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|Cathedral and Metropolitical Church of Christ at Canterbury|
Canterbury Cathedral from the city entrance
|Denomination||Church of England|
|Years built||1070-1834 (last major alteration)|
|Length||157 metres (515 ft)|
|Nave length||178 feet (54 m)|
|Choir length||180 feet (55 m)|
|Nave width||71 feet (22 m)|
|Nave height||80 feet (24 m)|
|Choir height||71 feet (22 m)|
|Number of towers||3|
|Tower height||72 metres (236 ft) (crossing)|
|Number of spires||1 (now lost)|
|Spire height||58 metres (190 ft) (north west tower - demolished 1705)|
|Diocese||Canterbury (since 1072)|
|Bishop(s)||Archbishop Rowan Williams Archbishop of Canterbury
Bishop Trevor Willmott Bishop in Canterbury
|Dean||The Very Revd Robert Willis|
|Precentor||The Revd David Mackenzie Mills|
|Canon Chancellor||The Revd Canon Christopher Irvine|
|Canon Pastor||The Revd Canon Clare Edwards|
|Canon Treasurer||The Revd Canon Edward Condry|
|Archdeacon||The Ven Sheila Watson|
|Canterbury Cathedral, St. Augustine's Abbey, and St. Martin's Church *|
|Criteria||i, ii, vi|
|Region **||Europe and North America|
|Inscription||1988 (12th Session)|
|* Name as inscribed on World Heritage List
** Region as classified by UNESCO
Canterbury Cathedral in Canterbury, Kent, is one of the oldest and most famous Christian structures in England and forms part of a World Heritage Site. It is the cathedral of the Archbishop of Canterbury, leader of the Church of England and symbolic leader of the worldwide Anglican Communion. Its formal title is the Cathedral and Metropolitical Church of Christ at Canterbury.
Founded in 597, the cathedral was completely rebuilt 1070-77. The east end was greatly enlarged at the beginning of the twelfth century, and largely rebuilt in the Gothic style following a fire in 1174. The Norman nave and transepts survived until the late fourteenth century, when they were demolished to make way for the present structures.
The cathedral's first archbishop was Augustine of Canterbury, previously abbot of St. Andrew's Benedictine Abbey in Rome. He was sent by Pope Gregory the Great in 596 as a missionary to the Anglo-Saxons. Augustine founded the cathedral in 597 and dedicated it to Jesus Christ, the Holy Saviour.
Augustine also founded the Abbey of St. Peter and Paul outside the city walls. This was later rededicated to St. Augustine himself and was for many centuries the burial place of the successive archbishops. The abbey is part of the World Heritage Site of Canterbury, along with the cathedral and the ancient Church of St. Martin.
Bede recorded that Augustine reused a former Roman church. The oldest remains found during excavations beneath the present nave in 1993 were, however, parts of the foundations of an Anglo-Saxon building, which had been constructed across a Roman road. They indicate that the original church consisted of a nave, possibly with a narthex, and side-chapels to the north and south. A smaller subsidiary building was found to the south-west of these foundations.
During the ninth or tenth century this church was replaced by a larger structure (49 m. by 23 m.) with a squared west end. It appears to have had a square central tower. The eleventh century chronicler Eadmer, who had known the Saxon cathedral as a boy, wrote that, in its arrangement, it resembled St Peter's in Rome, indicating that it was of basilican form, with an eastern apse.
During the reforms of Archbishop St. Dunstan (c909-988), a Benedictine abbey named Christ Church Priory was added to the cathedral. But the formal establishment as a monastery seems to date to c.997 and the community only became fully monastic from Lanfranc's time onwards (with monastic constitutions addressed by him to prior Henry). St. Dunstan was buried on the south side of the High Altar.
The cathedral was badly damaged during Danish raids on Canterbury in 1011. The Archbishop, Alphege, was held hostage by the raiders and eventually killed at Greenwich on 19 April 1012, the first of Canterbury's five martyred archbishops. After this Lyfing (1013–1020) and Aethelnoth (1020–1038) added a western apse as an oratory of St. Mary.
The 1993 excavations revealed that the apse was polygonal and flanked by hexagonal towers, forming a westwork. It housed the archbishop's throne, with an altar of St Mary just to the east. The arcade walls were strengthened and towers added to the eastern corners at around the time the westwork was built.
The cathedral was destroyed by fire in 1067, a year after the Norman Conquest. Rebuilding began in 1070 under the first Norman archbishop, Lanfranc (1070–1077). He cleared the ruins and reconstructed the cathedral to a design based closely on that of the Abbey of St. Etienne in Caen, where he had previously been abbot, using stone brought from France. The new church was a cruciform building, with an aisled nave of nine bays, a pair of towers at the west end, transepts with apsidal chapels, a low crossing tower, and a short choir ending in three apses. It was dedicated in 1077.
