Canterbury Cathedral, located in the heart of the city of Canterbury in South East England, is an imposing and iconic site of international reverence. Headquarters of the Church of England and seat of the Archbishop of Canterbury, it is part of a World Heritage Site and hosts almost 2,000 services of worship every year.
The cathedral was founded by St Augustine, who arrived in England in 597 AD and became the first Archbishop of Canterbury. It was completely rebuilt between 1070 and 1077, following a major fire. In 1170, archbishop Thomas Becket was famously murdered in the cathedral, and the establishment of Becket’s shrine inside the cathedral inspired poet Geoffrey Chaucer’s renowned literary masterpiece The Canterbury Tales, which comprises 24 stories told by pilgrims on a journey from London to visit Becket’s shrine.
Canterbury Cathedral is today led by the current Archbishop of Canterbury, The Most Reverend Justin Welby, who is the leader of the Church of England, symbolic leader of the worldwide Anglican community, and 105th in the line of succession from St Augustine.
Having reached the site of the cathedral in the middle of Canterbury’s medieval streets, visitors will pass through the grand Christ Church Gate before entering the majestic building. They will be greeted by the cathedral’s imposing nave and its spectacular stained glass windows. A tour of the building will reveal the stunning quire, the intricate cloisters, and the beautiful Trinity Chapel, as well as numerous other features of historical and religious significance. The cathedral is open to visitors daily, and guided tours which delve into the rich history of the cathedral and its surroundings are available. As well as serving as a focal point for visitors to the city, the cathedral also retains its place at the centre of the local community, regularly hosting events such as concerts and degree ceremonies.
Canterbury Cathedral, which can be viewed in its full magnificence from the top of the nearby Westgate Towers, is one of the oldest and most famous Christian structures in England. Pilgrims and visitors come from all over the world to pray, to marvel at the building’s inspiring architecture, and to contemplate its vital role in the history of England. Featuring an array of intricate carvings and stained glass windows, with both Gothic and Romanesque elements, the cathedral is an institution of the upmost importance in the story of the Church of England.