This morning we left our dorms at 7:30am in order to catch a train to Canterbury. It was EARLY! but most of us made it haha On the train ride there my Brit Lit class met. Our topic for the day was the Canterbury Tales by Chaucer. It was quite interesting as we were on our way to Canterbury, just as the pilgrims in the Canterbury Tales were. At one point though, Dr. Hanks needed someone to give an example of being “coy” and he chose me…..I had to do the fluttering eyelids look twice since some people missed it the first time…lol
Our first stop in Canterbury was St. Martin’s Church. This church is tiny, but its importance is great. The church was, in a sense where the English nation was born. In 597, St. Augustine arrived from Rome and started his mission from this church to convert the English to Christianity. The story is actually quite interesting, but it is long. So if you are interested in more of the history, here is the church’s website and a page that details the story of the Church…..it is well worth your time!! http://www.martinpaul.org/stmartinshistory.htm
Next we visited the ruins of St. Augustine’s Abbey. It was very interesting to still see the foundations of the crypts beneath the buildings in the forms and shapes that I studied in art history. This is also where St. Augustine is buried.
Afterwards we got caught in a torrential downpour….I LOVED it!!!!! :)
Then we went to Canterbury Cathedral….talk about magnificent!! This church was not all built at once, which makes it quite interesting from the art history standpoint, I was able to see multiple different styles all in one building. There has been a church there for 1400 years. The building there now was built in stages. The nave was finished in 1400 AD. It is the “mother” church of the Anglicans and is the seat of the archbishop. Originally all of the windows would have been stained glass, but they haven’t all survived. Some of the building materials were reused from the original St. Augustine Cathedral. It was originally also a monestary. We were able to see the chapter room, where the prior would sit in a throne like chair and read a chapter about the duties and functions of monks and why they are monks. For the 1300th anniversary of the arrival of St. Augustine, the windows in this room were redone in a Victorian style.
This is the church where St. Thomas Becket was martyred. He was a close friend and chancellor under Henry II. He then became the archbishop of Canterbury. But when he became a Christian it meant turning against Henry II. After a few events, Henry had him assassinated….this took place as St. Thomas was kneeling at the altar in Canterbury Cathedral. Later King Henry went to Canterbury and walked around the city in mourning and repentance. The altar no longer exist, but there is now a monument in it’s place and a sign above the door that says, “Within this holy place the blessed St. Thomas was martyred.” The choir area was private for the monks so they could have their 8 daily services privately from all the pilgrims. It was originally beautifully decorated and colorful, but the wooden roof caught fire in 1174. The rebuilding became an expansion project for the entire east end f the church. This end of the church is the first Gothic, large scale structure in England. Some of the original Norman stained glass windows remained and have arches as the top of the window, but the newer stained glass windows have a point at the top. I loved the stained glass windows here…they were stories of the Old Testament and New, but they were all intermingled in a way to show the parallels in the Bible. In 1180 a portion of the East end was opened for the monks impatient to return to their private area of worship, and they held an Easter Service. Farther east from the choir is where the shrine for St. Thomas was placed. Every royalty in England would have visited it and brought the church gifts. The gold on the shrine was the least precious material in the room. While the shrine is not longer there, there is a visible groove in the marble where so many kneeled at the shrine. On the floor of the crossing is a compass rose. This is a symbol for the Anglican Church since Canterbury is the “mother church”. Beneath the church there is quite a bit in the crypt, but the one part that caught my attention was the St. Gabriel Chapel. It is Romanesque in style and finished in 1100 AD. The alter was walled off for extra support when the building of the choir and east end of the church were being built. Within the altar area, some beautiful paintings survived, forgotten. Also in the crypt is some “graffitte”, probably from the monks. It is Christ surrounded by the 4 evangelist’s symbols (Mark=lion, etc).