Immortalised in the Canterbury Tales and the site of Thomas Becket's murder in 1170, Canterbury Cathedral has a long history dating back to 597AD when St Augustine established a church. In 1077 it was rebuilt as a Norman church, and a wall and staircase from this building still remain. Over the centuries it was used as a monastery and there have been many additions to the building, but some parts date back to the 12th century, including stained glass windows. Parts of the monastic bakery, brewery and monastery are still standing as part of a school.
The nave of the Cathedral dates to the 15th century. It features columns and vaulted arches, and was designed by the King's mason, Henry Yevele.
Thomas Becket's shrine was ruined during the Reformation, but a remaining piece of the saints skull was placed in the Corona, a purpose-built shrine. This area is decorated with stained glass windows depicting stories of his life.
The Martyrdom is a modern shrine to Thomas Becket which is positioned on the spot where he was killed. Becket was an Archbishop and disagreed with HenryII on many accounts, pledging allegiance to the Pope instead of him. When Becket excommunicated the Archbishop of York and the London Bishops for supporting the king, he was murdered in the Cathedral by four of the king's knights. Thomas Becket was canonised and made a saint just three years later.
Canterbury Cathedral contains many examples of fine stained glass windows, dating back to 1176. In a time when few people could read or write, they were used to depict stories for the congregation. An extensive restoration program is in progress to repair some of the 12th and 13th century glass, with a purpose-built conservation studio located within the Cathedral.
A large gift shop stocks souvenir and religious books, gifts and toys. There are ramps and wheelchair loans for disabled visitors, but some areas are not accessible due to the narrow staircases.
Public car parks are available nearby, and the area is well served by local public transport.
Canterbury Visitor Information Centre,
12/13 Sun Street,
Tel: 01227 378 100