Following the election of Prior Ernulf in 1096, Lanfranc's inadequate east end was demolished, and replaced with an eastern arm 198 feet long, doubling the length of the cathedral. It was raised above a large and elaborately decorated crypt. Ernulf was succeeded as prior in 1107 by Conrad, who completed the work by 1126. The new choir took the form of a complete church in itself, with its own transepts; the east end was semicircular in plan, with three chapels opening off an ambulatory
As with many Romanesque church buildings, the interior of the choir was richly embellished. William of Malmesbury wrote: "Nothing like it could be seen in England either for the light of its glass windows, the gleaming of its marble pavements, or the many-coloured paintings which led the eyes to the panelled ceiling above."
Though named after the sixth century founding archbishop, The Chair of St. Augustine may date from the Norman period. Its first recorded use is in 1205.
A pivotal moment in the history of Canterbury Cathedral was the murder of Thomas Becket in the north-west transept (also known as the Martyrdom) on Tuesday 29 December 1170 by knights of King Henry II. The king had frequent conflicts with the strong-willed Becket and is said to have exclaimed in frustration, "Who will rid me of this turbulent priest?" The knights took it literally and murdered Becket in his own cathedral. Becket was the second of four Archbishops of Canterbury who were murdered (see also Alphege).
The income from pilgrims (such as those portrayed in Geoffrey Chaucer's "Canterbury Tales") who visited Becket's shrine, which was regarded as a place of healing, largely paid for the subsequent rebuilding of the Cathedral and its associated buildings. This revenue included the sale of pilgrim badges depicting Becket, his martyrdom, or his shrine.
The shrine was removed in 1538. Henry VIII summoned the dead saint to court to face charges of treason. In his absence, he was found guilty, and the treasures of his shrine confiscated, carried away in two coffers and twenty-six carts.
In September 1174 the choir was severely damaged by fire, necessitating a major reconstruction, the progress of which was recorded in detail by a monk named Gervase. The crypt survived the fire intact, and it was found possible to retain the outer walls, which were increased in height by 12 feet (3.7 m) in the course of the rebuilding, but with the round-headed form of their windows left unchanged.  Everything else was replaced in the new Gothic style, with pointed arches, rib vaulting and flying buttresses. The limestone used was imported from Caen in Normandy, and Purbeck marble was used for the shafting. The choir was back in use by 1180, and in that year the remains of St Dunstan and St Alphege were moved there from the crypt.
The master-mason appointed to rebuild the choir was a Frenchman, Willam of Sens. Following his injury in a fall from the scaffolding in 1179 he was replaced by one of his former assistants, known as "William the Englishman".
In 1180-4, in place of the old, square-ended, eastern chapel, the present Trinity chapel was constructed, a broad extension with an ambulatory designed to house the shrine of St Thomas Becket. A further chapel, circular in plan, was added beyond that to house further relics of Becket, widely believed to have included the top of his skull, struck off in the course of his assassination. This latter chapel became known as the "Corona" or "Beckett's Crown".These new parts east of the choir transepts were was raised on a higher crypt than Ernulf's choir, necessitating flights of steps between the two levels. Work was completed in 1184, although the shrine was not installed until 1220. Over time other significant burials took place in this area such as those of Edward Plantagenet (The 'Black Prince') and King Henry IV.
A bird's-eye view of Canterbury Cathedral and its monastic buildings, made in about 1165 and known as the "waterworks plan" is preserved in the Eadwine Psalter in the library of Trinity College, Cambridge. It shows the same general principles of arrangement common to all Benedictine monasteries, although, unusually, the cloister and monastic buildings were to the north, rather than the south of the church. There was a separate chapter-house.
The buildings formed separate groups. Around the church. Adjoining it, on the north side, stood the cloister and the group of buildings devoted to the monastic life. To the east and west of these were those devoted to the exercise of hospitality.
To the north a large open court divided the monastic buildings from menial ones, such as the stables, granaries, barn, bakehouse, brew house and laundries, inhabited by the lay servants of the establishment. At the greatest possible distance from the church, beyond the precinct of the monastery, was the eleemosynary department. The almonry for the relief of the poor, with a great hall annexed, formed the paupers' hospitium.
The group of buildings devoted to monastic life included two cloisters. The great cloister was surrounded by the buildings essentially connected with the daily life of the monks,-- the church to the south, with the refectory placed as always on the side opposite, the dormitory, raised on a vaulted undercroft, and the chapter-house adjacent, and the lodgings of the cellarer, responsible for providing both monks and guests with food, to the west. A passage under the dormitory lead eastwards to the smaller or infirmary cloister, appropriated to sick and infirm monks.
