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Canterbury Cathedral, Kent

The first Archbishop of Canterbury was St Augustine who arrived as Pope Gregory's missionary on the Kent Coast in 597AD. King Ethelbert gave Augustine a church at Canterbury, in Kent. Augustine then established his seat or "cathedra" at Canterbury. An abbey was built, St Augustine's Abbey, the ruins of which survive. The cathedral itself was built in stages between 1070 and 1498. The cathedral and St Augustine's Abbey together make up a World Heritage Site. Also included in this site is St Martin's Church, the oldest parish church in England, dating to the sixth century when it was used by Queen Bertha of Kent, prior to the arrival of Augustine.

Up until 2010 there have been 105 archbishops in a direct line from St Augustine. One of the most famous was Thomas Becket who was murdered in Canterbury Cathedral on 29th December 1170. He had been appointed by Henry II to bring the Church under royal control, but ended up doing the opposite, insisting on Church rights in the face of royal power. This dispute led Henry to declare in frustration: "Who will rid me of this turbulent priest?"

Four knights, seeking to ingratiate themselves with the king, took him at his word, came to Canterbury Cathedral and murdered Becket in a part of the building now known as "the Martyrdom". In the centuries following Becket's murder, pilgrims would follow the route of his last journey from Southwark Cathedral to Canterbury. The Church had always aspired to seniority over national monarchs, and Becket became a symbol in the Church's struggle to maintain its premier position. Much was done to encourage the cult of Becket. When the eastern arm of Canterbury Cathedral was gutted by fire in 1174 the opportunity was taken to build a spectacular raised shrine to Becket. The pilgrimage from Southwark to Canterbury inspired Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, in the fourteenth century. Pilgrimages still follow the same route today.

Canterbury is easily reached from London, and the cathedral is a short walk from the railway station. Note that permits are needed for photography inside the cathedral, and these are available from the Welcome Centre or cathedral gift stalls. Groups can pre book an audio visual presentation, or specialist tours in history, stained glass, architecture, music and heraldry. The cathedral's archives and library are open by appointment.




The approach to the cathedral seems to have been designed to give a sense of heightened drama. Above narrow streets the height of the cathedral tower is emphasised. A visitor walks along a narrow street, passes through the shade of an enclosed gate house, and then looks up...





Opening Times: Please use contact details below.

Directions: Canterbury Cathedral is in the centre of Canterbury, Kent just off Broad Street. Click here for a road and satellite map centred on Canterbury Cathedral.


Address: Canterbury Cathedral, Cathedral House, 11 The Precincts, Canterbury, Kent CT1 2EH

Access: Facilities for the disabled include toilets, ramps, wheelchairs, a lift, and a touch and hearing system.


telephone: 01227 762862,

web site:


fax: 01227 865222





©2006 InfoBritain (updated 11/12)