My son has now been a student at Canterbury Christ Church University for over two years and has lived in Canterbury for over two years. During visits to see him and his girlfriend, he often mentions that we, his mum and dad, should visit the Cathedral. I have wanted to do this for some time but often not found the time on our visits. However, he mentioned in November that on our forthcoming December visit a large lighted Christmas tree would be in place outside the Cathedral. He believed that I would enjoy this sight. Indeed, this sold me. I thought it might help me to get into a glowing Christmas mood.
There were seven of us in our party; my son's girlfriend's parents were also visiting for the day. We all went out for lunch together and then one of our party left early as he wanted to attend a service in the cathedral. As it began to grow dark we decided that now would be a good time to make our way to the Cathedral. We were in Canterbury's quaint shopping area and this is less than ten minutes from the cathedral on foot. Parking isn't always easy in Canterbury with many spaces reserved for residents on the narrow streets. However, there are car parks which are usually well signposted. Canterbury's sites are all rather compact and walking isn't usually a problem in this area.
Canterbury Cathedral sets its mark upon the city. It IS Canterbury. On approaching the city by road one can see the imposing site of the cathedral. Once in the city itself the cathedral can be seen dominating the city, from its main roads, parks and narrow cobbled side streets.
On this visit near to Christmas, the exterior of Canterbury Cathedral looked truly beautiful. We arrived to see the lovely Christmas tree lit up and a large nativity scene very close by. The stable scene attracted many admiring visitors, ourselves included.
A service had just finished and this seemed a good time to walk around the building.
MY IMPRESSIONS OF THE INTERIOR
As we entered the Nave I immediately thought that this was a place worth seeing. Apparently I wasn't alone in this as, although not crowded, there were quite a lot of visitors. Many appeared to be overseas tourists and they were happily taking photographs and some even videoing their visit. There are some areas where photography is not allowed. One of these is the treasury.
I was amazed at the height of the ceilings. When one thinks about the age of this building, it's hard to imagine how it could have been built at a time when there wasn't technology and not much in the way of labour saving devices. Everywhere one looks there is something to feast one's eyes upon- from the ornate stone masonry to the stained glass windows. I know little about architecture so will not pretend to, but just try to explain the wonder of the sights to be seen.
So in the nave, although ancient it is much used today for church services and so it doesn't have such an 'museum' feel to it as there are many modern wooden chairs in herefor public services and a feeling of every day usage. Literature is available here to assist with one's tour. There are also facilities for an audio tour but we did not use this. Most points were well explained, with sign around, and my son was quite knowledgeable about this cathedral as he had, along with other students, during their first year at university, been given an extensive tour of the cathedral and grounds. He too had been impressed as I could tell by the way he had retained so much of what had been related on the tour.
We ascended several stone steps (handrails always much in evidence to assist) and entered the Quire. I could imagine a service being held in the cathedral with a full choir housed here. If there had been more time available, then I would have attended a service here. I am not much of a church goer but, I think in a place like this, if one has any religious feeling at all it will be magnified. Even to those without Christian faith, it is a wonderful cathedral, steeped in history.
I was pleased that I could take photos freely in most of this building. I had thought it might not be allowed owing to religious sensitivity, or the fact that the cathedral would make money by selling postcards if visitors were banned the use of cameras. I snapped away when it was permitted.
We slowly made our way out of the Quire and viewed the many side chapels. I was surprised at the size of this historic building. I think from the exterior one often sees a limited view of the building and cannot realise the size of it. Once inside I thought it was much larger than imagined. Others in the party agreed with this. I was awestruck by the work that must have been involved in creating this cathedral. My son said he had been told that those working on much of the stonework would not have lived long enough to see the completion of the intricate work they had begun.
Everywhere was quite dark although lighting was provided by small spotlights and concealed lights, placed here and there to illuminate certain items. Although it was now dark I still noticed the many stained glass windows and, this being something I really appreciate, wished to return on a sunny day to see these windows in all their glory. There were stained glass windows displayed on walls inside at an ideal level to view closely. These were, naturally, well protected by, I imagine, extremely tough clear glass. This was a lovely way to admire the work involved in this art. I would say, probably a labour of love.
