the six known to have stood in Canterbury. It was built in 1817 and worked until 1890 it is now a house conversion. [80] St Thomas of Canterbury Church is the only Roman Catholic church in the city and contains relics of Thomas Becket. [81]

Canterbury Heritage Museum housed many exhibits, including the Rupert Bear Museum. The museum has now closed despite a campaign for it to remain open. [82] The Canterbury Tales visitor attraction, an interactive tour through Chaucer's tales using costumed characters and waxworks, announced its permanent closure in April 2020. [83] The ruins of the Norman Canterbury Castle have remained closed to the public since 2017 due to falling masonry, with plans for the site to reopen in 2021. [84]

Herne Bay Times has reported that the Heritage at Risk Register includes 19 listed buildings in Canterbury which need urgent repair but for which the council has insufficient funds. [85]

Theatres Edit

The city's theatre and concert hall is the Marlowe Theatre named after Christopher Marlowe, who was born in the city in Elizabethan times. He was baptised in the city's St George's Church, which was destroyed during the Second World War. [86] The old Marlowe Theatre was located in St Margaret's Street and housed a repertory theatre. The Gulbenkian Theatre, at the University of Kent, also serves the city, housing also a cinema and café. [87] The Marlowe Theatre was completely rebuilt and reopened in October 2011.

Besides the two theatres, theatrical performances take place at several areas of the city, for instance the cathedral and St Augustine's Abbey. The premiere of Murder in the Cathedral by T. S. Eliot took place at Canterbury Cathedral. [88]

The oldest surviving Tudor theatre in Canterbury is now the Shakespeare, [89] formerly known as Casey's. There are several theatre groups based in Canterbury, including the University of Kent Students' Union's T24 Drama Society, The Canterbury Players [90] and Kent Youth Theatre.

Marlowe Theatre Edit

The redeveloped Marlowe Theatre is (at the time of writing) the largest theatre in the region, offering touring productions and concerts. The programme includes musicals, drama, ballet, contemporary dance, classical orchestras, opera, children's shows, pantomime, stand-up comedy and concerts. There is also a second performance space called the Marlowe Studio, dedicated to creative activity and the programming of new work. The Marlowe Theatre can be seen from many points throughout the city centre, considering it is the only modern and tall structure.

Music Edit

The cathedral Edit

Medieval Edit

Polyphonic music written for the monks of Christ Church Priory (the cathedral) survives from the 13th century. The cathedral may have had an organ as early as the 12th century, [91] though the names of organists are only recorded from the early 15th century. [92] One of the earliest named composers associated with Canterbury Cathedral was Leonel Power, who was appointed master of the new Lady Chapel choir formed in 1438.

Post-Reformation Edit

The Reformation brought a period of decline in the cathedral's music which was revived under Dean Thomas Neville in the early 17th century. Neville introduced instrumentalists into the cathedral's music who played cornett and sackbut, probably members of the city's band of waits. The cathedral acquired sets of recorders, lutes and viols for the use of the choir boys and lay-clerks. [91]

The city Edit

Early modern Edit

As was common in English cities in the Middle Ages, Canterbury employed a town band known as the Waits. There are records of payments to the Waits starting from 1402, though they probably existed earlier than this. The Waits were disbanded by the city authorities in 1641 for 'misdemeanors' but were reinstated in 1660 when they played for the visit of King Charles II on his return from exile. [93] Waits were eventually abolished nationally by the Municipal Corporations Act of 1835. A modern early music group called The Canterbury Waits has revived the name. [94]

The Canterbury Catch Club was a musical and social club which met in the city between 1779 and 1865. The club (male only) met weekly in the winter. It employed an orchestra to assist in performances in the first half of the evening. After the interval, the members sang catches and glees from the club's extensive music library (now deposited at the Cathedral Archives in Canterbury). [95]

Contemporary Edit

The city gave its name to a musical genre known as the Canterbury Sound or Canterbury Scene, a group of progressive rock, avant-garde and jazz musicians established within the city during the late 1960s and early 1970s. Some very notable Canterbury bands were Soft Machine, Caravan, Matching Mole, Egg, Hatfield and the North, National Health, Gilgamesh, Soft Heap, Khan and In Cahoots. Over the years, with band membership changes and new bands evolving, the term has been used to describe a musical style or subgenre, rather than a regional group of musicians. [96] During the 1970-80s the Canterbury 'Odeon' now the site of the 'New Marlow' played host to many of the Punk and new wave bands of the era including, The Clash, The Ramones, Blondie, Sham69, Magazine, XTC, Dr Feelgood, Elvis Costello and The Attractions, and The Stranglers.

