Canterbury Cathedral

Canterbury Cathedral in Canterbury, Kent, is one of the oldest and most famous Christian structures in England. It forms part of a World Heritage Site. It is the cathedral of the Archbishop of Canterbury, currently Justin Welby, 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 between 1070 and 1077. The east end was greatly enlarged at the beginning of the 12th century, and largely rebuilt in the Gothic style following a fire in 1174, with significant eastward extensions to accommodate the flow of pilgrims visiting the shrine of Thomas Becket, the archbishop who was murdered in the cathedral in 1170. The Norman nave and transepts survived until the late 14th century, when they were demolished to make way for the present structures.

Before the English Reformation the cathedral was part of a Benedictine monastic community known as Christ Church, Canterbury, as well as being the seat of the archbishop.

Canterbury Cathedral
Cathedral and Metropolitical Church of Christ at Canterbury
Cathedral from the city entrance
Coordinates: 51°16′47″N 1°04′59″E / 51.279722°N 1.083056°E
LocationCanterbury, Kent
DenominationChurch of England
Previous denominationRoman Catholicism
StyleRomanesque, Gothic
Years built1070–1834 (last major alteration)
Length525 ft (160 m)
Nave length178 ft (54 m)
Choir length180 ft (55 m)
Width154 ft (47 m)
Nave width71 ft (22 m)
Nave height80 ft (24 m)
Choir height71 ft (22 m)
Number of towers5
Tower height236 ft (72 m) (crossing)[1]
Number of spires1 (now lost)
Spire height190 ft (58 m) (northwest tower, demolished 1705)
Bells14 (1981)
Tenor bell weight34-3-4 (1767kg)
DioceseCanterbury (since 1072)
ArchbishopJustin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury
Bishop(s)Trevor Willmott, Bishop suffragan of Dover
DeanRobert Willis
PrecentorMax Kramer (minor canon)
Canon MissionerEmma Pennington
Canon Treasurervacant
ArchdeaconJo Kelly-Moore (Vice-Dean)
Organist/Director of musicDavid Flood
Official nameCanterbury Cathedral, St Augustine's Abbey, and St Martin's Church
Criteriai, ii, vi
Designated1988 (12th session)
Reference no.496
State PartyUnited Kingdom
RegionEurope and North America
The archiepiscopal throne in Canterbury Cathedral



Christianity had started to become powerful in the Roman Empire around the 3rd century. Following the conversion of Augustine of Hippo in the 4th century, the influence of Christianity grew steadily.[2] The cathedral's first bishop was Augustine of Canterbury, previously abbot of St Andrew's Benedictine Abbey in Rome; when other dioceses were founded in England he was made archbishop. He was sent by Pope Saint 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.[3]

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.[4]


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.[5][6] 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.[6] During the 9th or 10th century this church was replaced by a larger structure (161 by 75 ft, 49 by 23 m) with a squared west end. It appears to have had a square central tower.[6] The 11th-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.[7]

During the reforms of Dunstan, archbishop from 960 until his death in 988,[8] a Benedictine abbey named Christ Church Priory was added to the cathedral. But the formal establishment as a monastery seems to date only to c. 997 and the community only became fully monastic from Lanfranc's time onwards (with monastic constitutions addressed by him to Prior Henry). 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, Ælfheah, was taken hostage by the raiders and eventually killed at Greenwich on 19 April 1012, the first of Canterbury's five martyred archbishops.[Fn 1] After this a western apse was added as an oratory of Saint Mary, probably during the archbishopric of Lyfing (1013–1020) or Aethelnoth (1020–1038).

The 1993 excavations revealed that the new western apse was polygonal, and flanked by hexagonal towers, forming a westwork. It housed the archbishop's throne, with the altar of St Mary just to the east. At about the same time that the westwork was built, the arcade walls were strengthened and towers added to the eastern corners of the church.[6]


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 Saint-Étienne in Caen, where he had previously been abbot, using stone brought from France.[10] The new church, its central axis about 5m south of that of its predecessor,[6] was a cruciform building, with an aisled nave of nine bays, a pair of towers at the west end, aiseless transepts with apsidal chapels, a low crossing tower, and a short choir ending in three apses. It was dedicated in 1077.[11]

Canterbury Cathedral 1174b
The Norman cathedral, after its expansion by Ernulf and Conrad.

Under Lanfranc's successor Anselm, who was twice exiled from England, the responsibility for the rebuilding or improvement of the cathedral's fabric was largely left in the hands of the priors.[12] 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 in 1107 by Conrad, who completed the work by 1126.[13] 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.[13] A free standing campanile was built on a mound in the cathedral precinct in about 1160.[14]

As with many Gothic church buildings, the interior of the choir was richly embellished.[15] 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."[15]

Though named after the 6th-century founding archbishop, the Chair of St Augustine, the ceremonial enthronement chair of the Archbishop of Canterbury, may date from the Norman period. Its first recorded use is in 1205.

