"And specially, from every shire's end
Of Engleland, to Canterbury they wend,
The holy blissful Martyr for to seek,
That them hath holpen, when that they were sick."
Enclosed on three sides by medieval city walls, Canterbury has been a tourist magnet for centuries. The religious capital of Britain, Canterbury stood in the central stage of an often turbulent history. The centuries saw repeated sacking by the Danes, the Dissolution of the Monasteries and targeting by the Baedeker Raids, the infamous Nazi plan to obliterate Britain's historic sites. Despite the turbulence, Canterbury survived and is now home to one of Britain's Unesco World Heritage Sites. The awe-inspiring, Canterbury Cathedral, ruins of St. Augustine's Abbey and the ancient St. Martin's Church are all protected heritage areas. Murderous events at Canterbury left another important legacy, The Canterbury Tales , (the bane of literature students worldwide). Chaucer's classic re-enacted the times of the pilgrims and their journey to the shrine of the assassinated St. Thomas a Becket.
The drama began with the arrival of Augustine, a young monk sent by Pope Gregory the Great on a mission to re-convert England to Christianity. On his arrival in Kent in A.D. 597, he was granted a church at Canterbury by King Ethelbert whose wife was already a Christian. Within a year, the king and over ten thousand of his followers were baptised. St. Augustine went on to build a cathedral with an attached monastery that would become a famous place of learning. However, it was the events of 1170 that forever marked Canterbury on the tourist map. Once on friendly terms, tension arose between King Henry II and the Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas a Becket. The king called for the subjugation of the clergy to the "customs of the realm" and the abandonment of their direct ties with Rome. Thomas a Becket, on the other hand, insisted the Church be exempt from secular law and retain all authority over the clergy. Despite appeals and mandates to and from Rome, the two opposing sides remained obdurate and no compromise was found.
The threat of King Henry II's excommunication by Pope Alexander brought an apparent compromise between the two and after six years of voluntary exile Thomas a Becket returned to Canterbury. Although he would later deny the accusation, it is said that Henry ranted, "Will no one rid me of this troublesome priest?,". The ominous words were taken literally by four knights who took it upon themselves to carry out the king's wishes. It was not only the crime but the sacreligious choice of place which would horrify posterity. The atrocity was committed in the quire of the cathedral when Thomas a Becket was on his way to vespers with the monastic community. The horrific assassination caused an outrage amongst the religious community and pilgrims flocked to the shrine placed on the spot of the murder. Even in death, Becket found little peace from the British monarchy and the holy shrine was plundered and demolished during the reign of King Henry VIII. In front of his holy shrine, a writ was read denouncing Becket for 'treason, contumacy and rebellion'. As orders for all traces of the shrine to be removed were followed, 26 cartloads of jewels and gold were removed. On your visit to the cathedral you'll see a burning candle upon the floor marking the holy spot.
Canterbury : Sightseeing and Attractions
Imbued with history, this cathedral is simply a magnificent work which must be
seen to be fully appreciated. Even those with the least spiritual attentions
will want to linger here and you can easily spend half a day in its beauty. .. more
Admission: £5.00 Adults £4.00 Children
Address: 11 The Precincts, Canterbury, Kent
Postcode: CT1 2EH Street Map
Contact: PH +44(0) 1227-762862
|St Augustine Abbey|
The ruins lie on the very site were St. Augustine founded his first church and the site where he was buried. Originally intended as a burial ground for Anglo-Saxon Kings, this was the final resting place of King Ethelbert and other archbishops, nobles and kings... more
Admission: £3.70 Adults £1.90 Children
Address: Longport, Canterbury, Kent
Postcode: CT1 1TF Street Map
Contact: PH 01227 766567
|St. Martin's Church|
Lying on Holmes Rd, St Martin's saw worship by the early Christians in the days even before St. Augustine's arrival. As such, it is the oldest, parish church to be continually used in England... more
Admission: Free entry
Address: North Holmes Road, Canterbury, Kent
Contact: PH +44(0)1227 768 072
|The Weavers Houses|
Take a walk to St. Peter's Street where you'll see a row of medieval houses which have mostly been reconverted to house shops and restaurants. These half-timbered houses were once home to the Huguenot refugees who came here to escape persecution from the Catholics in Flanders. .. more
Address: 1-3 St. Peter's Street, Canterbury, Kent
|Eastbridge Hospital of St. Thomas a Martyr|
Founded in the 12th century, this was a place of hospitality where poor pilgrims could find shelter... more
Admission: £1.00 Adults £0.50 Children
Address: 25 High Street, Canterbury, Kent
Postcode: CT1 2BD Street Map
Contact: PH 01227 471688
Lying in the vicinity of the cathedral, this museum is housed underground at the original level of the Roman Town. Exhibits include excavations of Roman artefacts and some well preserved mosaics from part of a surviving town house. You'll also find interesting reconstructions of a Roman market place and a working kitchen as well as other interactive displays.
Admission: £2.90 Adults £1.80 Children
Address: Longmarket, Butchery Lane, Canterbury, Kent
Contact: PH +44 (0)1227 785 575
|The Royal Museum and Art Gallery|
Canterbury's Art Museum features changing exhibitions and works by Henry Moore and Gainsborough. Housed in a beautiful mock-Tudor building you can also visit the Buffs regimental gallery, home to military memorabilia it details the history of the Royal East Kent Regiment.
Admission: Free entry
Address: 18 High Street, Canterbury, Kent
Postcode: CT1 2RA Street Map
Contact: PH +44 (0)1227 452 747
|West Gate Towers|
The only surviving city gate, West Gate lies at the end of St. Peter's Street. Built in 1375 with prison cells for unwanted newcomers, the site now houses a small museum displaying the weapons of a typical medieval guard. From here you access the battlements or head to the bridge from where you can take a gentle ride along the River Stour in a traditional punt (don't worry, you'll be chauffeured).
Admission: £1.15 Adults £0.70 Children
Address: St Peter's Street, Canterbury, Kent
Contact: PH + 44 (0)1227 789 576
|Museum of Canterbury|
Housed in the former Poor Priests' Hospital, this newly, refurbished, interactive museum focuses on the history of the town. Exhibits and displays range from Roman times to the present and you'll be able to examine medieval excrement under the microscope or delve into an Elizabethan treasure chest. There's something to interest all the family with the Joseph Conrad gallery, Christopher Marlowe's murder exhibition and a gallery for changing exhibitions. You can also visit the Rupert Bear Museum at an additional cost. However, you might want to look into the Museum Passport which will give you discounted entry into the Roman Museum, Museum of Canterbury, The Rupert Bear Museum and the West Gate Towers.
Admission: £3.20 Adults £2.15 Children
Address: Stour Street, Canterbury, Kent
Postcode: CT1 2NZ Street Map
Contact: PH + 44 (0)1227 475 202
|Canterbury Tales Visitor Attraction|
High on tourists' 'to do' list, the Canterbury Tales Visitor Attraction brings to life the birth of English fiction in a celebration of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. Audio tours will guide you from a London Inn where you'll first encounter the pilgrims and be diverted with their merry tales of romance, chivalry, rivalry and even death. It all ends at the pilgrims' final destination, the shrine to St. Thomas a Beckett.
Admission: £7.95 Adults £5.90 Children
Address: St Margaret's St, Canterbury, Kent
Postcode: CT1 2TG Street Map
Contact: PH 0122 7479 227
|Canterbury Tourist Information Centre|
Address: 12/13 Sun Street, Canterbury, Kent
Postcode: CT1 2HX Street Map
Contact: PH +44(0)1227 378 100
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