The University of Kent has hosted concerts by bands including Led Zeppelin [97] and The Who. [98] Ian Dury, front man of the 70s rock band Ian Dury and the Blockheads, taught Fine Art at UCA Canterbury [99] and also performed in the city in the early incarnation of his band Kilburn and the High Roads. During the late seventies and early eighties the Canterbury Odeon hosted a number of major acts, including The Cure [100] and Joy Division. [101] The Marlowe Theatre is also used for many musical performances, such as Don McLean in 2007, [102] and Fairport Convention in 2008. [103] A regular music and dance venue is the Westgate Hall.

The Canterbury Choral Society gives regular concerts in Canterbury Cathedral, specialising in the large-scale choral works of the classical repertory. [104] The Canterbury Orchestra, founded in 1953, is a thriving group of enthusiastic players who regularly tackle major works from the symphonic repertoire. [105] Other musical groups include the Canterbury Singers (also founded in 1953), Cantemus, and the City of Canterbury Chamber Choir. [106] The University of Kent has a Symphony Orchestra, a University Choir, a Chamber Choir, and a University Concert Band and Big Band. [107]

The Canterbury Festival takes place over two weeks in October each year in Canterbury and the surrounding towns. It includes a wide range of musical events ranging from opera and symphony concerts to world music, jazz, folk, etc., with a Festival Club, a Fringe and Umbrella events. [108] Canterbury also hosts the annual Lounge On The Farm festival in July, which mainly sees performances from rock, indie and dance artists.

Composers Edit

Composers with an association with Canterbury include

    (c. 1505–1585), became a lay clerk (singing man) at Canterbury Cathedral c. 1540 and was subsequently appointed a Gentleman of the Chapel Royal in 1543. [91] (1571–1638), born in Canterbury, a chorister at Canterbury Cathedral, composed madrigals, works for viol consort, services, and anthems. (1583–1625), organist, composer and Gentleman of the Chapel Royal, who died in Canterbury and was buried in the cathedral. (1709–1798), born in Canterbury, a chorister at Canterbury Cathedral, was an organist, viola player and composer. (1752–1828), lawyer, amateur composer and concert organiser, wrote two symphonies for the Canterbury Orchestra before moving to Chichester in 1784. (1775–1859), shoemaker and organist at the Methodist church in Canterbury, composer of 'West Gallery' hymns and psalm tunes. [109]
  • Sir George Job Elvey (1816–1893), organist and composer, was born in Canterbury and trained as a chorister at the cathedral. (1934–1996) educator and broadcaster, composer of church, orchestral and chamber music.
  • Sir Peter Maxwell Davies (1934-2016) was appointed an Honorary Fellow of Canterbury Christ Church University at a ceremony in Canterbury Cathedral.
  • Many Canterbury Cathedral organists composed services, anthems, hymns, etc.

Sport Edit

St Lawrence Ground is notable as one of the two grounds used regularly for first-class cricket that have a tree within the boundary (the other is the City Oval in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa). It is the home ground of Kent County Cricket Club and has hosted several One Day Internationals, including one England match during the 1999 Cricket World Cup. [110]

Canterbury City F.C. reformed in 2007 as a community interest company and currently compete in the Southern Counties East Football League. The previous incarnation of the club folded in 2001. [111] Canterbury RFC were founded in 1926 and became the first East Kent club to achieve National League status and currently play in the fourth tier, National League 2 South. [112]

The Tour de France has visited the city twice. In 1994 the tour passed through, and in 2007 it held the finish for Stage 1. [113]

Canterbury Hockey Club is one of the largest clubs in the country and enter teams in both the Men's and Women's England Hockey Leagues. [114] Former Olympic gold medal winner Sean Kerly also a member of the club. [115]

Sporting activities for the public are provided at the Kingsmead Leisure Centre, which has a 33-metre (108 ft) swimming pool and a sports hall for football, basketball, and badminton. [116]

Railway Edit

Canterbury was the terminus of the Canterbury & Whitstable Railway (known locally as the Crab and Winkle line), which was a pioneer line, opening on 3 May 1830 and closing in 1953. The Canterbury & Whitstable was the first regular passenger steam railway in the world. [117] The first station in Canterbury was at North Lane.