In some areas of the cathedral, such as the crypt, were signs asking for silence. It was a quiet time at our visit anyway but visitors all seemed to respect requests.
I believe the cathedral is accessible to disabled guests. I did see a wheelchair and passenger being pushed around some areas. I understand there are ramped areas and there is also a lift near to the library for the use of disabled visitors. Also a downloadable leaflet is available, providing access information for those with difficulties/disabilities. This will give detailed information as to how certain areas can be accessed, as it is worth remembering that this building is on three levels and there are many steps around.
Whether one is religious or interested in the history of the cathedral, it really is worth visiting. The historic atmosphere felt here, by myself at least, is immense. Around the building were many tombs going back to ancient times. We saw the tomb of The Black Prince, and those of many former archbishops.
I enjoyed looking at the ceilings, in the area that I would call the basement of the building, where some of the chapels had ornately decorated ceilings, painstakingly painted by monks but, in places these ceilings were plain. According to my so,n this variation was due to the fact that fires had been started in attempts to burn down the chapels in protest against its ornateness, as this wasn't in keeping with the views held by Puritans.
SOME HISTORICAL FACTS
Of course there are many important historical facts pertaining to this cathedral and I think these are best taken from the cathedral's website, so then they should be more accurate than from my own very limited knowledge. I feel in a review of such an important heritage s building such as Canterbury cathedral some of its history is essential for the reader.
'St Augustine, the first Archbishop of Canterbury, arrived on the coast of Kent as a missionary to England in 597 AD. He came from Rome, sent by Pope Gregory the Great. It is said that Gregory had been struck by the beauty of Angle slaves he saw for sale in the city market and despatched Augustine and some monks to convert them to Christianity.
Augustine was given a church at Canterbury (St Martin's, after St Martin of Tours, still standing today) by the local King, Ethelbert whose Queen, Bertha, a French Princess,, was already a Christian. This building had been a place of worship during the Roman occupation of Britain and is the oldest church in England still in use.
Augustine had been consecrated a bishop in France and was later made an archbishop by the Pope. He established his seat within the Roman city walls (the Latin word for a seat is cathedra, from which the word cathedral is derived) and built the first cathedral there, becoming the first Archbishop of Canterbury. Since that time, there has been a community around the Cathedral offering daily prayer to God; this community is arguably the oldest organisation in the English speaking world. The present Archbishop, The Most Revd and Right Honourable Dr Rowan Williams, is 104th in the line of succession from Augustine.
Until the 10th century the Cathedral community lived as the household of the Archbishop. During the 10th century, it became a formal community of Benedictine monks, which continued until the monastery was dissolved by King Henry VIII in 1540.
Augustine's original building lies beneath the floor of the nave- it was extensively rebuilt and enlarged by the Saxons, and the Cathedral was rebuilt completely by the Normans in 1070 following a major fire. There have been many additions to the building over the last nine hundred years, but parts of the quire and some of the windows and their stained glass date from the 12th century.
By 1077, Archbishop Lanfranc had rebuilt it as a Norman church, described as "nearly perfect". A staircase and parts of the North Wall - in the area of the North West transept also called the Martyrdom - remain from that building.
More Recent Times
The work of the Cathedral as a monastery came to an end in 1540, when the monastery was closed on the orders of King Henry VIII. Its role as a place of prayer continued - as it does to this day. Once the monastery had been suppressed, responsibility for the services and upkeep was given to a group of clergy known as the Dean and Chapter. Today, the Cathedral is still governed by the Dean and four Canons, together (in recent years) with four lay people and the Archdeacon of Maidstone.
During the Civil War of the 1640s, the Cathedral suffered damage at the hands of the Puritans; much of the medieval stained glass was smashed and horses were stabled in the nave. After the Restoration in 1660, several years were spent in repairing the building.
