Canterbury Cathedral

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Things to do


Date of travel

June, 2018

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Having seen hordes of children and teenagers gathering in groups around “Canterbury Cathedral”: the day before, we got out early, and were waiting for the huge wooden door to be opened at 9am. This was our best decision as for twenty minutes we had the cathedral to ourselves apart from a few workmen. It was not until around 10.30am that groups started arriving.

In the nave we found a magnificent display of what I would describe as ‘hanging glass oval shaped baubles’ but which I learned were ‘glass amphorae suspended in the shape of a ship’. They were part of an exhibition called ‘Under an Equal Sky’ and designed by Philip Baldwin and Monica Guggisberg. Other interesting exhibits were dotted around the cathedral and you can find out more “here.”:

Markers led us through to the Martyrdom where the single stone bearing the name Thomas signified the tomb of the murdered Thomas Becket. Hanging above a small simple alter was a modern-day sculpture of the two swords attached to a jagged cross which created atmospheric shadows.

In the Crypt, the only part were photos are banned, one of the very helpful saffron-sashed volunteers (there are 600 in total) told us about how Beckett was originally buried there. Hanging above the original spot was a ‘body’ made by Antony Gormley from rusted nails removed from the roof.

We were in the Quire before realising we’d missed the Bell Harry Tower and so retraced our steps and got giddy looking upwards at the high magnificent ceiling. In Trinity Cathedral we found twelve wonderful stained-glass windows showing the miracles of pilgrims. Once again, a steward talked us through some of the stories.

At 11am we joined the daily ceremony, the ringing of the HMS Canterbury bell and the turning of the page of the book of remembrance. The 81-year old veteran performed the ceremony admirably and after prayers, was keen to pose for photographs.
We were having a quiet moment in chapel dedicated to St Anselm and looking for the mural depicting St Paul shaking off a viper, when once again, a steward came to our assistance by telling us it was on the wall outside.

We saw the white marbled chair where all archbishops are enthroned and knelt at the Sudbury Tomb, put our heads into the arch and prayed out loud – the acoustics mean no one on the outside could hear.

There is much restoration ongoing with a significant part of the exterior being clad in scaffolding. Similarly, work is being undertaken inside to upgrade the organ where we found a large area blocked off by hoardings and a coffin shaped box going up and down on a pulley, delivering we know not what.

Our visit finished with Holy Communion in the Crypt at 12.30pm.

We left at 1pm having spent four-hours in the Cathedral. For an entrance fee of £12.50 (£11.50 for over 65 years) which is valid for 12 months we thought this extremely good value.

We also returned the following day for the 5.30pm Evensong and heard the boys’ choir.

Helen Jackson

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