Plantagenet period

Martyrdom of Thomas Becket

Image of Thomas Becket from a stained glass window
Canterbury Cathedral Choir 2, Kent, UK - Diliff
The 12th-century choir

A pivotal moment in the history of the cathedral was the murder of the archbishop, 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, "Will no one rid me of this turbulent priest?" Four knights took it literally and murdered Becket in his own cathedral. After the Anglo-Saxon Ælfheah, Becket was the second Archbishop of Canterbury to be murdered.

The posthumous veneration of Becket made the cathedral a place of pilgrimage. This brought both the need to expand the cathedral and the wealth that made it possible.

Rebuilding of the choir

Tomb of the Black Prince

In September 1174 the choir was severely damaged by fire, necessitating a major reconstruction,[16] the progress of which was recorded in detail by a monk named Gervase.[17] The crypt survived the fire intact,[18] and it was found possible to retain the outer walls of the choir, 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.[19] 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 Dunstan and Ælfheah were moved there from the crypt.[20]

The master-mason appointed to rebuild the choir was a Frenchman, William 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".[20]

Trinity Chapel and Shrine of Thomas Becket

Canterbury Cathedral Trinity Chapel Stained Glass, Kent, UK - Diliff
Stained glass in the Trinity Chapel
Canterbury Cathedral Becket's Crown, Kent, UK - Diliff
Becket's crown at the far east side of the cathedral

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.[20] A further chapel, circular in plan, was added beyond that, which housed further relics of Becket, [20] 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 "Becket's Crown".[21] These new parts east of the choir transepts were raised on a higher crypt than Ernulf's choir, necessitating flights of steps between the two levels. Work on the chapel was completed in 1184, [20] but Becket's remains were not moved from his tomb in the crypt until 1220.[22] Further significant interments in the Trinity Chapel included those of Edward Plantagenet (The "Black Prince") and King Henry IV.

The shrine in the Trinity Chapel was placed directly above Becket's original tomb in the crypt. A marble plinth, raised on columns, supported what an early visitor, Walter of Coventry, described as "a coffin wonderfully wrought of gold and silver, and marvellously adorned with precious gems".[23] Other accounts make clear that the gold was laid over a wooden chest, which in turn contained an iron-bound box holding Becket's remains.[24] Further votive treasures were added to the adornments of the chest over the years, while others were placed on pedestals or beams nearby, or attached to hanging drapery.[25] For much of the time the chest (or "feretory") was kept concealed by a wooden cover, which would be theatrically raised by ropes once a crowd of pilgrims had gathered.[22][24] The Dutch humanist Desiderius Erasmus, who visited in 1512–1514, recorded that, once the cover was raised, "the Prior ... pointed out each jewel, telling its name in French, its value, and the name of its donor; for the principal of them were offerings sent by sovereign princes."[26]

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 profits from the sale of pilgrim badges depicting Becket, his martyrdom, or his shrine.

The shrine was removed in 1538. King Henry VIII summoned the dead saint to court to face charges of treason. Having failed to appear, he was found guilty in his absence and the treasures of his shrine were confiscated, carried away in two coffers and 26 carts.[27]

Monastic buildings

Canterbury Cathedral Cloisters, Kent, UK - Diliff

A bird's-eye view of the cathedral and its monastic buildings, made in about 1165[28] and known as the "waterworks plan" is preserved in the Eadwine Psalter in the library of Trinity College, Cambridge.[29] It shows that Canterbury employed 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[28] which still exists, said to be "the largest of its kind in all of England". Stained glass here depicts the history of Canterbury.[30]

The stained glass windows in the chapter-house

The buildings formed separate groups around the church. Adjoining it, on the north side, stood the cloister and the 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.[28]

Canterbury cathedral plan
Plan of Canterbury Cathedral showing the complex ribbing of the Perpendicular vaulting in the nave and transepts

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.[28]

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 northeast corner access was given from the dormitory to the necessarium, a building in the form of a Norman hall, 145 feet (44 m) long by 25 feet (7.6 m) broad, containing 55 seats. It was constructed with careful regard to hygiene, with a stream of water running through it from end to end.[28]

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 feet (14 m) square, 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.[28]

View from the north west circa 1890–1900.

The buildings devoted to hospitality were divided into three groups. The prior's group were "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 middle class visitors were entertained, stood near the west end of the nave. The inferior pilgrims and paupers were relegated to the north hall or almonry, just within the gate.[28]

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).[31] 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 or pope should they put forward a different man – examples are the elections of Baldwin of Forde and Thomas Cobham.

Canterbury Cathedral Rood Screen, Kent, UK - Diliff
Choir screen[32]

14th and 15th centuries

Early in the 14th century, Prior Eastry erected a stone choir screen and rebuilt the chapter house, and his successor, Prior Oxenden inserted a large five-light window into St Anselm's chapel.[33]

The cathedral was seriously damaged by an earthquake of 1382, losing its bells and campanile.