In the early 19th Century, the North West tower was found to be dangerous. Although it dated from Lanfranc's time, it was demolished in the early 1830s and replaced by a copy of the South West tower, thus giving a symmetrical appearance to the west end of the Cathedral.
During the Second World War, the Precincts were heavily damaged by enemy action and the Cathedral's Library was destroyed. Thankfully, the Cathedral itself was not seriously harmed, due to the bravery of the team of fire watchers, who patrolled the roofs and dealt with the incendiary bombs dropped by enemy bombers.
Who will rid me of this meddlesome priest?
The best known event in the Cathedral's history was the murder of Archbishop Thomas Becket in 1170. Canterbury, always on the medieval pilgrim route to Rome, became an end in itself, as thousands came to worship at Becket's tomb, especially after his canonization in 1173. Geoffrey Chaucer's pilgrims in his poem, The Canterbury Tales, were by no means unique. They represented the hundreds of thousands who travelled to the Cathedral to pray, repent or be healed at his shrine. (The word canter comes from the pace of the pilgrims' horses as they rode to the Cathedral.) Thomas' shrine was destroyed in 1538 on the orders of King Henry VIII; today, a simple candle marks the place where it once stood and the pink stone before it bears the imprint of thousands of pilgrims' knees.
A Few Important Dates Through The Centuries
597 St Augustine arrived in Kent and soon established the first Cathedral
1070-1077 Cathedral rebuilt by Archbishop Lanfranc
1098-1130 New Quire built over a Crypt (present Western Crypt)
1170 Thomas Becket murdered in the Cathedral
1175-1184 Quire rebuilt. Eastern Crypt, Trinity and Corona Chapels added (all as seen today)
1220 Becket's body placed in new Shrine in Trinity Chapel
1377-1405 Lanfranc Nave demolished and rebuilt as seen today; Cloister vaulting inserted
c1450 Pulpitum Screen constructed
1498 Bell Harry Tower extended and the Cathedral largely complete as seen today
1538 Becket's Shrine destroyed by Henry VIII
1540 Monastery dissolved by royal command
1541 New Foundation of Dean and Chapter established
1660-1704 Repair and refurbishing after Puritan damage
1834 North West tower rebuilt
1954 Library rebuilt, repairing War damage
1986 altar of the Sword's Point (Martyrdom) restored
1988 Compass Rose placed in the Nave
2000 International Study Centre opened in the Precincts
Today, the Cathedral stands as a place where prayer to God has been offered daily for over 1,400 years; nearly 2,000 services are held each year, as well as countless private prayers from individuals. The Cathedral offers a warm welcome to all visitors - its aim is to show people Jesus, which we do through the splendour of the building as well as the beauty of the worship.'
CANTERBURY CATHEDRAL TODAY
Canterbury Cathedral is a place of worship for many. It holds daily Morning Prayer services, along with other church services. Weddings take place here-what a wonderful place to be married. I am looking forward to my son's graduation service which will be held in this cathedral.
I have read that the cathedral costs 12,000 per day to run and keep it maintained. Therefore, it depends heavily on donations made by visitors. The cathedral has a 'Friends of the Cathedral Club' who help to raise much needed funds.
Canterbury Cathedral offers guided tours for visitors and schools. It sounds to me as if it is very much a part of the Canterbury area and keeps up with the times.
The library has been refurbished.
* Its services for schools include supporting the schools' Religious education syllabus and help with other subjects such as history and maths and more
* Guided tours on all subject areas including RE, History, Art, Maths, Literature.
* It has well equipped audio rooms and workshops with a qualified teacher and workshops.
* The cathedral also provides audio tours in seven languages to help to explain this amazing site of English Heritage.
There is a gift shop and an online shop to help with the raising of funds to keep the cathedral running. There are other ideas to help such as sponsoring a stone. In fact there are too many to mention in this review but I would recommend looking at the very comprehensive website: http://canterbury-cathedral.org
OPENING TIMES AND CHARGES
As the cathedral is part of the Canterbury community offering many services this means that at times visiting certain areas will be restricted and occasionally closed. It is recommended that one contact the cathedral before visiting, to check that it will be open when you visit.