The hall and chapel of the infirmary extended east of this cloister, resembling in form and arrangement the nave and chancel of an aisled church. Beneath the dormitory, overlooking the green court or herbarium, lay the "pisalis" or "calefactory," the common room of the monks. At its north-east corner access was given from the dormitory to the necessarium, a building in the form of a Norman hall, 145 ft (44 m) long by 25 broad (44.2 m × 7.6 m), containing fifty-five seats. It was constructed with careful regard to hygiene, with a stream of water running through it from end to end.
A second smaller dormitory for the conventual officers ran from east to west . Close to the refectory, but outside the cloisters, were the domestic offices connected with it: to the north, the kitchen, 47 ft (14 m) square (200 m2), with a pyramidal roof, and the kitchen court; to the west, the butteries, pantries, etc. The infirmary had a small kitchen of its own. Opposite the refectory door in the cloister were two lavatories, where the monks washed before and after eating.
The buildings devoted to hospitality were divided into three groups. The prior's group "entered at the south-east angle of the green court, placed near the most sacred part of the cathedral, as befitting the distinguished ecclesiastics or nobility who were assigned to him." The cellarer's buildings, where ordinary visitors of the middle class were entertained, were near the west end of the nave, . The inferior pilgrims and paupers were relegated to the north hall or almonry, just within the gate.
Priors of Christ Church Priory included John of Sittingbourne (elected 1222, previously a monk of the priory) and William Chillenden, (elected 1264, previously monk and treasurer of the priory). The monastery was granted the right to elect their own prior if the seat was vacant by the pope, and — from Gregory IX onwards — the right to a free election (though with the archbishop overseeing their choice). Monks of the priory have included Æthelric I, Æthelric II, Walter d'Eynsham, Reginald fitz Jocelin (admitted as a confrater shortly before his death), Nigel de Longchamps and Ernulf. The monks often put forward candidates for Archbishop of Canterbury, either from among their number or outside, since the archbishop was nominally their abbot, but this could lead to clashes with the king and/or pope should they put forward a different man — examples are the elections of Baldwin of Forde and Thomas Cobham.
Early in the fourteenth century, Prior Eastry erected a stone choir screen, and his successor, Prior Oxenden inserted a large five-light window into St Anselm's chapel.
In 1377, work began on replacing the Norman nave and transepts, and crossing piers. The old apsidal transept chapels were retained, until their replacement in the following century. The nave was demolished, and rebuilt from the west end on the old foundations, but in the Perpendicular style, with the aisle arches exceptionally high in proportion to the clerestory. Transepts, aisles and nave were roofed with lierne vaults, enriched with bosses. Most of the work was done during the priorate of Thomas Chillenden (1391–1411): Chillenden also built a choir screen at the east end of the nave, into which Eastry's screen was incorporated.
The cathedral was seriously damaged by the severe earthquake of 1382, losing its bells and campanile.
A shortage of money, and the priority given to the rebuilding of the cloisters and chapter-house meant that the rebuilding of the west towers was neglected. The south-west tower was not rebuilt until 1458, and the Norman north-west tower survived until 1834, when it was replaced by a replica of its Perpendicular companion.
Around 1430 the south transept apse was removed to make way for a chapel, founded by Lady Margaret Holland and dedicated to St Michael and All Angels. The apse of the north transept was replaced by a Lady Chapel, built in 1448-55.
The 235 foot crossing tower was begun in 1433, although preparations had been made during Chillenden's priorate, when the piers had been reinforced. Further strengthening was found necessary around the beginning of the sixteenth century, when buttressing arches were added under the southern and western tower arches. The tower is often known as the "Angel Steeple", after a gilded angel that one stood on on of its pinnacles.
The cathedral ceased to be an abbey during the Dissolution of the Monasteries when all religious houses were suppressed. Canterbury surrendered in March 1539, and reverted to its previous status of 'a college of secular canons'. The New Foundation came into being on 8 April 1541.
In 1688, the joiner Roger Davis, citizen of London, removed the 13th century misericords and replaced them with two rows of his own work on each side of the choir. Some of Davis's misericords have a distinctly medieval flavour and he may have copied some of the original designs. When Sir George Gilbert Scott performed his renovations in the 19th century, he ripped out the front row of Davis misericords, replacing them with his own designs, which themselves seem to contain many copies of the misericords at Gloucester Cathedral, Worcester Cathedral and New College, Oxford.
The original Norman northwest tower, which had a lead spire until 1705, was demolished in 1834, due to structural concerns. It was replaced with a Perpendicular-style twin of the southwest tower, now known as the "Arundel Tower"'. This was the last major structural alteration to the cathedral to be made.
The cathedral is the Regimental Church of the Princess of Wales's Royal Regiment.
