The Trinity Chapel end of Canterbury Cathedral.

Visiting Canterbury Cathedral in Kent, UK

In Canterbury, Cities, Counties, Days Out, Kent, Our Journeys, Trip-Types, UK Travel by JanisLeave a Comment

Stroll in the footsteps of Thomas Becket,

discover the Buffs and where Royals rest
The incredibly historical building of Canterbury Cathedral has been welcoming worshippers for over 1,400 years. St Augustine, the first Archbishop of Canterbury, arrived from Rome in 597AD, upon the orders of Pope Gregory the Great.
The view across the law to Canterbury Cathedral's cloisters
Canterbury Cathedral cloister

Canterbury Cathedral has evolved through the centuries fighting off conflict, knights, and forces of nature. The 105th successor of St Augustine and the current head of the Church of England is The Most Revd Justin Welby.

The magnificent Canterbury Cathedral, St Augustine's Abbey, and St Martin's Church were designated by UNESCO in 1988.

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A little more history on Canterbury Cathedral

Its ancient tales of intrigue

Worship at Canterbury Cathedral continued to grow and, during the 10th-century, became a community to Benedictine Monks.

The Benedictine monks in Canterbury, like so many other communities around the UK, including the Aylesford Friars nearby us, were evicted due to King Henry VIII's, Dissolution of the Monasteries between 1536 and 1541.

An interior view down the nave of Canterbury Cathedral in Kent
Canterbury Cathedral Nave
The 12th-century circular Corona end of Canterbury Cathedral , built to house the remains of St Thomas the Matry.
The ‘Corona’ in Canterbury Cathedral

In 1067 Canterbury Cathedral was destroyed by fire and was entirely rebuilt by the first Norman Archbishop of Canterbury between 1070 and 1077.

However, it was the murder of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Becket, that Canterbury Cathedral is often so synonymous for.

Thousands of pilgrims to this day visit and reflect at the spot where Thomas Becket was slain by four of King Henry II's Knights in 1170. This meaningful area within Canterbury Cathedral’s walls is known as The Martyrdom.

2020 marked a significant anniversary for Thomas Becket as it was 850 years since his horrific murder on 29th December 1170.

Light flooding through a stained-glass window in Canterbury Cathedral, Kent
One of the beautiful stained-glass windows in Canterbury Cathedral
Thankfully Canterbury Cathedral was not heavily damaged during WWII due to the courage and bravery of a group of fire watchers. They patrolled the grounds and the roofs of the Cathedral. They dealt with the incendiary bombs that were dropped by enemy forces.

An interesting read

If you're intrigued by Kent's weird and wonderful history, or all unusual stories around the county, then take a peek at "Kent's Strangest Tales".

You won't be able to put it down, you can pick it up for your Kindle or in good old paperback.


Christ Church Gate, entrance to Canterbury Cathedral

Discovering the Buttermarket

When visiting Canterbury Cathedral, you must head to The Buttermarket first, just by the Christchurch Gate entrance to the Cathedral.

This charming square is surrounded by historic timber-framed buildings and quaint shops. The centrepiece now of the Buttermarket is Canterbury’s touching war memorial

The stone War Memorial stands in front of the Christchurch gate that leads to Canterbury Cathedral in the butter market district of Canterbury.
Christchurch Gate

Although this delightful square looks welcoming today, 200 years ago, Buttermarket was named 'Bull Stake', which witnessed many gruesome events.

The original Christchurch Gate was built in the early 16th-century and has evolved through various iterations. During which the beautiful intricate towers have been replaced, the gates restored, and the stonework repaired.

Unbelievably the statute of Christ was replaced in 1990 after an astonishing gap of 347 years.

Map out your route

Whether you’re planning a road trip, plotting a hiking route or cycling one of UK’s scenic trails, there’s nothing quite like using a tactile paper map.

The Ordnance Survey folk are here to help, with maps, guides, gadgets and more. Take a browse through their vast array of maps and grab your ideal companion for your adventure.

Thomas Becket, the Archbishop of Canterbury

Murdered by the King's Knights
Over many centuries Canterbury Cathedral has continued to be one of the most important sites in Europe for pilgrimages. Primarily due to the awful death of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Becket.
A modern art piece consisting of 3 medieval swords above the spot where Archbishop Thomas Becket was executed in Canterbury Cathedral.
Where Thomas Becket was slain

The archbishop had ongoing disputes with King Henry II, the King is believed to have exclaimed, ‘Who will rid me of this low born priest? On hearing this, four of the Kings Knights ventured to Canterbury and murdered Thomas Becket.

The site of the murder is marked by a poignant sculpture in The Martyrdom.

The shrine of St Thomas was destroyed in 1538 on the orders of King Henry VIII. Today a single lit candle sits at the spot where the shrine once stood in Trinity Chapel.

A candle stands on the spot in Canterbury Cathedral where St Thomas' shrine stood until destroyed under Henry VIII's orders.
A candle burns for St Thomas
A statue to Geoffrey Chaucer, dressed as a pilgrim, sharing his Canterbury Tales, in the High Street of Canterbury, Kent.
A statue to Geoffrey Chaucer
During the 14th century, the English poet and author Geoffrey Chaucer penned his famed Canterbury Tales. Chaucer created 24 charming stories of pilgrim’s lives and their journeys to Thomas Becket's shrine in Canterbury Cathedral.