Canterbury has two railway stations, called Canterbury West and Canterbury East (despite both stations being west of the city centre, Canterbury West is to the northwest and Canterbury East is to the southwest). Both stations are operated by Southeastern. Canterbury West station, on the South Eastern Railway from Ashford, was opened on 6 February 1846, and on 13 April the line to Ramsgate was completed. Canterbury West is served by High Speed 1 trains to London St Pancras, slower stopping services to London Charing Cross and London Victoria as well as by trains to Ramsgate and Margate. Canterbury East, the more central of the two stations, was opened by the London, Chatham & Dover Railway on 9 July 1860. Services from London Victoria stop at Canterbury East and continue to Dover.

Because the two main lines into the city were built by rival companies, there is no direct interchange between Canterbury West and Canterbury East. A proposed Canterbury Parkway railway station would allow this, as well as acting as a further station for commuters avoiding the city centre. [118]

Canterbury used to be served by two other stations. North Lane station was the southern terminus of the Canterbury & Whitstable Railway between 1830 and 1846. Canterbury South was on the Elham Valley Railway. The station opened in 1889 and closed, along with the rest of the railway, in 1947. [119]

Road Edit

Canterbury is by-passed by the A2 London to Dover Road. It is about 45 miles (72 km) from the M25 London orbital motorway, and 61 miles (98 km) from central London by road. One of the other main roads through Canterbury is the A28 from Ashford to Ramsgate and Margate.

The City Council has invested in Park and Ride systems around the city's outskirts, with three sites: at Wincheap, New Dover Road and Sturry Road. There are plans to build direct access sliproads to and from the London directions of the A2 where it meets the congested Wincheap (at present there are only slips from the A28 to and from the direction of Dover) to allow more direct access to Canterbury from the A2, but these are currently subject to local discussion. In 2011 a third junction was constructed, linking the A28 to the northbound A2 this leaves just the A2 southbound exit missing, but since this would cut across the Park & Ride car park and meet the A28 at an already complicated junction, it is not expected to be added in the near term. [120]

The hourly National Express 007 coach service to and from Victoria Coach Station, which leaves from the main bus station, is typically scheduled to take two hours. Eurolines coaches run from the bus station to London and Paris.

Stagecoach in East Kent runs most local bus routes in Canterbury as well as long-distance services. The group runs a special 'Unibus' service, with the buses running on 100% bio fuel from the city centre to the University of Kent. [121]

Cycling and walking Edit

In the city centre, National Cycle Routes 1 and 18 cross and go off towards Whitstable on the Crab and Winkle Way (1), and Chartham via the Great Stour Way (18), providing easy access by bike from the west of the city. There are also multiple cycle routes into the city centre from Nackington Road (Simon Langton Boys School), Hales Place, the University, St Dunstans and Harbledown, Blean, Rough Common and St Stephens. Footpaths scatter the city and give access to beauty spots such as on New House Lane and Stuppington with views of the city and Cathedral. Kent Cycle Hire runs a private hire service to cycle to Whitstable and Herne Bay, and from the University to the high street. Next to buses, cycling is the most popular transport option in Canterbury due to good cycle routes and the flat of the valley in the City centre and immediate suburbs.

Universities and colleges Edit

The city has an estimated 31,000 students (the highest student/permanent resident ratio in the UK). [122] It is home to three universities, together with several other higher education institutions and colleges. [123] at the 2001 census, 22% of the population aged 16–74 were full-time students, compared with 7% throughout England. [ citation needed ]

The University of Kent's main campus is situated over 600 acres (243 ha) on St. Stephen's Hill, a mile north of Canterbury city centre. Formerly called the University of Kent at Canterbury, it was founded in 1965, with a smaller campus opened in 2000 in the town of Chatham. As of 2014 [update] , it had around 20,000 students. [124]

Canterbury Christ Church University was founded as a teacher training college in 1962 by the Church of England. In 1978 its range of courses began to expand into other subjects, and in 1995 it was given the power to become a University college. In 2005 it was granted full university status, and as of 2007 [update] it had around 15,000 students. [125]

As of 2021, the University of Kent and Canterbury Christchurch university will share a medical school. [126]

The University for the Creative Arts is the oldest higher education institution in the city, having been founded in 1882 by Thomas Sidney Cooper as the Sidney Cooper School of Art. Near the University of Kent is the Franciscan International Study Centre, [127] a place of study for the worldwide Franciscan Order. Chaucer College is an independent college for Japanese and other students within the campus of the University of Kent. Canterbury College, formerly Canterbury College of Technology, offers a mixture of vocation, further and higher education courses for school leavers and adults.

