The cathedral city of Canterbury lies by the River Stour in the heart of Kent district in South East England.
The drive from Dover to Canterbury took about 20 minutes. Within that short time, our wonderful tour guide Mary talked about Canterbury’s significance in history.
On our way to the center of Canterbury, we saw some interesting ruins, which Mary explained were actually from Roman times.
Originally occupied by the ancient Britons, the city was renamed Durovernum Cantiacorum by theRomans, who invaded Britain in the 1st Century AD. When the Romans left, the Saxons moved into the city and renamed the city Canterbury, (after the old English word Cantwareburh meaning “Kent people’s stronghold”).
In 597 AD, the Kingdom of Kent converted to Christianity, and St. Augustine became the first Archbishop of Canterbury. Nowadays, the position of Archbishop of Canterbury is at the head of the Church of England.
Canterbury became a place of pilgrimage when in 1170 AD, St. Thomas Becket was murdered within the cathedral. According to Mary, Thomas Becket and King Henry II became friends when Thomas Becket was appointed Lord Chancellor. But when Thomas Becket was appointed as the Archbishop of Canterbury, he began to put the church’s needs about the government and this irked King Henry II. King Henry II uttered words of annoyance directed at Thomas Beckett, which four of the king’s knights mistook for a royal command. These four knights rode to Canterbury and murdered Thomas Becket.
The pilgrimage to Canterbury Cathedral became the backdrop to one of the most famous books in history. In the late 14th century, Geoffrey Chaucer wrote the Canterbury Tales, a collection of stories, told as part of a story-telling contest by pilgrims traveling together to the shrine of St. Thomas Beckett.
Mary, ever the great storyteller, told us one story from the Canterbury Tales. “The Wife of Bath” was a great tale that certainly gained Mary a hearty applause. You can read a modern summary of the old tale HERE.
The bus dropped us off by a shopping center in the middle of town. As we followed Mary through the maze of shops, Mary pointed out various landmarks that would help us get back to the bus stop after our tour ended in two hours.
I was amazed by how centuries old buildings melded seamlessly with modern buildings to create a unique shopping experience.
Sandwiched between two modern buildings was a tall medieval structure littered with an striking array of angels and coats of arms.
Mary explained that the structure was the main gate that marked the entrance into the cathedral precinct.
The main gate looked small and out of place in the shopping complex. But beyond the gates, was a sight Mary did not prepare us for.
Canterbury Cathedral was breathtaking.
We stood there, gaping, snapping pictures and taking in the amazing structure before us.
Mary told us what to look for as we explored the Cathedral on our own. Since the cathedral was a place of worship, silence was the key. But if we wanted to learn more, we could approach the cathedral volunteers to ask for a tour.
Maiko and I slipped inside the cathedral, which was just as breathtaking inside as it was outside.
Lifelike effigies of notable people entombed within were spread around the cathedral walls.
I was so taken by the cathedral’s immense beauty that I forgot about taking lots of pictures. Instead, I just soaked everything in.
We visited the spot where pilgrims walked on their knees to pay homage to St. Thomas Becket. Three daggers marked the place where St. Thomas Becket was murdered.
An arch to the right of the memorial led down to the cathedral crypt. Pictures weren’t allowed below, so our cameras were of no use. I told Maiko about this old Filipino (catholic) custom which my aunt taught me when I was young. Every time I entered a church I had never been to before, I would either knock on the church door or a wooden bench and make a wish. So Maiko did the same thing.
Within the crypt was a little alcove where a table with several pieces of paper and a pen was laid out. People could write their prayer requests on the paper and leave it on the table. Maiko left a prayer request for her mom, then we both went around the crypt. We saw the beheaded statues of saints that Mary had told us about. We lit a candle and said our own little prayers, then headed outside.
We explored areas around the cathedral.
We wandered into a small garden area behind the cathedral. There were lots of interesting things to see so we stayed for a bit and took pictures.
We could have spent all day exploring the various nooks and crannies of the cathedral–inside and outside, but unfortunately, we were on a tight schedule.
Maiko and I headed for the cathedral shop to buy souvenirs for ourselves and our loved ones back home.
Afterward, we rushed out of the cathedral into the street full of shops. We had seen a T-mobile store on our way to the cathedral and decided that we would drop by before we left the city. Our internet functions still weren’t working on our smartphones, so we asked one of the store attendants to help us. He gave us instructions to text “monthweb” to 150. He said that T-mobile would then charge us £5, and that should give us a month’s worth of internet capabilities.
We thanked him and went to the next shop on our list:
Poundland is UK’s version of the 99c store, and everything inside was worth a pound. Maiko and I did some quick shopping inside. We got some chocolates to bring back home.
Back outside with our Poundland bags, we saw an ice cream cart. We had been craving ice cream since we were in Stratford-Upon-Avon, so we finally gave in and bought ourselves a cone.
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