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Inside Canterbury Cathedral





Canterbury Cathedral
A Walk Around Canterbury Cathedral Inside Canterbury Cathedral (this page)
Canterbury Cathedral Zodiac Signs, Labours, Sins and Virtues Roundels Canterbury Cathedral Stained Glass Windows

Limoges Reliquary Ch‚sses made to contain relics of Thomas Becket

Images of the Saint Thomas Becket story







Canterbury was an Abbey Cathedral built for its monastic community.  This is most easily seen from the plan above - everything except the nave and the south aisle access to the location of the Shrine of Saint Thomas in Trinity Chapel, was reserved for monks and not accessible to pilgrims unless invited. 


Our walk around inside will mainly be in monkland, because as you might imagine this is the most interesting part.  We will follow the path most pilgrims would have taken, heading towards the great Bell Harry tower and entering through the south door of the south west transept. 


Just before entering, take a peek around the corner on your right.  The unsigned roofed protuberance from the wall is the end of the tomb of Cardinal Archbishop Stephen Langton (1150 - 1207 - 1228 (78)), which originally stood outside the transept wall before the Saint Michael Chapel was built over most of it.  Langton was a central figure in the adoption of Magna Carta, and was also responsible for establishing the Shrine of Saint Thomas, to where Becket's Bones were translated on 7 July 1220 "before such an assembly as had never been collected in any part of England before".  Follow the link for more about one of the most important of Canterbury's Archbishops, who does not get as much historical attention as he deserves.    







Stephen Langton is the only one of the four great archbishops of Norman Plantagenet times (Lanfranc, Anselm, Becket and Langton) whose tomb has survived, albeit in a rather low profile way (see above).  Most of it is hidden under the altar of the inaccessible Saint Michael's Chapel (left) - memorial chapel for "The Buffs" (the Royal East Kent Regiment) - which is heavy with laid up regimental standards, over the top busts and tombs and other furnishings. 


Lanfranc's tomb was in the N E transept (marked O on the map), Anselm's tomb was in the now "modernized" chapel bearing his name to the south of the high altar (marked G), whilst Becket's was at the centre of the Saint Thomas Shrine, which officers of Henry VIII's Commission for the Destruction of Shrines destroyed in 1538.





Walking east, we arrive at a stone stairway worn down by the feet (and knees) of centuries of pilgrims on their way to Trinity Chapel, which used to contain the Shrine of Saint Thomas.


At the top of the steps, looking north across the chapel, there is a group of 12 large beautifully worn inlaid roundels (photo below), set in the pavement of the Trinity Chapel.  There is another group of 12 roundels on the north side, and two more widely spaced groups of 6 each a bit further east.  The 36 images represent the signs of the Zodiac, Labours of the Month, Sins, Virtues and Heraldic Beasts. 


Link to Paradoxplace Canterbury Cathedral Roundels descriptions, photos and map


Representations of monthly labours, Zodiacs, etc were commonplace in Romanesque churches, but not that many examples have survived .....


Link to Paradoxplace pages on Monthly Activity and Zodiac representations.







Just past the roundels is the impressive tomb and knightly figure of Edward, Prince of Wales ("The Black Prince") (1330 - 1376 (46)).  He was the son and heir of King Edward III (1312-1327-1377 (65)), and a world class burn and pillage commander in France in the early part of the Hundred Years' War and also in Spain in mistaken support of the awful Pedro I (el Cruel)


The effigy, which dates to shortly after the Prince's death in 1376, is made from latten, an alloy of copper and zinc.  By the 1370s the adjacent Shrine of Saint Thomas had been there for 150 years and this area would have been one of the most people trafficked in England.  As the Black Prince died before his father, the Prince's son Richard II (1367 - 1377 - 1399 - 1400 (33)) succeeded Edward III as the next English King.


Link to English Kings from the Houses of Lancaster and York







The photos above and below were taken in August 2007 - the floor protectors and scaffolding on the left (south side) were due to restoration work on the tomb of the Black Prince.





In this photo taken from the east end, a candle marks the spot where the Shrine of Saint Thomas was.  Even today there is a worn groove across the floor where pilgrims knelt before the shrine (photo below).


Officers from Henry VIII's Commission for the Destruction of Shrines came here in 1538.  It is reported that they needed 26 wagons to carry off the loot stacked around the Saint Thomas Shrine - which included the gold crown of Scotland donated by Edward I.  Shrine theft was not unknown, and Canterbury would have had a tower for a beady eyed duty monk to guard against this - today only one such medieval structure remains, in St Albans Abbey.


The canopy on the right stands over the tomb of  King Henry IV. 





On the other side of Trinity Chapel to the Black Prince, King Henry IV (1367-1399-1413 (a mature looking 46 on his death, possibly via leprosy)), nephew of the Black Prince, and his Queen, Joan of Navarre.  Henry came to the throne via a coup which removed and eventually murdered Richard II (son of the Black Prince) in Henry's favour. 


Henry's first wife and the mother of his son and heir Henry V was Mary de Bohun, but she was never queen as she died in childbirth before Henry became King and established the House of Lancaster.   The effigies were made from alabaster around 1437.


See this photo and other interesting illustrations in Ian Mortimer's fascinating new (July 2007) book "The Fears of Henry IV".


 Buy from Amazon USA

 Buy from Amazon USA





The groove in the floor worn by the knees of pilgrims before shrine tomb of Saint Thomas Becket.





Walking back down the north quire aisle, on the right is a very rare (in England) full scale wall painting (c1480) - showing the story of Saint Eustace.  The next two windows are all that remain of 12 so called typological windows showing stories from the new testament tied back to stories from the old.





Eustace goes huntin c120, and is about to finish off a stag, when you know who appears between the stag's horns.  After this, matters follow the familiar downward (or upward) spiral of early Christian martyrdom ending with Eustace, Mrs Eustace and some little Eustaces being roasted alive in a "brazen bull" (see below) observed by some rather oddly dressed blokes.







In Typological Window Number 2, the angel sends the Magi a dream telling them not to return to Herod and reveal the location of the baby Jesus.


Photos of Typological Window Number 2





Looking back east down the quire - the misericords are not accessible, but you can see them here.






Marked "XV" in the plan above, this is the place of Becket's murder on 29 December 1170



The north west transept where Archbishop Thomas Becket was murdered on 29 December 1170.






Link to photos of Limoges Reliquary Ch‚sses made to contain relics of Thomas Becket


Link to Images of the Saint Thomas Becket story






Link to Canterbury Cathedral Website


Canterbury Cathedral on Sacred Destinations


Canterbury Cathedral on Wikipedia




Looking west down the Nave from the Quire (Choir)




Looking east down the c1400 nave towards the screen and quire




Celebrity chef meets acrobat - capital in the lightless crypt under the chancel and choir.



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