Canterbury Cathedral

File:Edward Black Prince.jpg
The Black Prince, victorious in battles over the French

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 example 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]


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,[4] 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,[5] "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.[2]

Events of note

  • 1498 The great bell tower, called 'Bell Harry Tower', completed the cathedral more or less as it is today.[4]
  • 1538 Becket's shrine destroyed by Henry VIII
  • 1540 Monastery dissolved by Royal Command.
  • 1660/1704 Repair after Puritan damage.[4]
  • 1790/1830s The original northwest tower was replaced during the 1830s. This was the last major structural alteration to the cathedral.

Literary references

Related pages


  1. Its full title is the Cathedral and Metropolitical Church of Christ at Canterbury.
  2. 2.0 2.1 UNESCO, "Canterbury Cathedral, St Augustine's Abbey, and St Martin's Church". Retrieved 2012-4-20. Archived 18 January 2010 at WebCite
  3. The monarch (the Queen) is the formal head of the church.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Cathedral leaflet "Welcome... pilgrims and visitors".
  5. There are other versions

Other websites


Template:World Heritage Sites in the United Kingdom

Lua error: callParserFunction: function "#coordinates" was not found.