The History of Kent
Copyright Kent Past 2010
History of Canterbury Cathedral
Canterbury Cathedral is the cathedral of the Archbishop of Canterbury, leader of
the Church of England and symbolic leader of the worldwide Anglican Communion. Its
formal title is the Cathedral and Metropolitical Church of Christ at Canterbury.
The cathedral's first archbishop was , previously abbot of St. Andrew's Benedictine Abbey in Rome. He was sent by Pope Gregory the Great in 597AD as a missionary to the Anglo-
Augustine founded the cathedral in 602AD and dedicated it to St. Saviour. Archaeological
investigations under the nave floor in 1993 revealed the foundations of the original
Saxon cathedral, which had been built across a former Roman road.
Augustine also founded the Abbey of St. Peter and Paul outside the city walls. This was later rededicated to St. Augustine himself and, for many centuries, the burial place of successive archbishops. The abbey is part of the World Heritage Site of Canterbury, along with the ancient .
A second building, a baptistery or mausoleum, was built on exactly the same axis as the cathedral by Archbishop Cuthbert (740-
During the reforms of Archbishop
The Saxon cathedral was badly damaged during Danish raids on Canterbury in 1011. The Archbishop,
Priors of Christ Church Priory included John of Sittingbourne (elected 1222, previously a monk of the priory) and William Chillenden, (elected 1264, previously monk and treasurer of the priory). The monastery was granted the right to elect their own prior if the seat was vacant by the pope, and -
After the Norman Conquest in 1066, Lanfranc (1070�1077) became the first Norman archbishop. He thoroughly rebuilt the ruined Saxon cathedral in a Norman design based heavily on the Abbey of St. Etienne in Caen, of which he had previously been abbot. The new cathedral was dedicated in 1077.
A pivotal moment in the history of Canterbury Cathedral was the murder of
Following a disastrous fire of 1174 which destroyed the entire eastern end, William of Sens rebuilt the choir with an important example of the Early English Gothic design, including high pointed arches, flying buttresses, and rib vaulting. Later, William the Englishman added the Trinity Chapel as a shrine for the relics of St. Thomas the Martyr. The Corona Tower was built at the eastern end to contain the relic of the crown of St. Thomas's head which was struck off during his murder. Over time, other significant burials took place in this area such as Edward, the Black Prince, Plantagenet and King Henry IV.
The income from pilgrims visiting Becket's shrine, which was regarded as a place of healing, largely paid for the subsequent rebuilding of the Cathedral and its associated buildings. This revenue included the sale of pilgrim badges depicting Becket, his martyrdom, or his shrine.
A curious bird's-
The buildings at Canterbury, as at St Gall, form separate groups. The church forms the nucleus. In immediate contact with this, on the north side, lie the cloister and the group of buildings devoted to the monastic life. Outside of these, to the west and east, are the halls and chambers devoted to the exercise of hospitality, with which every monastery was provided, for the purpose of receiving as guests persons who visited it, whether clergy or laity, travellers, pilgrims or paupers.
To the north, a large open court divides the monastic from the menial buildings, intentionally placed as remote as possible from the conventional buildings proper, the stables, granaries, barn, bake house, brew house, laundries, etc., inhabited by the lay servants of the establishment. At the greatest possible distance from the church, beyond the precinct of the convent, is the eleemosynary department. The almonry for the relief of the poor, with a great hall annexed, forms the paupers' hospitium.
The most important group of buildings is naturally that devoted to monastic life. This includes two Cloisters, the great cloister surrounded by the buildings essentially connected with the daily life of the monks,-
Eastward of this cloister extend the hall and chapel of the infirmary, resembling in form and arrangement the nave and chancel of an aisled church. Beneath the dormitory, looking out into the green court or herbarium lays the pisalis or calefactory, the common room of the monks. At its north-
A second smaller dormitory runs from east to west for the accommodation of the conventional officers, who were bound to sleep in the dormitory. Close to the refectory, but outside the cloisters, are the domestic offices connected with it: to the north, the kitchen, 14 m square, surmounted by a lofty pyramidal roof, and the kitchen court; to the west, the butteries, pantries, etc. The infirmary had a small kitchen of its own. Opposite the refectory door in the cloister are two lavatories, an invariable adjunct to a monastic dining-
The buildings devoted to hospitality were divided into three groups. The prior's group, entered at the south-
The cathedral ceased to be an abbey during the Dissolution of the Monasteries when all religious houses were suppressed. Canterbury surrendered in March 1539, and reverted to its previous status of' a college of secular canons. The New Foundation came into being on 8 April 1541.
In 1688, the joiner Roger Davis, citizen of London, removed the 13th century misericords and replaced them with two rows of his own work on each side of the choir. Some of Davis's misericords have a distinctly medieval flavour and he may have copied some of the original designs. When Sir George Gilbert Scott performed his renovations in the 19th century, he ripped out the front row of Davis misericords, replacing them with his own designs, which also seem to contain many copies of the misericords at Gloucester Cathedral, Worcester Cathedral and New College, Oxford.
The original Norman northwest tower was demolished in the late 18th century due to structural concerns. It was replaced during the 1830s with a Perpendicular style twin of the southwest tower, currently known as the Arundel Tower. This was the last major structural alteration to the cathedral to be made.
The Romanesque monastic dormitory ruins were replaced with a Neo-
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