Primary and secondary schools Edit

St John's Church of England Primary School was founded as a Board School in 1876. The original neo-Classical school building on St John's Place is now a private house, with the school housed in larger buildings at the end of the street.

Independent secondary schools include Kent College, St Edmund's School and the King's School, the oldest in the United Kingdom. St. Augustine established a school shortly after his arrival in Canterbury in 597, and it is from this that the King's School grew. The documented history of the school only began after the Dissolution of the Monasteries in the 16th century, when the school acquired its present name, referring to Henry VIII. [128] The Kings School in Canterbury is one of the top public schools in the United Kingdom, regularly featuring in the top ten most expensive school fees lists.

The city's secondary grammar schools are Barton Court Grammar School, Simon Langton Grammar School for Boys and Simon Langton Girls' Grammar School all of which in 2008 had over 93% of their pupils gain five or more GCSEs at grades A* to C, including English and maths. [129] The non-selective state secondary schools are The Canterbury High School, St Anselm's Catholic School and the Church of England's Archbishop's School all of which in 2008 had more than 30% of their pupils gain five or more GCSEs at grades A* to C including English and maths.

Newspapers Edit

Canterbury's first newspaper was the Kentish Post, founded in 1717. [30] It changed its name to the Kentish Gazette in 1768 [130] and is still being published, claiming to be the country's second oldest surviving newspaper. [131] It is currently produced as a paid-for newspaper produced by the KM Group, based in nearby Whitstable. This newspaper covers the East Kent area and has a circulation of about 25,000. [132]

Three free weekly newspapers provide news on the Canterbury district: yourcanterbury, the Canterbury Times and Canterbury Extra. The Canterbury Times is owned by the Daily Mail and General Trust and has a circulation of about 55,000. [133] [134] The Canterbury Extra is owned by the KM Group and also has a circulation of about 55,000. [135] yourcanterbury is published by KOS Media, which also prints the popular county paper Kent on Sunday. It also runs a website giving daily updated news and events for the city. [136]

Radio and television Edit

Canterbury is served by 2 local radio stations, KMFM Canterbury and CSR 97.4FM.

KMFM Canterbury broadcasts on 106FM. It was formerly known as KMFM106, and before the KM Group took control it was known as CTFM, based on the local postcode being CT. [137] Previously based in the city, the station's studios and presenters were moved to Ashford in 2008. [138]

CSR 97.4FM, an acronym for "Community Student Radio", broadcasts on 97.4FM from studios at both the University of Kent and Canterbury Christ Church University. The station is run by a collaboration of education establishments in the city including the two universities. The transmitter is based at the University of Kent, offering a good coverage of the city. [139] CSR replaced two existing radio stations: C4 Radio, which served Canterbury Christ Church University, and UKC Radio, which served the University of Kent.

There are 2 other stations that cover parts of the city. Canterbury Hospital Radio (CHR) serves the patients of the Kent and Canterbury Hospital, [140] and Simon Langton Boys School has a radio station, SLBSLive, which can only be picked up on the school grounds. [141] The city receives BBC One South East and ITV Meridian from the main transmitter at Dover, and a local relay situated at Chartham.

People born in Canterbury include:

    , restoration playwright and novelist , actor , BBC Radio 6 Music presenter , first-class cricketer and British Army officer , Victorian animal painter [142] , former ITV News journalist, television presenter and BBC Radio 3 presenter (1871–1933) was the first Bishop of Damaraland (Namibia) from 1924 to 1933. , actress and singer , [143] cricketer , 17th/18th-century astronomer, and electricity pioneer was born in Canterbury in 1666. , [144] physician , [145] airline entrepreneur , comic book artist , actor , [146] , [144] writer , [147] boy singer and actor , [148] TV presenter , [149] Harpsichordist, conductor, founder of The English Concert. , [144] film director and former pupil of The King's School, Canterbury. (1846-1917), detective (1874-1948), the creator of Rupert Bear, [150] were both born and lived in the city

In November 2012, Rowan Williams was awarded Freedom of the City for his work as Archbishop of Canterbury between 2003 and 2012. [151]

The grave of author Joseph Conrad, in Canterbury Cemetery at 32 Clifton Gardens, is a Grade II listed building. [152]

Canterbury is twinned with the following cities:

City to city partnership

  • Saint-Omer, France, since 1995
  • Wimereux, France, since 1995
  • Certaldo, Italy, since 1997
  • Vladimir, Russia, since 1997
  • Mölndal, Sweden, since 1997
  • Tournai, Belgium, since 1999

The following people and military units have received the Freedom of the City of Canterbury.