From the late 14th century the nave and transepts were rebuilt, on the Norman foundations in the Perpendicular style under the direction of the noted master mason Henry Yevele.[34] In contrast to the contemporary rebuilding of the nave at Winchester, where much of the existing fabric was retained and remodelled, the piers were entirely removed, and replaced with less bulky Gothic ones, and the old aisle walls completely taken down except for a low "plinth" left on the south side.[35][6] More Norman fabric was retained in the transepts, especially in the east walls,[35] and the old apsidal chapels were not replaced until the mid-15th century.[33] The arches of the new nave arcade were exceptionally high in proportion to the clerestory.[33] The new 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 new choir screen at the east end of the nave, into which Eastry's existing screen was incorporated.[33] The Norman stone floor of the nave, however survived until its replacement in 1786.[6]

Canterbury Cathedral Nave 1, Kent, UK - Diliff
Perpendicular style nave
Roof of Bell Harry Tower
Canterbury Cathedral, fan vaulting of the crossing

From 1396 the cloisters were repaired and remodelled by Yevele's pupil Stephen Lote who added the lierne vaulting. It was during this period that the wagon-vaulting of the chapter house was created.

A shortage of money, and the priority given to the rebuilding of the cloisters and chapterhouse meant that the rebuilding of the west towers was neglected. The south-west tower was not replaced until 1458, and the Norman north-west tower survived until 1834, when it was replaced by a replica of its Perpendicular companion.[33]

In about 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 north transept apse was replaced by a Lady Chapel, built in 1448–1455.[33]

The 235-foot (72 m) crossing tower was begun in 1433, although preparations had already been made during Chillenden's priorate, when the piers had been reinforced. Further strengthening was found necessary around the beginning of the 16th 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 once stood on one of its pinnacles.[33]

Modern period

Canterbury Cathedral font, Kent, UK - Diliff
The decorative font in the nave

The Reformation, Dissolution and Puritanism

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'. According to the cathedral's own website, it had been a Benedictine monastery since the 900s. The New Foundation came into being on 8 April 1541.[36] The shrine to St Thomas Becket was destroyed on the orders of Henry VIII and the relics lost.

In 1642-1643, during the English Civil War, Puritan iconoclasts caused significant damage during their "cleansing" of the cathedral.[37] Included in that campaign was the destruction of the statue of Christ in the Christ Church Gate and the demolition of the wooden gates by a group led by Richard Culmer.[38] The statue would not be replaced until 1990 but the gates were restored in 1660 and a great deal of other repair work started at that time; that would continue until 1704.[39][40]


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 carried out renovations in the 19th century, he replaced the front row of Davis' misericords, with new ones of his own design, which seem to include many copies of those at Gloucester Cathedral, Worcester Cathedral and New College, Oxford.

Canterbury Cathedral, view of the Western Towers engraved by J.LeKeux after a picture by G.Cattermole, 1821 edited
The west front in 1821 showing the Norman north west tower prior to rebuilding, (coloured engraving)

Statues on the West Front

Most of the statues that currently adorn the west front of the cathedral were installed in the 1860s when the South Porch was being renovated. At that time, the niches were vacant and the Dean of the cathedral thought that the appearance of the cathedral would be improved if they were filled. The Victorian sculptor Theodore Pfyffers was commissioned to create the statues and most of them were installed by the end of the 1860s. There are currently 53 statues representing various figures who have been influential in the life of the cathedral and the English church such as clergy, members of the royal family, saints, and theologians. Archbishops of Canterbury from Saint Augustine of Canterbury and Lanfranc, to Thomas Cranmer and William Laud are represented. Kings and Queens from Æthelberht and Saint Bertha of Kent, to Victoria and Elizabeth II are included.[41]

18th century to the present

Christchurch Gate, Canterbury Cathedral
The Christchurch Gate with the new (1990) statue of Christ; the original was destroyed in 1643

The original towers of Christ Church Gate were removed in 1803 and were replaced in 1937. The statue of Christ was replaced in 1990 with a bronze sculpture of Christ by Klaus Ringwald.[39]

The original Norman northwest tower, which had a lead spire until 1705,[42] was demolished in 1834 owing to structural concerns.[33] It was replaced with a Perpendicular-style twin of the southwest tower, (designed by Thomas Mapilton), now known as the "Arundel Tower", providing a more symmetrical appearance for the cathedral. [43][40] This was the last major structural alteration to the cathedral to be made.

In September 1872 a large portion of the Trinity Chapel roof was completely destroyed by fire. There was no significant damage to the stonework or interior and the damage was quickly repaired.[44]

The cathedral did not sustain serious damage during either World War

During the bombing raids of the Second World War its library was destroyed,[45] but the cathedral did not sustain extensive bomb damage; the local Fire Wardens doused any flames on the wooden roof.[46]

In 2015 Sarah Mullally and Rachel Treweek became the first women to be ordained as bishops in the cathedral, as Bishop of Crediton and Bishop of Gloucester respectively.[47]

The cathedral is the Regimental Church of the Princess of Wales's Royal Regiment.