Summer 09:00 - 17:30*
Winter 09:00 - 17:00*
The Crypt 10:00 - 17:30*
Throughout the Year, including the Crypt 12:30 - 14:30*
*Last entry 1/2 hour prior to closing time
Parts of the Cathedral may be open outside these hours. Contact the Visits Office for up-to-date opening details.
There is a charge to enter the precincts and the Cathedral unless you are attending a Service. This charge contributes towards the upkeep of the Cathedral and its activities.
* Adults £8.00 - pre-booked groups £7.00
* Concessions £7.00 - pre-booked groups £7.00
* Voucher: free child entrance
You may be eligible for free entry to the precincts if you fall under any of the following categories:
* Work in the old city of Canterbury
* Live within 4 miles of the Bell Harry tower
* Member of the Cathedral Congregation
* Cathedral Volunteer
* Electoral roll of a church in the diocese
* Resident within the Precincts
My son says that he has free entry, as do all students studying in the Canterbury area.
We all enjoyed t visiting Canterbury Cathedral. It wasn't the first visit for most of our group. We all agreed that there was much more to this building than we would have expected before visiting. It is a place to visit any time of year as, although we enjoyed the winter evening atmosphere to our visit, we didn't get to see the gardens which I have been told are attractive, especially during the summer months. I would recommend a tour of this cathedral.
As a Canterbury resident for the last four years, it is a true testament to what an awe inspiring building this is that I still get excited when I see it.
I am in no way religious but I think the sheer size of the cathedral and the beauty of its architecture and surroundings means that even if you are not visiting for religious purposes you cannot fail to be blown away.
I also love the way that as you walk around Canterbury, the cathedral seems to pop up from unexpected view points and this makes it all the more beautiful. Inside is so peaceful you would never believe that you were in the city centre.
If you can I would definitely recommend trying to visit out of season. In the summer it is packed and you may even have to queue to get in which really destroys the feeling of peace and tranquility which for me makes it so special. I last visited on a weekday afternoon in march and there was probably only 50 people in the whole building. Also, access for visitors is restricted during July for the University of Kent graduation services (from the 13th-15th July 2010, 19th-21st July 2011) when the cathedral will be closed all day and visitors only allowed in the grounds. They also close it for other events and visiting times are obviously altered on Sundays when they have services.
Finally, if you are a Canterbury Resident go to the ticket office and ask for the forms to get a card which gives you access for free, an excellent deal. Or if you are visiting I would suggest getting a Canterbury Passport which gives you access to the Cathedral, St Augustines Abbey, Canterbury Tales and a museum for just £19.00 and comes highly recommended by my parents! We bought them from the Tourist Information Centre opposite the Cathedral entrance.
I was in Canterbury in early May to attend a conference at Kent University, but I couldnt very well come all this way and not visit the Cathedral. I will make it clear from the outset that I am not religious; this was not a pilgrimage, but more an opportunity to indulge my love of history and my growing respect for architecture. For those of you who have read my other Canterbury Reviews, you may recall that I did not particularly enjoy Canterbury city, but this was easily the highpoint of my trip (better even than half the conference papers I had travelled the length of England for, Ill admit). I am going to take this opportunity to tell you about my visit to this magnificent building and I hope that if any of you are passing this way, you too will be encouraged to visit!
Founded in 597AD, Canterbury Cathedral is the Mother Church of the Anglican Communion. The first Archbishop of Canterbury was St Augustine, sent by Pope Gregory the Great himself; the story goes that the Pope had seen Angle (English) slaves for sale in a market in Rome and was struck by their beauty, remarking that they were not Angles but Angels. Such a people, he was convinced, should be converted to Christianity, and so he ordered Augustine and a group of attendant monks to England to begin this work. Soon consecrated a Bishop, Augustine established his seat (or cathedra) at Canterbury. Recent work by the Canterbury Archaeological Trust has actually revealed the remains of this original Anglo-Saxon cathedral (burnt down in 1097) beneath the present medieval structure and to everyones surprise found it to be nearly as big as its Norman successor.