Individuals Edit

Military Units Edit

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There is a charge to enter the Precincts (grounds) and the Cathedral during the above opening times, unless you are attending a service or have a Precincts Pass (see below).

Child (aged 17 and under): FREE when accompanied by a paying adult (maximum two children per paying adult does not apply to group bookings). Kids Go Free offer runs until 31 October 2021
Adult (aged 18 and over): £14.00 (inclusive of VAT). There is also the option to make an additional £3 donation to support our stewardship of the Cathedral
Students Students studying full-time at local universities (Canterbury Christ Church University, University of Kent, and the University for the Creative Arts) enjoy free entry with their student ID.

Timed entry tickets must be pre-booked online via our website.
This is to help us safely manage physical distancing and the number of people in the Cathedral and Precincts. Click here to book your tickets.

It costs approx. £20,000 per day to ensure the Cathedral is a safe as well as beautiful place to visit and worship in, and, although representing only one third of our annual needs, visitor income is our most important source of income. We thank you for your contribution.

For details of our services of worship, please see Worship & Music


The main sources for the life of Becket are a number of biographies written by contemporaries. A few of these documents are by unknown writers, although traditional historiography has given them names. The known biographers are John of Salisbury, Edward Grim, Benedict of Peterborough, William of Canterbury, William fitzStephen, Guernes of Pont-Sainte-Maxence, Robert of Cricklade, Alan of Tewkesbury, Benet of St Albans, and Herbert of Bosham. The other biographers, who remain anonymous, are generally given the pseudonyms of Anonymous I, Anonymous II (or Anonymous of Lambeth), and Anonymous III (or Lansdowne Anonymous). Besides these accounts, there are also two other accounts that are likely contemporary that appear in the Quadrilogus II and the Thómas saga erkibyskups. Besides these biographies, there is also the mention of the events of Becket's life in the chroniclers of the time. These include Robert of Torigni's work, Roger of Howden's Gesta Regis Henrici Secundi and Chronica, Ralph Diceto's works, William of Newburgh's Historia Rerum, and Gervase of Canterbury's works. [3]

Becket was born about 1119, [4] or in 1120 according to later tradition. [1] He was born on Cheapside, London, on 21 December, which was the feast day of St Thomas the Apostle. He was the son of Gilbert and Matilda Beket [sic]. [note 2] Gilbert's father was from Thierville in the lordship of Brionne in Normandy, and was either a small landowner or a petty knight. [1] Matilda was also of Norman descent, [2] and her family may have originated near Caen. Gilbert was perhaps related to Theobald of Bec, whose family also was from Thierville. Gilbert began his life as a merchant, perhaps in textiles, but by the 1120s he was living in London and was a property owner, living on the rental income from his properties. He also served as the sheriff of the city at some point. [1] They were buried in Old St Paul's Cathedral.

One of Becket's father's wealthy friends, Richer de L'Aigle, often invited Thomas to his estates in Sussex where Becket was exposed to hunting and hawking. According to Grim, Becket learned much from Richer, who was later a signatory of the Constitutions of Clarendon against Thomas. [1]

Beginning when he was 10, Becket was sent as a student to Merton Priory southwest of the city in Surrey and later attended a grammar school in London, perhaps the one at St Paul's Cathedral. He did not study any subjects beyond the trivium and quadrivium at these schools. Later, he spent about a year in Paris around age 20. He did not, however, study canon or civil law at this time and his Latin skill always remained somewhat rudimentary. Some time after Becket began his schooling, Gilbert Beket suffered financial reverses, and the younger Becket was forced to earn a living as a clerk. Gilbert first secured a place for his son in the business of a relative—Osbert Huitdeniers—and then later Becket acquired a position in the household of Theobald of Bec, by now the Archbishop of Canterbury. [1]

