29 Sep 2007 - Canterbury, England

With my desire to travel and see new places, it is easy to forget that on my very own doorstep, great treasures from England's long and distinguished past still await discovery. I have always taken an interest in my surroundings but I only started viewing England from a tourist eye last year with visits to Bath and Stonehenge.

Well preserved (blame the Luftwaffe for the missing parts), you can walk along the medieval streets which I compared to the medieval streets in Italy and Spain. A well preserved town allows you feel in the past and being able to compare locations in countries separated by great distances (700 hundred years ago, further than outside of one's own town or village was a great distance) and though there is a difference in architectural style, with the narrow streets, there is much more that is similar than different.

My visit lasted one day and night but a busy and enjoyable day saw crammed into it the 12th century Eastbridge hospital, famous cathedral, Roman museum and the Canterbury Tales visitor centre amongst other attractions.
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Canterbury - The Westgate

Canterbury - The Westgate

The gate dates from the 14th century and is the only remaining city gate and only survived road widening because it was used as a prison. It was often the first part of Canterbury that pilgrims would see as they made their journey to the holy city.
Canterbury - The Westgate from the Westgate gardens

Canterbury - The Westgate from the Westgate gardens

The walls used to run along the Great Stour river but now the area around here is a park.
Canterbury - Tudor style houses, the former weavers

Canterbury - Tudor style houses, the former weavers

Huguenot refugees came to south England from Flanders (now part of Belgium), escaping from persecution by Catholics. Many settled in Canterbury, where they were given the right to trade by Queen Elizabeth I. They brought with them their weaving and other textile skills. The wealth generated by these new industries helped to replace the income which had been generated by visiting pilgrims (a custom which was stopped by King Henry VIII after he took over control of the Church in England).
Canterbury - The Pilgrims Hospital of Saint Thomas

Canterbury - The Eastbridge Hospital of Saint Thomas

Founded following the martyrdom of St Thomas Becket on 29th December 1170 in Canterbury Cathedral as accommodation for poor pilgrims visiting his tomb.

It was not a hospital in todays sense of the word, but a building giving hospitality. It still provides accommodation for the elderly and is still a focus for modern day pilgrims.
Canterbury - Fresco in Pilgrims Hospital of Saint Thomas

Canterbury - Fresco in Eastbridge Hospital of Saint Thomas

This painting is though to belong to the 12th Century or possibly the early 13th. This building was founded in 1180. The figure of Christ is supported at the four corners by the four evangelists of which only the upper two are discernible, that of St Matthew on the left almost being complete. Christ is holding an orb in his left hand and his right hand is held in a blessing. The painting owes its preservation by being covered by a fireplace.
Canterbury - View leading to the Cathedral

Canterbury - View leading to the Cathedral

Many of the streets around Canterbury Cathedral are part of the medieval centre and this one leads to the entrance to the cathedral grounds.
Canterbury - Canterbury Cathedral

Canterbury - Canterbury Cathedral

Canterbury Cathedral, scene of the famous martyrdom of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Becket in 1170.
Canterbury - Exterior carvings

Canterbury - Exterior carvings

Some examples of the exquisite carvings on the exterior of the cathedral.
Canterbury - Chimera above the main entrance

Canterbury - Chimera above the main entrance

A chimera, or a grotesque figure, is a similar type of sculpture to a gargoyle except that it does not work as a waterspout to channel water away from a building and serves only an ornamental or artistic function. These are often incorrectly referred to as gargoyles.
Canterbury - Fine view of the 'Gothic' cathedral's interior

Canterbury - Fine view of the 'Gothic' cathedral's interior

The term 'Gothic', when applied to architecture, has nothing to do with the historical Goths. It was a pejorative term that came to be used as early as the 1530s to describe culture that was considered rude and barbaric.

At this time, Italy had experienced a century of building in the Classical architectural vocabulary revived in the Renaissance and seen as the finite evidence of a new Golden Age of learning and refinement.
Canterbury - Site of Thomas Becket's murder

Canterbury - Site of Thomas Becket's murder

What follows is the only eye witness account of the event...

The wicked knight leapt suddenly upon him, cutting off the top of the crown which the unction of sacred chrism had dedicated to God. Next he received a second blow on the head, but still he stood firm and immovable. At the third blow he fell on his knees and elbows, offering himself a living sacrifice, and saying in a low voice, 'For the name of Jesus and the protection of the Church, I am ready to embrace death.' But the third knight inflicted a terrible wound as he lay prostrate.
Canterbury - Inside Canterbury Cathedral

Canterbury - Inside Canterbury Cathedral

Continuing the eye witness account of the murder...

By this stroke, the crown of his head was separated from the head in such a way that the blood white with the brain, and the brain no less red from the blood, dyed the floor of the cathedral. The same clerk who had entered with the knights placed his foot on the neck of the holy priest and precious martyr, and, horrible to relate, scattered the brains and blood about the pavements, crying to the others, 'Let us away, knights; this fellow will arise no more.'
Canterbury - Tomb of Edward Plantagenet

Canterbury - Tomb of Edward Plantagenet

'The Black Prince', 1330-1376 and the eldest son of King Edward III of England and Philippa of Hainault, and father to King Richard II of England.

Edward, an effective military leader and popular during his life, died one year before his father and so never ruled as king (becoming the first English Prince of Wales to suffer that fate). The throne passed instead to his son Richard, a minor, upon the death of Edward III.

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