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It was on April 24, 1538, that a writ of summons was sent forth in the name of Henry VIII., “To thee, Thomas Becket, some time Archbishop of Canterbury”-—who had then been dead for 368 years—-to appear within thirty days to answer to a charge of treason, contumacy, and rebellion against his sovereign lord, King Henry II. But the days passed, and no spirit having stirred the venerated bones of the wonder-working saint, on June 10 judgment was given in favour of Henry, and it was decreed that the Archbishop’s bones were to be burnt, and his world-famous shrine overlaid with gold and sparkling with jewels was to be forfeited to the Crown. Further than this went the sentence, for Thomas of Canterbury was to be a saint no longer, and his name and memory were to be wiped out. The remains were not burned, but throughout the land every statue, wall-painting, and window to the said Thomas Becket was rigorously searched out and destroyed, and from every record his name was carefully erased. And so it came about that the year 1538 saw the last pilgrimage to the shrine of St. Thomas the Martyr.
Page 4 – CHRIST CHURCH GATEWAY, CANTERBURY.
This beautiful entrance to the Cathedral precincts was built between 1507 and 1517. The richly sculptured stone has weathered exceedingly.
The earliest people who have left evidence of their existence near Canterbury belong to the Palæolithic Age; but as it is not known whether this remote prehistoric population occupied the actual site, or even whether the valley may not have then been a salt-water creek, it is wiser in this brief sketch to pass over these primitive people and the lake-dwellers who, after a considerable interval, were possibly their successors, and come to the surer ground of history.
It was probably not until Ethelbert had begun to reign in 561 that Canterbury became the most important place in Kent, and at that time the site of the Cathedral was outside the town walls. Ethelbert, it should be mentioned, had extended his power so far beyond the confines of Kent that he had authority as far north as the Humber, and Bede writes of “the city of Canterbury, which was the metropolis of all his dominions.”
It took England nearly nine centuries to make up its mind to rid itself of the stultifying authority of the Bishop of Rome and to shake itself free from monasticism and the various forms of idolatrous worship which grew up in the sultry atmosphere of the Papal Church; but these great changes have been evolved, and still the ancient city of Canterbury, hallowed with so many memories of saintly lives, continues to be the metropolis of the Established Church of England.
CANTERBURY CATHEDRAL FROM THE NORTH WEST.
The state central or “Bell Harry” Tower is one of the most beautiful works of the Perpendicular period in existence.
This splendid church, representing the finest achievement of Norman master-builders and workmen, rising high above the domestic quarters of the monastery and standing forth conspicuously from every part of the little walled city, then consisting, to a considerable extent, of low wooden houses, had now reached the stage in its development when it was to be the scene of the murder which was to make Canterbury the most famous resort of pilgrims in Europe.
Page 12 – THE “ANGEL” OR “BELL HARRY” TOWER AND THE BAPTISTERY.
The massive Norman work is seen here in strong contrast with the lightness and delicacy of the Perpendicular tower.
Page 13 -THE CHAPEL OF “OUR LADY” IN THE UNDERCROFT OF THE CATHEDRAL.
Being entirely above the ground this is not a crypt as it is so often miscalled. The morning light in winter fills the spaces between the massive Norman piers.
Canterbury being much divided in its attachment to Becket, the murderers found escape easy, and the general regrets most expressed seem to have been at the sacrilege rather than at the murder.
THE CHAPEL OF ST. MICHAEL OR THE WARRIORS’ CHAPEL.
It is one of the most interesting Chapels in the Cathedral, containing the tomb of Stephen Langton and in the centre of the drawing that of Lady Margaret Holland and her two husbands.
Page 17 – THE SCENE OF THE MARTYRDOM IN THE NORTH-WEST TRANSEPT OF THE CATHEDRAL.
Since the tragic death of Becket in 1170 practically everything in this portion of the Cathedral has been re-constructed.
Page 22 – THE DOORWAY INTO THE TRANSEPT OF MARTYRDOM FROM THE CLOISTERS.
It was through this doorway that Becket was followed by his murderers on that fatal afternoon in 1170 when the winter twilight was deepening.
Page 24 – THE GREYFRIARS’ HOUSE IN CANTERBURY.
This picturesque house of the Franciscans, who came to the town in 1220, stands on a branch of the Stour near Stour Street.
Page 25 – THE PICTURESQUE GABLED HOUSES OF THE CANTERBURY WEAVERS.
The houses are reflected in the Stour just by King’s Bridge, which joins the High Street to St. Peter’s Street.
Page 29 – WESTGATE, CANTERBURY, FROM WITHIN.
This is the only survivor of the gates which studded the mediæval walls of the city.
- A Pilgrimage By Steam to The Shrine of a Martyr in Canterbury Cathedral (scskillman.com)
- Modern Canterbury pilgrims – part 2 (fcoronin.com)