The cathedral is used as one of the venues for the graduation ceremonies of the University of Kent[48] and Canterbury Christ Church University.[49]


Much of the stonework at Canterbury Cathedral is damaged and crumbling, the roofs are leaking and much of the stained glass is badly corroded. The last quinquennial structural review[50] revealed that a combination of centuries of weathering, pollution and constant use had taken its toll on the ancient building and some serious problems were in need of urgent action.

The single biggest challenge is the roof. The cathedral is covered by a huge expanse of lead and whilst the majority of the wooden framework remains sound, much of the lead itself needs replacing. In addition, a large amount of concrete encasing the bottom of the roof beams needs to be removed and replaced with traditional wooden footers.

Conservation of the external masonry, particularly on the northern side of the building, is equally important. The cathedral is in part built of Caen stone. Detailed archaeological studies are undertaken to identify exactly which stones need to be replaced or repaired. In addition, specialist cleaning techniques are used to remove accumulated chemical deposits which are very damaging to the building. As regards the interior, priorities include decoration of the vaults of the Trinity Chapel, major improvements to the Treasury building which contains, amongst other things, the choir practice rooms, and conservation work in several other chapels.

Canterbury stained glass 7379
One of the many stained-glass windows at Canterbury Cathedral

The earliest coloured glass windows in the cathedral date from the late 12th century, whilst others are as new as the four Ervin Bossányi windows in the south-east transept (1957). Many have already been conserved and protected by the team of stained glass conservators led by Leonie Seliger. However, much conservation work remains to be done, notably on the Oculus window in the south-east transept – a late 12th-century round window.[51]

During the autumn of 2008, a major restoration of the lead roof over the transept was completed at a cost of approximately £500,000.[52] In 2018, the lead roof of the nave was replaced.[53] The extensive restoration of the cathedral that was underway in mid-2018 was part of a 2016-2021 schedule that also includes improved landscaping and accessibility, new visitor facilities and a general external restoration.[54] The so-called Canterbury Journey project[55] was expected to cost nearly £25 million; the funding included a £13.8 million Heritage Lottery grant, £10.9 million from by the Canterbury Cathedral Trust and £250,000 from the Friends of the Cathedral.[53]


The Foundation is the authorised staffing establishment of the cathedral, few of whom are clergy. The head of the cathedral is the Dean, currently Robert Willis, who is assisted by a chapter of 30 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 work force of over 300 (many of whom work part-time), and approximately 800 volunteers.

Dean and Chapter

As of 22 December 2018:[56]

  • DeanRobert Willis (since 1 July 2001)
  • Vice-Dean and Archdeacon of CanterburyJo Kelly-Moore (Archdeacon since 22 January 2017 collation; Vice-Dean since 1 January 2018)
  • Canon Librarian — Tim Naish (since 22 April 2018)[57]
  • Canon Missioner — Emma Pennington (from March 2019)[58]
  • Diocesan Canon — vacant since 9 September 2018 (most recently Canon Treasurer and Diocesan director of curates)[59]


Minor canons:

  • Precentor — Max Kramer (since 10 June 2017)[60]


Canterbury Cathedral receives no government or state funding and only occasional grants from English Heritage. It is not funded by the Church of England. The Church Commissioners pay the salary of the dean and two of the residentiary canons only. The cathedral is therefore largely self-funded.

Around £18,000 is spent each day (2017) on running costs.[61] In order to meet these costs the cathedral has to rely on income from entry fees paid by visitors and a number of commercial operations such as property rental, the Cathedral Shop, as well as the Cathedral Lodge Hotel and Conference Centre.[62]


The "Save Canterbury Cathedral" appeal was launched in October 2006 to protect and enhance the cathedral's future as a centre of worship, heritage and culture. The aim was to raise £50 million; by the end of 2010 the appeal had raised £11.5 million,[51] and as at May 2014 over £20 million had been raised.[50]

The core part of the fundraising programme is focused on the cathedral's fabric. The major conservation-restoration projects already identified will cost £30 million. Fabric conservation is the most urgent element of the campaign. The appeal – the third of its kind following major fundraising drives at Canterbury in the 1950s and 1970s – was launched to fund these projects. Fundraising for the appeal will take place over a number of years both nationally and internationally, stressing the cathedral's role as the mother church of the worldwide Anglican Communion and as a World Heritage Site. An integrated conservation programme that addresses the priority areas has been drawn up by the cathedral's Surveyor to the Fabric, John Burton.

Major repair and conservation projects to be funded by the appeal include roofs of the nave, aisles, and North West and South East Transepts; stone carvings, pinnacles and stone facings of the Bell Harry Tower; work on the North side of the Corona Chapel;[51] conservation of the Christ Church Gate entry to the Precincts; conservation of stained glass and surrounding stonework throughout the cathedral; and preservation of the collection of historic books and manuscripts.