The current Cathedral is an organic building, having taken many decades to build and being subject to many changes, replacements and additions along the way. The 11th century building by Bishop Lanfranc, erected to replace the destroyed Anglo-Saxon building, was built in the Romanesque style (like Norwich and Durham, for example). However, when another fire gutted the choir in 1174 the new Gothic style (developed from groundbreaking geometrical theories) brought graceful soaring columns and beautiful rib-vaulting to Canterbury Cathedral. This put the building at the forefront of an architectural revolution the first Gothic cathedral to be built in Britain. Over the next 300 years the cathedral underwent major rebuilding programmes, had new towers and additional chapels added; it was later given a sympathetic Victorian restoration, and the additions and changes have continued well into the 20th century. This is a living museum of architecture.
However, the two things that Canterbury Cathedral is most famous for are not actually related to the architecture of the building. The first of these is the murder/martyrdom (delete as appropriate) of Thomas Becket in 1170. Becket was appointed as Archbishop by his friend King Henry II, and appointed with the task of bringing the Church to heel under the monarchy; he did the reverse, arguing strongly for the rights of the Church and the supremacy of canon law above civil law (Church over state). Im sure you all are familiar with the line, will no one rid me of this turbulent priest?, although interestingly enough no contemporary documents actually record the King saying this. (Although he was noted as having a tantrum on Christmas Day 1170 and shouting what miserable drones and traitors have I nourished and promoted in my household, who let their lord be treated with such contempt by a low born priest, which pretty much amounts to the same thing). Four knights, seeking to ingratiate themselves with their King, took it upon themselves to persuade Becket of the monarchs point of view on this matter, ultimately attacking him with their swords in his own cathedral. A short time after, Becket was made a saint and his jewel-encrusted tomb stood for 368 years in the cathedral, becoming one of the most popular places of pilgrimage in the medieval world. Until Henry VIII had it desecrated as part of his dissolution programme, that is. Today, a single candle marks the spot where the tomb once was, which to me somehow seems more appropriate.
The second famous point is that Canterbury Cathedral is home to the tomb of the Black Prince, Edward, Prince of Wales; he is one of only two Royal burials in the cathedral. The eldest son of Edward III, the Prince was attributed his reputation for wearing black armour into battle; he is considered to be one of the finest generals of the medieval period and probably would have made an exceedingly good King if he had not inconveniently died a short while before his father. The leader of the victorious English army at Crecy at the age of just 16 and also victor in Poitiers 10 years later when he captured the French King, these victories made him enormously popular with the English public (although there was probably a lot less enthusiasm for the level of taxes need to fund these campaigns). The tomb itself is still extant and was placed right next door to where St Thomas shrine once lay, and features a gold-coloured effigy of the Prince as a knight. It was a large and deeply impressive monument, but better still there is a display case containing the Princes original weapons, which have survived remarkably well from the 14th century.
The cathedral is situated in the heart of Canterbury city centre you can see it for miles around, so finding the building is not going to be too difficult (although the local council have placed abundant street signs to help you out in this respect). The cathedral precincts are all closed off, and the only way into them is to pay at the obligatory turnstiles (£5 adults/ £4 concessions). This at first surprised me; my last experience of visiting a cathedral was at Durham, where there is a discrete honesty box requesting a suggested donation and I guess I rather expected the same here. Your entrance fee will allow you access into the precincts and the cathedral itself, along with the attendant visitor facilities (shop, toilets, refreshments) but will not provide you with any information about the building other than a simple ground plan to find your way around the site, which is of a considerable size. To find out more, you need to pay extra for either an audio tour (40 minutes, in English, French, Dutch, German, Spanish, Italian and Japanese) which was somewhere around the £2 mark or a guided tour (running 3 times daily at 10:30, 12:00 and 2:30 for 90 minutes in English only) that cost £3.50 for adults and £2.50 for concessions. I opted for the guided tour.