Theobald entrusted him with several important missions to Rome and also sent him to Bologna and Auxerre to study canon law. In 1154, Theobald named Becket Archdeacon of Canterbury, and other ecclesiastical offices included a number of benefices, prebends at Lincoln Cathedral and St Paul's Cathedral, and the office of Provost of Beverley. His efficiency in those posts led to Theobald recommending him to King Henry II for the vacant post of Lord Chancellor, [1] to which Becket was appointed in January 1155. [7]

As Chancellor, Becket enforced the king's traditional sources of revenue that were exacted from all landowners, including churches and bishoprics. [1] King Henry sent his son Henry to live in Becket's household, it being the custom then for noble children to be fostered out to other noble houses. [ citation needed ]

Becket was nominated as Archbishop of Canterbury in 1162, several months after the death of Theobald. His election was confirmed on 23 May 1162 by a royal council of bishops and noblemen. [1] Henry may have hoped that Becket would continue to put the royal government first, rather than the church. However, the famous transformation of Becket into an ascetic occurred at this time. [8]

Becket was ordained a priest on 2 June 1162 at Canterbury, and on 3 June 1162 was consecrated as archbishop by Henry of Blois, the Bishop of Winchester and the other suffragan bishops of Canterbury. [1]

A rift grew between Henry and Becket as the new archbishop resigned his chancellorship and sought to recover and extend the rights of the archbishopric. This led to a series of conflicts with the King, including that over the jurisdiction of secular courts over English clergymen, which accelerated antipathy between Becket and the king. Attempts by Henry to influence the other bishops against Becket began in Westminster in October 1163, where the King sought approval of the traditional rights of the royal government in regard to the church. [1] This led to the Constitutions of Clarendon, where Becket was officially asked to agree to the King's rights or face political repercussions.

King Henry II presided over the assemblies of most of the higher English clergy at Clarendon Palace on 30 January 1164. In sixteen constitutions, he sought less clerical independence and a weaker connection with Rome. He employed all his skills to induce their consent and was apparently successful with all but Becket. Finally, even Becket expressed his willingness to agree to the substance of the Constitutions of Clarendon, but he still refused to formally sign the documents. Henry summoned Becket to appear before a great council at Northampton Castle on 8 October 1164, to answer allegations of contempt of royal authority and malfeasance in the Chancellor's office. Convicted on the charges, Becket stormed out of the trial and fled to the Continent. [1]

Henry pursued the fugitive archbishop with a series of edicts, targeting Becket as well as all of Becket's friends and supporters, but King Louis VII of France offered Becket protection. He spent nearly two years in the Cistercian abbey of Pontigny, until Henry's threats against the order obliged him to return to Sens. Becket fought back by threatening excommunication and interdict against the king and bishops and the kingdom, but Pope Alexander III, though sympathising with him in theory, favoured a more diplomatic approach. Papal legates were sent in 1167 with authority to act as arbitrators. [1]

In 1170, Alexander sent delegates to impose a solution to the dispute. At that point, Henry offered a compromise that would allow Thomas to return to England from exile. [1]

In June 1170, Roger de Pont L'Évêque, the archbishop of York, along with Gilbert Foliot, the Bishop of London, and Josceline de Bohon, the Bishop of Salisbury, crowned the heir apparent, Henry the Young King, at York. This was a breach of Canterbury's privilege of coronation, and in November 1170 Becket excommunicated all three. [10]

Upon hearing reports of Becket's actions, Henry is said to have uttered words that were interpreted by his men as wishing Becket killed. [11] The king's exact words are in doubt and several versions have been reported. [12] The most commonly quoted, as handed down by oral tradition, is "Will no one rid me of this turbulent priest?", [13] but according to historian Simon Schama this is incorrect: he accepts the account of the contemporary biographer Edward Grim, writing in Latin, who gives us "What miserable drones and traitors have I nourished and brought up in my household, who let their lord be treated with such shameful contempt by a low-born cleric?" [14] Many variations have found their way into popular culture.

Whatever Henry said, it was interpreted as a royal command, and four knights, [11] Reginald FitzUrse, Hugh de Morville, William de Tracy and Richard le Breton, [1] set out to confront the Archbishop of Canterbury.