In addition, there are plans to refurbish the cathedral pipe organ and renovations to the Choir House have already been completed, providing better facilities for choristers. Improvements are planned to the fabric of the library buildings and to the cathedral's audio-visual and lighting systems which will significantly benefit visitors including the disabled, visually impaired and hard of hearing. The appeal also aims to develop the outmoded workshop area and stained glass studio, in order to ensure the survival of Canterbury as a centre of excellence for vital craft skills and to promote a sustainable maintenance base for work on the cathedral which can be viewed by the public.

The fund raising group is the Canterbury Cathedral Trust, an independent, registered charity (1112590) seeking funds to provide conservation, craftsmanship, music and education. Since mid-2017, the Chief Executive has been Sarah Frankland. The Trust was able to obtain the £24.7m needed for The Canterbury Journey multi-year restoration programme which should be completed in 2021. In 2016/17 the Trust received £3.66m in donations and an additional £1.61m had been pledged for future projects. The next plan was to raise funds to restore and improve the Quire organ by 2020. In 2017, the Cathedral was planning to have the new Welcome Centre open in 2019, with exhibition spaces and viewing gallery.[63]



The organ at Canterbury is of three manuals with cases in the choir gallery and the north choir aisle. It was built in 1886 by Henry Willis and subsequently rebuilt by the same firm in the mid-20th century. It was rebuilt by N. P. Mander in 1978 and reduced to three manuals at about that time. There are plans to replace the current organ and work starts in 2015.[64]


Organists and assistant organists at Canterbury Cathedral have included composers Clement Charlton Palmer, Gerald Hocken Knight and Philip Moore and musical directors Allan Wicks and Stephen Darlington. The current organist and master of the choristers is David Flood and his assistant organist, who is also director of the girls' choir, is David Newsholme.[65] In September 2015, Adrian Bawtree was appointed second assistant organist, a position that replaced the organ scholarship.


There has been a choral tradition at Canterbury Cathedral for 1400 years. The cathedral choir consists of 25 boy choristers and 12 lay clerks. The boys are aged eight to thirteen. They receive scholarships and attend St Edmund's School, Canterbury.[65] There are seven choral services a week with Choral Evensong at 5:30 pm on Monday-Friday, with the boys alone on Thursday and men on Wednesday. On Saturday and Sunday there is evensong at 3:15 pm and Eucharist on Sunday at 11 am. There are numerous extra services, especially at Christmas, Easter and Pentecost.

The Girls' Choir of Canterbury Cathedral was founded in 2014 and their first performance at Evensong, in January, was attended by more than 600 people and widely covered by the international press.[66][67] They gave their first concert in December of that year.[68] They typically perform at Evensong twice every month, often with the lay clerks of the cathedral choir. The girls are aged 12 to 18. They attend local schools in Canterbury and some further afield.[69]


Dunstan 1
Great Dunstan. Recording on YouTube

The cathedral has a total of 21 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 semitones, 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 rehung 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, also allowing for the new bells to be set lower in the belfry than the old, with the intention of reducing strain on the Medieval structure. The heaviest bell (tenor) of this ring weighs 34 long cwt 3 qr 4 lb (3,896 lb or 1,767 kg).[70] The ringers practise on Thursday at 7:15 pm.

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 at 62 long cwt 2 qr 9 lb (7,009 lb or 3,179 kg),[71] which is also swung on Sunday mornings for Matins.

In 1316 Prior Henry of Eastry gave a large bell dedicated to Saint Thomas, which weighed 71 12 cwt (3,630 kg). 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" (Ælfheah) 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 (approximately 8 long cwt (900 lb or 400 kg)[72]), which hangs in a cage atop the central tower to which the bell lends its name. This bell was cast by Joseph Hatch in 1635, and is struck at 8 am and 9 pm every day to announce the opening and closing of the cathedral, and also occasionally for services as a Sanctus bell.[73]

The cathedral also has custody of the bell of HMS Canterbury, a World War I-era light cruiser, hung near the Buffs Chapel in the southwest transept.


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.[74]

Lyghfield Bible - 2018 auction catalogue - 10
two leaves from the Lyghfield Bible

In July 2018, the cathedral purchased at auction a medieval Trussel Bible for £100,000. This bible, subsequently renamed the "Lyghfield Bible", after the monk William Lighfyld, had previously been at Canterbury, being removed following the Dissolution.[75]

See also



  1. ^ Ælfheah is venerated as St Alphege.[9]