The tour guides at Canterbury Cathedral are all volunteers, but are highly trained and enthusiastic about the building. My tour was a small group of just 8 people, so it felt very personal (I suppose a lot of people baulked at paying extra after shelling out at the turnstiles) and was led by a very knowledgeable man who clearly knew what he was talking about. The tour covered the history or at least a summary of it, as it is very complex! and the architecture of the cathedral, both inside the main building and through the cloisters, crypt and chapter house too. I would highly recommend one of these tours to get the most out of your visit, as unless you happen to be an expert on ecclesiastical architecture you are going to be just wandering around looking at carved stones, statues and stained glass windows without having any real clue what you are looking at. This was money well spent, I thought.
Overall, I consider the hours I spent at Canterbury Cathedral to be enjoyable, informative and I suppose, inspiring (which is a very odd thing for a non-religious person to be saying, but that was very much how I felt when I left: upbeat, happy, relaxed). Yes, it was hardly a cheap visit, but as the building costs around £9,000 a day to maintain I feel I can hardly begrudge them that. It was also crowded and the whole experience would have been more pleasant if the hordes of visiting schoolchildren and teenagers had been better controlled, but I tried not to let that put me off. This was a good day.
- Visitor Facilities
The visitor facilities were pretty good, considering the large numbers of people that the cathedral gets as worshippers, pilgrims and visitors each day. The precincts were impeccably presented with plenty of litter bins and seating available, and the toilets were very well maintained. Seasonal refreshments (sandwiches, ice creams, cakes, drinks) were available in a small kiosk, but I didnt sample these. A large shop marks the exit route from the precincts back onto the outside streets, but be warned that the doors between precinct and shop are one-way, so once you have wandered in, there is no getting back to the cathedral. A two-way door is available to the street, in case you wish to return to do any shopping at a later point; the shop sold a range of souvenirs (which you can have a look at and buy online at www.cathedralshop.co.uk) that were good quality but pretty expensive.
- Visitor Information
Opening hours: Monday to Saturday, 9am to 5pm (winter) or 6.30pm (summer). Sundays, 12.30pm to 2.30pm and 4.30pm to 5.30pm. No guided tours on Sundays.
Main services: Daily Holy Communion at 8am; Sunday service at 11am; Evensong at 5.30pm Monday to Friday and 3.15pm on Saturdays and Sundays.
Wheelchair access: Most areas of the precincts and cathedral are accessible by wheelchair, and adapted entrances/exits and routes are marked on the free site plan you are given.
Entrance price: £5 adults / £4 concessions.
Website: www.canterbury-cathedral.org or www.cathedralshop.co.uk
Contact: (01227) 762862 or email@example.com
------------------------------------------------------------------------------ -- Canterbury,home of the mother Church of England,is a city I know very well since my father was born at Ashford,which is only 14 miles away.It is a surprisingly small city, but during the summer months is full of tourists.During these periods it is exceedingly busy and quite vibrant and you will hear many languages being spoken in the narrow streets of this historic Kentish city. There is quite a lot to see and do in this city. Pride of place has to go to the Cathedral,which is quite a beautiful building. It is large, replete with history, and well worth visiting.I would suggest setting aside at least an hour for your visit to the Cathedral. The Canterbury Tales exhibition is worth a visit and some of the medieval structures in the city are very attractive.The city houses the oldest church in the country and part of the Roman wall is still standing, although not as much as in York. The modern architecture is,in my view, often not very inspired.The Sainsbury;s supermarket on the edge of the city won a architectural award but much of the other modern architecture is by no means as interesting. Shopping wise Canterbury is good. Besides housing several large department stores,there are a wide range of specialist shops,including a number of good book shops.The student population is quite large here since there is the University of Kent, Christ Church College and the well known public school,Kings' School in the Kentish town. At night time Canterbury is rather dull,although there are a few interesting pubs and a number of good eateries.However,prices of meals seem to be a bit inflated ,no doubt the large volume of tourists may partially account for that. Thanks a lot for reading