In 2006, a new fundraising appeal to raise £50 million was launched to much media attention under the dramatic banner Save Canterbury Cathedral.
The Canterbury Cathedral Appeal was launched to protect and enhance Canterbury Cathedral's future as a religious, heritage and cultural centre. Every five years the cathedral carries out a major structural review. The last so-called Quinquennial made it very clear that a combination of centuries of weathering, pollution and constant use had taken its toll on the building and there were some serious problems at Canterbury Cathedral that needed urgent action.
Much of the cathedral's stonework is damaged and crumbling, the roofs are leaking and much of the stained glass is badly corroded. It is thought that if action is not taken now, the rate of decay and damage being inflicted on the building will increase dramatically with potentially disastrous results, including closure of large sections of the cathedral in order to guarantee the safety of the million plus worshippers, pilgrims and tourists who visit the cathedral every year. As well as restoring much of the historic beauty of the cathedral, the appeal aims to fund enhancements to visitor facilities and investment to build on the cathedral's significant musical tradition.
By November 2008, the current appeal had raised more than £9 million. Previous major appeals were run in the 1950s and 1970s.
In the summer of 2009, stones in the South West Transept were discovered to have cracked around several iron braces surrounding the Great South Window. The cracks are presumed to be the result of the metal expanding and contracting in hot and cold weather, and have severely compromised the structure of the window. The transept was immediately closed, in case the window were to collapse, while scaffolding was erected, and the area immediately in front of the inside of the window was closed off and covered, to maintain access via the south door beneath it. This area was given restoration priority immediately after the structural damage was discovered.
The Foundation is the authorised staffing establishment of the cathedral, few of whom are clergy. The head of the cathedral is the dean, currently the Very Reverend Robert Willis, who is assisted by a chapter of 24 canons, four of whom are residentiary, the others being honorary appointments of senior clergy in the diocese. There are also a number of lay canons who altogether form the greater chapter which has the legal responsibility both for the cathedral itself and also for the formal election of an archbishop when there is a vacancy-in-see. By English law and custom they may only elect the person who has been nominated by the monarch on the advice of the prime minister. The Foundation also includes the choristers, lay clerks, organists, King's Scholars, the Six Preachers and a range of other officers; some of these posts are moribund, such as that of the cathedral barber. The cathedral has a full-time work force of 300 making it one of the largest employers in the district and in addition also has approximately 800 volunteers.
The cathedral has a total of twenty one bells in the three towers:
The South West Tower (Oxford Tower) contains the cathedral’s main ring of bells, hung for change ringing in the English style. There are fourteen bells – a ring of twelve with two semi-tones, which allow for ringing on ten, eight or six bells while still remaining in tune. All of the bells were cast in 1981 by the Whitechapel Bell Foundry from seven bells of the old peal of twelve with new metal added, and re-hung in a new frame. The length (draught) of the ropes was increased by lowering the floor of the ringing chamber to the level of the south aisle vault at the same time. The heaviest bell of this ring weighs 34cwt (1.72 tonnes). The ringers practice on Thursday at 7.30pm.
The North West Tower (Arundel Tower) contains the cathedral’s clock chime. The five quarter chimes were taken from the old peal of twelve in the Oxford Tower (where the clock was originally), and hung from beams in the Arundel Tower. The chimes are stuck on the eighth Gregorian tone, which is also used at Merton College, Oxford. The hour is struck on Great Dunstan, the largest bell in Kent 63cwt (3.2 tonnes), which is also swung on Sunday mornings for Matins.
In 1316 Prior Henry of Eastry, probably the Cathedral’s greatest single benefactor, gave a large bell dedicated to St Thomas, which weighed 71½ cwt (3.63 tonnes). Later, in 1343, Prior Hathbrand gave bells dedicated to Jesus and St Dunstan. At this time the bells in campanile were rehung and their names recorded as “Jesus”, “Dunstan”, “Mary”, “Crundale”, “Elphy” (Alphege) and “Thomas”.
In the great earthquake of 1382 the campanile fell, destroying the first three named bells. Following its reconstruction, the other three bells were rehung, together with two others, of whose casting no record remains.
The oldest bell in the cathedral is Bell Harry, which hangs in a cage atop the central tower to which the bell lends its name. This bell was cast in 1635, and is struck at 8am and 9pm every day to announce the opening and closing of the cathedral respectively, and also occasionally for services as a Sanctus bell.
The cathedral library has a collection of about 30,000 books and pamphlets printed before the 20th century and about 20,000 later books and serials. Many of the earlier books were acquired as part of donated collections. It is rich in church history, older theology, British history (including local history), travel, science and medicine, and the anti-slavery movement. The library's holdings are included in the online catalogue of the library of the University of Kent.
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