  1. ^ "A Walk Around Canterbury Cathedral". Retrieved 8 December 2017.
  2. ^ Dudley 2010, p. 23.
  3. ^ "Canterbury Cathedral- A Virtual Tour". Archived from the original on 28 December 2008. Retrieved 7 October 2008.
  4. ^ Labadi, Sophia (2013). UNESCO, Cultural Heritage, and Outstanding Universal Value: Value-based Analyses of the World Heritage and Intangible Cultural Heritage Conventions. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 170. ISBN 978-0-759-12256-7.
  5. ^ "AD 1000 — Canterbury Cathedral". Current Archaeology. Retrieved 16 March 2012.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g Blockley, Kevin; Bennett, Paul. "Canterbury Cathedral". Canterbury Archaeological Trust. Retrieved 12 March 2012.
  7. ^ Willis 1845, pp. 20–21.
  8. ^ "St Dunstan (Biographical details)". British Museum. Retrieved 13 April 2014.
  9. ^ Farmer 1992, pp. 17–18.
  10. ^ Cook 1949.
  11. ^ Cook 1949, pp. 19–20.
  12. ^ Withers 1897, p. 4.
  13. ^ a b Cook 1949, p. 19.
  14. ^ "Campanile mount". Pastscape. English Heritage. Archived from the original on 4 April 2015.
  15. ^ a b English Romanesque Art 1066–1200. Catalogue of an Exhibition held at the Hayward Gallery, London, 5 April-8 July 1984. London: Arts Council of Great Britain. 1984. pp. 33–34.
  16. ^ Cook 1949, p. 23.
  17. ^ Willis 1845, p. xiv.
  18. ^ Willis 1845, p. 71.
  19. ^ Willis 1845, p. 79.
  20. ^ a b c d e Cook 1949, pp. 22–23.
  21. ^ Withers 1897, p. 88–89.
  22. ^ a b Withers 1897, p. 8.
  23. ^ Blick 2005, pp. 407–408.
  24. ^ a b Blick 2005, p. 408.
  25. ^ Blick 2005, p. 424.
  26. ^ Blick 2005, p. 425.
  27. ^ Withers 1897, p. 13.
  28. ^ a b c d e f g  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Abbey/Canterbury Cathedral" . Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.
  29. ^ English Romanesque Art 1066–1200. Catalogue of an Exhibition held at the Hayward Gallery, London, 5 April-8 July 1984. London: Arts Councilof Great Britain. 1984. p. 374.
  30. ^ "The Great Cloister and Chapter House of Canterbury Cathedral". Atlas Obscura. Retrieved 30 July 2018.
  31. ^ Priors of Canterbury, Fasti Ecclesiae Anglicanae 1066–1300: volume 2: Monastic cathedrals (northern and southern provinces; 1971), pp. 8–12
  32. ^ Withers 1897, p. 64.
  33. ^ a b c d e f g h Cook 1949, pp. 43–45.
  34. ^ Willis 1845, p. 45.
  35. ^ a b Willis 1845, p. 121.
  36. ^ Barrie Dobson, "Canterbury in the Later Middle Ages, 1220–1540", in A History of Canterbury Cathedral, OUP 1995, p. 153.
  37. ^ Spraggon, Julie (30 July 2018). "Puritan Iconoclasm During the English Civil War". Boydell Press. Retrieved 30 July 2018 – via Google Books.
  38. ^ "The missing figures in Canterbury's stained glass - Tate". Retrieved 30 July 2018.
  39. ^ a b "ccgate - Canterbury History". Retrieved 30 July 2018.
  40. ^ a b "1,400 Years of History". Retrieved 30 July 2018.
  41. ^ "Canterbury Cathedral statues honour Queen and Duke". BBC. 27 March 2015. Retrieved 30 July 2018.
  42. ^ Withers 1897, p. 27.
  43. ^ "Engineering Timelines - Canterbury Cathedral". Retrieved 30 July 2018.
  44. ^ "The fir in the Canterbury Cathedral 1872". Illustrated London News. 14 September 1872.
  45. ^ Juergensmeyer, Mark; Roof, Wade Clark (30 July 2018). "Encyclopedia of Global Religion". SAGE. Retrieved 30 July 2018 – via Google Books.
  46. ^ "The restoration of Canterbury Cathedral". Retrieved 30 July 2018.
  47. ^ First female diocesan bishop in C of E consecrated. Retrieved on 23 July 2015.
  48. ^ "Your graduation day - Congregations - University of Kent". Retrieved 8 December 2017.
  49. ^ "Your Graduation Day at Canterbury Cathedral". Retrieved 8 December 2017.
  50. ^ a b "Spring/Summer Newsletter 2014" (PDF). Canterbury Cathedral Trust.
  51. ^ a b c "Canterbury Cathedral appeal reaches £11.5m". BBC News. 12 December 2010.
  52. ^ "Cathedral roof repair work starts". 7 September 2008. Retrieved 30 July 2018.
  53. ^ a b "Canterbury Cathedral £25 million restoration leaves it like a building site". Retrieved 30 July 2018.
  54. ^ "Physical Works". Retrieved 30 July 2018.
  55. ^ "Charting the Journey" (PDF). 2018. Retrieved 30 July 2018.
  56. ^
  57. ^ "A New Canon Librarian For Canterbury". Retrieved 2018-05-31.
  58. ^
  59. ^
  60. ^ Canterbury Cathedral — Senior Positions (Accessed 5 January 2018)
  61. ^ "Did you know?". Retrieved 30 July 2018.
  62. ^ "Conference & Meeting Facilities". Retrieved 30 July 2018.
  63. ^ "Annual Report" (PDF). 2017. Retrieved 30 July 2018.
  64. ^ Canterbury Cathedral Organ from the National Pipe Organ Register, retrieved 1 March 2013
  65. ^ a b Canterbury Cathedral Choir Archived 6 December 2012 at the Wayback Machine, retrieved 1 March 2013.
  66. ^ Meikle, James (9 January 2014). "Schoolgirls end Canterbury Cathedral tradition of male-only choral singing". The Guardian.
  67. ^ "All-girl choir makes history at Canterbury". Press Association. 26 January 2014.
  68. ^ Furness, Hannah (28 November 2014). "First Canterbury Cathedral all-girl choir makes its Christmas concert debut". The Telegraph.
  69. ^ Canterbury Cathedral Girls' Choir, retrieved 9 December 2014
  70. ^ Love, Dickon. "Canterbury Cathedral, Oxford Tower". Love's Guide to the Church Bells of Kent. Retrieved 26 August 2018.
  71. ^ Love, Dickon. "Canterbury Cathedral, Arundel Tower". Love's Guide to the Church Bells of Kent. Retrieved 26 August 2018.
  72. ^ Love, Dickon. "Canterbury Cathedral, Central Tower". Love's Guide to the Church Bells of Kent. Retrieved 26 August 2018.
  73. ^ Stahlschmidt 1887, pp. 192, 195
  74. ^ "History and heritage; Library". Canterbury Cathedral. Archived from the original on 14 September 2010.
  75. ^ Media, ATG. "Medieval bible bought at auction to return to Canterbury Cathedral after 500 years away". Antiques Trade Gazette. Retrieved 2 August 2018.