Well, first things first - we were quite lucky when we went to Canterbury Cathedral: we were shown round by my cousin, who works for the Cathedral itself. But don't panic if your cousin doesn't work for the Cathedral - because there are guided tours available for anyone who wants to go in. Just look for the notice at the Welcome Centre. We used to live near York, and, naturally, York Minster was somewhere we'd been before. Well, look, this is NOTHING like York Minster. It's a huge site, much larger than the Minster, and because it was part of a monastery in the past, it's quiet and away from the traffic (unlike the Minster, as you'll know if you've been there). We were quite lucky when we went round; because there was a wedding going on in the crypt, we couldn't go in there, so we decided to go to the pub for lunch and come back later. This is actually the best thing to do, because if you try and do the whole thing in one gulp, it'll take you over two hours and you'll get a bit stone-building-blind. Things to look for: Christ Church Gate, the way into the Cathedral grounds in the middle of Canterbury's shopping district, is beautiful. See if you can work out from the Latin inscription when it was built. (I was a year out. Which I was quite proud about.) Go through the gate, and avoid walking straight into the cathedral. You can walk right round the cathedral, through the cloisters and more, to fully appreciate how big the place is. Then, and ONLY then, go inside. At many times of the day, you'll be able to hear choirs either practising or doing Evensong. Most of the choirs - many are visiting choirs - are pretty good, and give a wonderful backdrop to walking around the Cathedral. In the crypt, look upwards. All of the crypt would have been painted when it was built - you can see what it would have looked like by going right to the end of the crypt and looking at the
chapel there - and you can still see, if you're careful, some of the original wall painting, particularly in the arches. Watch, too, for the scary animals which you'll see in carvings on the pillars throughout the crypt - good, I'd imagine, to keep children interested. There's so much in the Cathedral that it will take a long, long time to look around properly. Once out of the Cathedral, if you've any Irish connections visit the quite disappointing Chapter House and look for St Patrick in the stained-glass above the entry door. (Tip: he's got a big orange snake). Then it's out, via the shop (a bit commercial, but it all pays for the £9,000 per day it needs to maintain the building) and you're back outside. We must have spent four hours looking around. It's much, much more than any other Cathedral we've ever seen, and well worth it - even if you've little or no religious beliefs. One last tip - stand inside at one end of the cathedral itself, and you'll see that it isn't actually straight - it bends...
Canterbury Cathedral has a huge amount of historically significant features... matched only by the huge amounts of visitors. There are enormous numbers of groups touring the cathedral, and often flouting the policy that only cathedral guides can lead tours. However, once you navigate your way around them, the cathedral is fascinating. It isn't the most beautiful cathedral I've visited (though by no means ugly!), but that is more than compensated for by its interest. I'd recommend visiting the cathedral after going to Canterbury Heritage Museum so that you have some sense of the timescale and significance of events which happened here. The crypt is lovely, and at least during my visit was a little quieter than the nave. On your way down, you will see the site of Thomas Becket's martyrdom (the altar has a sculpture above it, the 'Altar of Sword's Point', so you can find the spot despite the crowds which gather here!). Take a moment to step outside into the cloisters which include a medieval water tower. The crypt itself houses the treasury, with plate from many churches within the diocese. There are also several chapels including the Black Prince Chantry, where French (Huguenot) services are held every week. A sight not to be missed is the view up to Bell Harry, the central tower. This is an incredibly intricate fan vault, decorated with richly coloured painted designs. Other famous features include St Augustine's chair, used for the enthronement of Archbishops of Canterbury, and the tomb of the Black Prince. As you wander around, there are a number of other interesting tombs and memorials... if you can see them through the crowds. Walking round the cathedral can feel a bit like being unceremoniously herded past the points of interest. However, it is worth braving the crowds to visit what has now been designated a World Heritage Site. Apparently, the end of the day is quieter
if you can visit then. Finally, don't forget to walk around the exterior. When I visited, stonework carved by the cathedral's masonry school was on display, although this is presumably temporary as it is to be used on the bell tower. It was fascinating to get a close look at the carvings in this way, and to appreciate how large they actually are.