Battlefield History Tours

Battlefield History Tours
Incorporating History and Heritage tours

Cathedrals and Abbeys of England on 16 September 2019


Canterbury is incomparable, shrine to both the birth of English Christianity and the heart of the Anglican Community. Thomas Becket's murder in 1170 by four knights of the court of Henry II that would make Canterbury, along with Compostela, one of the holiest shrines of mediaeval Europe. But its history goes well back before Becket's martyrdom. Augustine in 597 came to a city where there were already Christian Churches and even the Cathedral may have been built on the foundations of an earlier Church.

Canterbury may be regarded as a great monastic church. Augustine, like his patron Pope Gregory the Great, was a monk and Canterbury grew to be a great Benedictine foundation, with 80 monks. It is said that Pope Gregory was walking through the streets of Rome when he came across some people who were light coloured and with blond hair. He asked, "who are these people", "Angles from Angle-Land" was the reply, he then said, "they are angels and we must go and save them". So, he sent Augustine.

We were fortunate as Sarah, our good guide, was able to take us down in the Crypt which is the oldest part of the Cathedral and it was here that the oldest Mediaeval Glass windows were stored during the Second World War. All were saved, even the Victorian windows, that were left in place were not destroyed in the bombing. The Fire Watchers who were stationed on the roof with asbestos gloves on, grabbed the incendiary bombs and threw them of the roof, thus saving the cathedral. There is a memorial stone on set into the floor to commemorate the word they had done.

However, the cathedral was not always that lucky, in 1170, there was a fire in the city, which was brought under control but before it was fully out, sparks ignited the roof and it was burnt and fell into the cathedral. As always, any disaster led to a rebuild and a new roof was installed and is still the current roof, albeit now under repair.

After Henry VIII's commissioners cleared the gold and silver and destroyed the figures of the clergy and monks and whitewashed over the beautiful painted walls of the cathedral, the cathedral was mostly unused until 1642 when Charles 11 paid for much work to be done to restore the cathedral. There is much work going on now and 2 to 3 more years work is envisaged. Leaving the cathedral after our tour, many continued in the cathedral now that much had been explained by Sarah. Tonight, we intend to go to Evensong. Tomorrow we head to London for more adventures.

Graham Fleeton


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