 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Abbey/Canterbury Cathedral" . Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.


  • Babington, Margaret (1955), The Romance of Canterbury Cathedral, Raphael Tuck
  • Blick, Sarah (2005), "Reconstructing the Shrine of St. Thomas Becket, Canterbury Cathedral", in Blick, Sarah; Tekippe, Rita, Art and architecture of late medieval pilgrimage in Northern Europe and the British Isles, Leiden and Boston: Brill
  • Collinson, Patrick; Ramsay, Nigel; Sparks, Margaret, eds. (2002) [1995], A History of Canterbury Cathedral (revised ed.), Oxford University Press, ISBN 0-19-820051-X
  • Cook, G. H. (1949), Portrait of Canterbury Cathedral, London: Phoenix House
  • Dudley, Colin Joseph (2010), Canterbury Cathedral: Aspects of Its Sacramental Geometry, Xlibris Corporation, ISBN 978-1-450-06022-6
  • Farmer, David Hugh (1992), The Oxford Dictionary of Saints (3rd ed.), Oxford University Press, ISBN 0-19-283069-4
  • Iremonger, F. A. (1948), William Temple, Archbishop of Canterbury — his life and letters, Oxford University Press
  • Purcell, William (1969), Fisher of Lambeth: a portrait from life, Hodder and Stoughton, ISBN 0-340-02938-2
  • Stahlschmidt, J. C. L. (1887), The Church Bells of Kent: Their Inscriptions, Founders, Uses and Traditions, Elliot Stock, OCLC 12772194
  • Willis, Robert (1845), The Architectural History of Canterbury Cathedral, London: Longman
  • Withers, Hartley (1897), The Cathedral Church of Canterbury, Bell's Cathedral Series (2nd revised ed.), London: George Bell

Further reading

External links

Archbishop of Canterbury

The Archbishop of Canterbury is the senior bishop and principal leader of the Church of England, the symbolic head of the worldwide Anglican Communion and the diocesan bishop of the Diocese of Canterbury. The current archbishop is Justin Welby, who was enthroned at Canterbury Cathedral on 21 March 2013. Welby is the 105th in a line which goes back more than 1400 years to Augustine of Canterbury, the "Apostle to the English", sent from Rome in the year 597. Welby succeeded Rowan Williams.From the time of Augustine until the 16th century, the Archbishops of Canterbury were in full communion with the See of Rome and usually received the pallium from the Pope. During the English Reformation, the Church of England broke away from the authority of the Catholic Church. Thomas Cranmer became the first Protestant holder of the office in 1533, while Reginald Pole was the last Catholic in the position, serving from 1556 to 1558 during the Counter-Reformation. In the Middle Ages there was considerable variation in the methods of nomination of the Archbishop of Canterbury and other bishops. At various times the choice was made by the canons of Canterbury Cathedral, the Pope, or the King of England. Since the English Reformation, the Church of England has been more explicitly a state church and the choice is legally that of the Crown; today it is made by the Queen on the advice of the Prime Minister, who in turn receives a shortlist of two names from an ad hoc committee called the Crown Nominations Commission.

