Canterbury and its cathedral
Canterbury is one of the English towns I love, it is so rich in history. And if you decide to make a tour of England, you mustn’t miss it.
It is south-west of London, and because of its religious importance for the Anglican Church, it can be compared to what Rome is for Catholic people. In fact Canterbury Cathedral is the seat of the Archibishop of Canterbury, who is the leader of the Anglican Church.
The Cathedral, yes… a typical example of Norman cathedral, built around 1066 and that is so full of history. It was the theatre of many historical events, very charming and that inspired some literary works!
The most important historical event is certainly the killing of an Archibishop by King Henry II. This one had appointed Thomas Becket Archibishop of Canterbury when England was still a catholic country; they were close friends, so the monarch thought Thomas would take care of the king’s interests instead of the ones of the church. But things went differently, and Thomas was loyal to the Pope and the Roman Church. The king was very annoyed and tried to make him change his mind, without any success. So in the end he decided to get rid of him.
He sent some knights to Canterbury and they killed Thomas Becket on the main altar of the Cathedral, his sacrifice was so appreciated by the Pope that he was made a saint (if you have a look at your calendar, you will see that St. Thomas Becket is celebrated on 27th December)!
This story inspired a very famous English writer, T. S. Eliot, who wrote the drama “Murder in The Cathedral”. Later on Thomas’s shrine became very popular and lots of pilgrims went to visit it. They were convinced that the Saint could make miracles.
And Geoffrey Chaucer was inspired just by this tradition when writing his famous “Canterbury Tales”.
Unfortunately, in the middle of XVI century, Henry VIII’s Anglican reformation abolished the religious orders and the cult of the saints. So Thomas Becket’s tomb was destroyed. Today, a lamp marks the place where the martyr was buried.
And after the visit to the Cathedral, get lost in the network of streets nearby; you will see modern shops, but also very ancient ones, everything is set in a contest that is extremely suggestive and picturesque… it really worths while!