Kent coastal road trip

Discover 11 of Kent’s charming and historic coastal towns on a road trip. Uncover the delights of Broadstairs, Deal, Margate, Hythe, Folkestone and more.

Edward the Black Prince

Never to be King

Another of the significant tombs within Canterbury Cathedral is that of Edward of Woodstock, also known as the “Black Prince”.

Edward of Woodstock was the eldest son of King Edward III. He was one of England’s most successful commanders, known by his contemporaries as one of the greatest knights of his age.

An image of the Tomb of the Black Prince surrounded by railings in Canterbury Cathedral
The tomb of the Black Prince
The Black Prince fought and won many battles throughout France during the mid-14th-century. Edward returned to England; however, he died one year prior to his father’s death, so he never became King of England. His son succeeded the throne and became Richard II at the age of 10 years old.
Effigies of King Henry IV and Joan of Navarre carved in marble on their shrine in Canterbury Cathedral, Kent
King Henry IV and Joan of Navarre, Queen of England shrine
The shrine that lays directly adjacent to Thomas Becket is King Henry IV and his second wife, Joan of Navarre, Queen of England. King Henry IV explicitly requested to be buried nearby the martyr.

Escape for a few days

Are you looking for that ‘perfick’ holiday hideaway to relax in while you discover the Garden of England?

After a day exploring the Kent coast and its many historic castles enjoy one of the handpicked properties and unique retreats at Holiday Cottages.

Canterbury Cathedral Quire

One of the captivating parts of Canterbury Cathedral is the beautiful Quire.

The Quire was rebuilt after it was severely damaged during a fire in September 1174. The crypt miraculously survived the fire. The rest of the major reconstruction was built in the new Gothic style with limestone imported from Normandy.

The ornate stonework of the quire screen in Canterbury Cathedral, Kent
The Quire screen
Looking towards the altar from the vaulted nave of Canterbury Cathedral.
The Quire
With the Quire’s incredible rolling arches and distinctive rib vaulting, it was to be the first Gothic building in England.

The Great Cloisters

The cloister within Canterbury Cathedral is beautiful and so peaceful, you wouldn’t believe you are in the middle of a city centre.

The lush, manicured grass is encircled with intricate stone arches, all adorned with delicate stained-glass windows.

The corner of Canterbury Cathedral's cloisters
The Cloisters
Heraldic shields line the ceiling of the Cloisters in Canterbury Cathedral
Heraldic shields within the cloister
The cloister is a charming part of the Cathedral to stroll around. I especially loved all the carved heraldic shields within the vaulted roofline; they were so detailed.

Kent rural road trip

Discover Kent on a rural road trip, lush rolling countryside filled with orchards, vineyards, quaint villages and oast houses, so it makes for a perfick visit.

Canterbury Cathedral remembers

The Huguenots and Warriors’ Chapel

During the 17th century, 200,000 French-speaking Protestant Huguenots arrived in the UK fleeing persecution from Catholic France.

The Huguenots are still remembered today in Canterbury Cathedral. Their descendants’ worship, in French, every Sunday at 3pm at the Huguenot Chapel in the Cathedral’s Crypt.

Regimental banners hanging in the Buffs chapel in Canterbury Cathedral
Warriors’ Chapel
A bronze statue of a soldier from The Buffs in the Cathedral precinct
Statue to The Buffs in the Cathedral precinct

Nearby the French Church is the eye-catching Warriors’ Chapel, also known as the Buffs’ Chapel, lined with the historic old colours from the regiment’s past since 1848.

The Buffs (Royal East Kent Regiment) Chapel underwent lengthy restoration and once again welcomed worshippers back in April 2017.

The touching traditional daily bell ceremony again resumed.

The ceremony, which began in 1926, is a unique moment in the Cathedral’s day when the bell of the former HMS Canterbury is rung six times.

The Buffs (Royal East Kent Regiment) holds a special place for us too, as the War Memorial in our village of Eccles in Kent bears the names of 6 young lads who were killed in the First World War.

A Commonwealth War Graves Commission headstone for Sydney G Chevous of the Kent Buffs in the Bancourt British Cemetery, France
The headstone of Sydney G Chevous

Tempted to go?

At present, you will need to reserve your timed ticket in advance. This allows you into Canterbury Cathedral and Precincts.

I’m going to have a little gripe here, and that’s to do with the entrance fee. I appreciate that a Cathedral of this status is expensive to run; however, I feel that it should be free for UK citizens. Many historic Cathedrals around the UK and the rest of the world do not charge.

Canterbury Cathedral Precinct

And the oldest school in the world

When visiting Canterbury Cathedral, you must allow time to stroll around the Precinct and through the grounds of King’s School.

Weave your way amongst the ancient buildings and the tranquil gardens. As you amble around the rear of the Cathedral, passing through stone arches and historic corridors, you find yourself in the grounds of King’s School.

A stone cross in Memorial Court, King's School, Canterbury
King’s School Norman staircase and old schoolhouse

King’s School was founded in the same year as Canterbury Cathedral, 597AD and is the oldest continually operating school in the world.

You feel like you’ve wandered into a secret part of Canterbury. Within the school grounds are some charming old buildings, including a schoolhouse dating from 1860 and the Norman staircase dating from the 12th-century.

Why not?

Extend your trip and head to the historic town of Rochester in Kent, where you can visit its striking Norman castle and the beautiful Rochester Cathedral.

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