Day 89: Canterbury CathedralMay 15, 2017 in the United Kingdom
Time for the next UNESCO word heritage site! Up at a decent time and had breakfast in our room before the reasonably short drive over to Canterbury. The site in Canterbury is actually three separate churches, not just the main cathedral. First stop for us was St Martin's church, one of the oldest in the country and I think the longest continually-operating church in the English speaking world. Something like that anyway - sounds impressive but with several qualifiers tacked on.
Unfortunately it was closed as we expected, so we just grabbed a few photos and had a quick wander around the outside. Next stop was Canterbury Cathedral itself, were we got a good parking spot just outside the walls of the city. Fairly short walk through the gates and down the main street to the cathedral proper.
The cathedral as an entity actually dates back to the 7th century, though the current building was started just after the Norman conquest. It's historically been the most powerful religious office in the country, though I'm not sure why - probably because of its proximity to the Continent and thus Rome.
We had a look around inside which was quite interesting; it's very large and a bit hodge-podge as it's been built in several stages over the centuries. The most interesting feature was a candle burning on the main altar in honour of Thomas Becket, the archbishop who was murdered on the orders of Henry II back in the 11th century. There was some disagreement between Thomas and Henry about religious and political power, Thomas ended up excommunicating Henry, and Henry responded by asking his knights to "do something about it". So they killed him in cold blood.
Thomas was venerated by the pope fairly quickly (though not sainted), the shrine erected in his honour attracted thousands of pilgrims every year. One of the earliest English novels, Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, is set amongst a group of pilgrims travelling to Becket's shrine. Unfortunately the shrine was destroyed during the Reformation, when Henry VIII kicked out the Catholics and declared that all church property was now Crown property instead.
Also chuffed to learn that one of the 12th century Archbishops was named Baldwin! He only reigned for a short period before he died on the Third Crusade near the city of Acre in modern Syria.
Finishing off our visit, it started to rain quite heavily, so we retreated to a fancy burger place just across from the exit. And since it was well past lunchtime, we waited out the rain by eating burgers. Good quality too, and Shandos's courgette fries were quite unusual and tasty.
Final stop for the day was at the ruins of St Augustine's Abbey, just near the cathedral. This was a monastery founded by the first archbishop of Canterbury in the 6th century, St Augustine, who had been sent to the British Isles by Pope Gregory to start converting people to Christianity. It looked semi-interesting, but we didn't actually go in since it was quite expensive and didn't look worth it. Next time perhaps!
Back in the car where we headed back to Margate, via a pub of course for a quick pint. Also stopped at Tesco on the way home to pick up dinner supplies - more pasta to cook in our flat. Ended up staying in all evening, working on videos and writing. Moving onwards tomorrow!Read more