Canterbury Cathedral Close Constables

Canterbury Cathedral Close Constables are employed by Canterbury Cathedral in a security role in maintaining order and security in and around the Cathedral. They have the same police powers such as the power of arrest like regular police in the United Kingdom within the cathedral and its precincts.

Dean of Canterbury

The Dean of Canterbury is the head of the Chapter of the Cathedral of Christ Church, Canterbury, England. The current office of dean originated after the English Reformation, although Deans had also existed before this time; its immediate precursor office was the prior of the cathedral-monastery. The current Dean is Robert Willis, who was appointed in 2001 and is the 39th Dean since the Reformation, though the position of Dean and Prior as the religious head of the community is almost identical so the line is unbroken back to the time of the foundation of the community by Saint Augustine in AD 597.

Henry Deane (archbishop of Canterbury)

Henry Deane (c. 1440 – 1503) was Archbishop of Canterbury from 1501 until his death.

Joan of Navarre, Queen of England

Joan of Navarre, also known as Joanna (c. 1370 – 10 June 1437) was Duchess of Brittany by marriage to Duke John IV, and later Queen of England by marriage to King Henry IV. She served as regent of Brittany from 1399 until 1403 during the minority of her son. She also served as regent of England during the absence of her stepson in 1415.

John Kemp

John Kemp (c. 1380 – 22 March 1454) was a medieval English cardinal, Archbishop of Canterbury, and Lord Chancellor of England.

John Stafford (bishop)

John Stafford (died 25 May 1452) was an English statesman and prelate who served as Lord Chancellor (1432-1450) and as Archbishop of Canterbury (1443-1452).

John de Ufford

John de Ufford (died 20 May 1349) was chancellor and head of the royal administration to Edward III as well as being appointed to the Archbishopric of Canterbury.

Reginald Pole

Reginald Pole (12 March 1500 – 17 November 1558) was an English cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church and the last Roman Catholic Archbishop of Canterbury, holding the office from 1556 to 1558, during the Counter Reformation.

Richard of Dover

Richard (died 1184) was a medieval Benedictine monk and Archbishop of Canterbury. Employed by Thomas Becket immediately before Becket's death, Richard arranged for Becket to be buried in Canterbury Cathedral and eventually succeeded Becket at Canterbury in a contentious election. Much of Richard's time as archbishop was spent in a dispute with Roger de Pont L'Evêque, the Archbishop of York over the primacy of England, and with St Augustine's Abbey in Canterbury over the archbishop's jurisdiction over the abbey. Richard had better relations with King Henry II of England than Becket had, and was employed by the king on diplomatic affairs. Richard also had the trust of the papacy, and served as a judge for the papacy. Several of his questions to Pope Alexander III were collected into the Decretals, a collection of ecclesiastical laws, and his patronage of canon lawyers did much to advance the study of canon law in England.

Simon Islip

Simon Islip (died 1366) was an English prelate. He served as Archbishop of Canterbury between 1349 and 1366.

Simon Mepeham

Simon Mepeham (or Meopham or Mepham; died 1333) was Archbishop of Canterbury from 1328 to 1333.

Simon Sudbury

Simon Sudbury (c. 1316-14 June 1381) was Bishop of London from 1361 to 1375, Archbishop of Canterbury from 1375 until his death, and in the last year of his life Lord Chancellor of England.

Thomas Becket

Thomas Becket (), also known as Saint Thomas of Canterbury, Thomas of London and later Thomas à Becket (21 December c. 1119 (or 1120) – 29 December 1170), was Archbishop of Canterbury from 1162 until his murder in 1170. He is venerated as a saint and martyr by both the Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion. He engaged in conflict with Henry II, King of England, over the rights and privileges of the Church and was murdered by followers of the king in Canterbury Cathedral. Soon after his death, he was canonised by Pope Alexander III.

Thomas Bourchier (cardinal)

Thomas Bourchier (c. 1404 – 30 March 1486) was a medieval English cardinal, Archbishop of Canterbury, and Lord Chancellor of England.

Walter Reynolds

Walter Reynolds (died 1327) was Bishop of Worcester and then Archbishop of Canterbury (1313–1327) as well as Lord High Treasurer and Lord Chancellor.

William Courtenay

William Courtenay (c. 1342 – 31 July 1396) was Archbishop of Canterbury, having previously been Bishop of Hereford and Bishop of London.

William Warham

William Warham (c. 1450 – 22 August 1532) was the Archbishop of Canterbury from 1503 to his death.

William Whittlesey

William Whittlesey (or Whittlesea) (died 5 June 1374) was a Bishop of Rochester, then Bishop of Worcester, then finally Archbishop of Canterbury. He also served as Master of Peterhouse, Cambridge.

This page is based on a Wikipedia article written by authors (here).
Text is available under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license; additional terms may apply.
Images, videos and audio are available under their respective licenses.