On 29 December 1170, they arrived at Canterbury. According to accounts left by the monk Gervase of Canterbury and eyewitness Edward Grim, they placed their weapons under a tree outside the cathedral and hid their mail armour under cloaks before entering to challenge Becket. The knights informed Becket he was to go to Winchester to give an account of his actions, but Becket refused. It was not until Becket refused their demands to submit to the king's will that they retrieved their weapons and rushed back inside for the killing. [15] Becket, meanwhile, proceeded to the main hall for vespers. The other monks tried to bolt themselves in for safety, but Becket said to them, "It is not right to make a fortress out of the house of prayer!," ordering them to reopen the doors.

The four knights, wielding drawn swords, ran into the room saying "Where is Thomas Becket, traitor to the King and country?!". The knights found Becket in a spot near a door to the monastic cloister, the stairs into the crypt, and the stairs leading up into the quire of the cathedral, where the monks were chanting vespers. [1] Upon seeing them, Becket said, "I am no traitor and I am ready to die." One knight grabbed him and tried to pull him outside, but Becket grabbed onto a pillar and bowed his head to make peace with God. [ citation needed ]

Several contemporary accounts of what happened next exist of particular note is that of Grim, who was wounded in the attack. This is part of his account:

. the impious knight. suddenly set upon him and [shaved] off the summit of his crown which the sacred chrism consecrated to God. Then, with another blow received on the head, he remained firm. But with the third the stricken martyr bent his knees and elbows, offering himself as a living sacrifice, saying in a low voice, "For the name of Jesus and the protection of the church I am ready to embrace death." But the third knight inflicted a grave wound on the fallen one with this blow. his crown, which was large, separated from his head so that the blood turned white from the brain yet no less did the brain turn red from the blood it purpled the appearance of the church. The fifth – not a knight but a cleric who had entered with the knights. placed his foot on the neck of the holy priest and precious martyr and (it is horrible to say) scattered the brains with the blood across the floor, exclaiming to the rest, "We can leave this place, knights, he will not get up again." [16]

Another account can be found in Expugnatio Hibernica ("Conquest of Ireland", 1189) written by Gerald of Wales. [17]

Following Becket's death, the monks prepared his body for burial. [1] According to some accounts, it was discovered that Becket had worn a hairshirt under his archbishop's garments—a sign of penance. [18] Soon after, the faithful throughout Europe began venerating Becket as a martyr, and on 21 February 1173—little more than two years after his death—he was canonised by Pope Alexander III in St Peter's Church in Segni. [1] In 1173, Becket's sister Mary was appointed Abbess of Barking as reparation for the murder of her brother. [19] On 12 July 1174, in the midst of the Revolt of 1173–74, Henry humbled himself with public penance at Becket's tomb as well as at the church of St. Dunstan's, which became one of the most popular pilgrimage sites in England.

Becket's assassins fled north to de Morville's Knaresborough Castle, where they remained for about a year. De Morville also held property in Cumbria and this may also have provided a convenient bolt-hole, as the men prepared for a longer stay in the separate kingdom of Scotland. They were not arrested and neither did Henry confiscate their lands, but he did not help them when they sought his advice in August 1171. Pope Alexander excommunicated all four. Seeking forgiveness, the assassins travelled to Rome and were ordered by the Pope to serve as knights in the Holy Lands for a period of fourteen years. [20]

This sentence also inspired the Knights of Saint Thomas, incorporated in 1191 at Acre, and which was to be modelled on the Teutonic Knights. This was the only military order native to England (with chapters in not only Acre, but London, Kilkenny, and Nicosia), just as the Gilbertine Order was the only monastic order native to England. Nevertheless, Henry VIII dissolved both of these English institutions at the time of the Reformation, rather than merging them with foreign orders or nationalising them as elements of the Protestant Church of England.

The monks were afraid that Becket's body might be stolen. To prevent this, Becket's remains were placed beneath the floor of the eastern crypt of the cathedral. [20] A stone cover was placed over the burial place with two holes where pilgrims could insert their heads and kiss the tomb [1] this arrangement is illustrated in the "Miracle Windows" of the Trinity Chapel. A guard chamber (now called the Wax Chamber) had a clear view of the grave. In 1220, Becket's bones were moved to a new gold-plated and bejewelled shrine behind the high altar in the Trinity Chapel. [21] The shrine was supported by three pairs of pillars, placed on a raised platform with three steps. This is also illustrated in one of the miracle windows. Canterbury, because of its religious history, had always seen many pilgrims, and after the death of Thomas Becket their numbers rose rapidly.

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