Detailed review by Jamie73
Lydden, United Kingdom
Well as my Dover castle review seemed to go down rather well with ratings received, and this is a rather local attraction to me, I thought I would do a review won Canterbury cathedral.
I can view this beautifully from my office window on my construction site, which I think is a privilege really.
History of the Cathedral
Well I should think most people know something about the cathedral and its history but I will merely scratch the surface of it in this review im sure?
The Cathedral was founded in 597AD by St Augustine who landed on the south east corner of England as a missionary from Rome.
St Augustine was given a site in Canterbury to set up his church and this was St Martins, which still stands today.
This was given to him by the then King of England Ethelbert. This Church was used throughout the Roman occupation and in fact is still in use today!
St Augustines original building now lies deep below the floor of the Cathedral nave, and it was rebuilt and enlarged greatly by the Saxons.
The cathedral was totally rebuilt by the Normans in 1070 after a major fire destroyed the Cathedral.
Many alterations and additions have been carried out over the last 900 years, and a lot of the quire windows still have 12th century stained glass in situ.
In the more recent history of the Cathedral during the Civil War of the 1640s, a lot of the cathedral had damage caused, smashed windows and generally left to decay. Restoration began after the Civil War in 1660 and took many years to complete.
More recently during the Second World War the streets around the Cathedral as with most cities and towns were heavily damaged by the enemy, and the Library was completely destroyed in one attack.
The Cathedral had a crew of volunteers who watched every night during raids (these were called Firewatchers), patrolling the roofs to deal with any incendiary bombs dropped and likely to cause extensive damage.
Finally just some dates of history which may be of interest;
In 1170 the infamous murder of Thomas Beckett
Thomas Becketts shrine destroyed by Henry VIII
In 1660- 1704 restoration was being completed after Civil War
1834, the North West Tower was rebuilt
And in 1954, the Library was rebuilt after the Second World War bombing.
Getting to the Cathedral
As this is central to Kent access through public transport and motorways is very good.
The main route by motorway is to continue down the A2 into Canterbury, following the Pilgrims route on the original Roman road into Kent which traverses the length almost of the whole of England
The Canterbury West and East train station are in walking distance of the Cathedral and local buss run also from the stations to the Cathedral.
A local taxi trip from these stations will cost you in the region of £5-6 depending on taxi companies, so I suggest if the weather is good then walk the route and admire the City shopping available.
There is a good Park and Ride scheme in place also to park and hop on a bus into the City.
The local South Eastern train company produces a great offer which includes train travel as well as the entrance to the Cathedral, The Canterbury Tales visitor attractions Augustines Abbey and one of Canterburys Museums. The cost of this ticket is an Adult is £15:75 and a child is £12:65
The cathedral is a fully operational one and therefore respect is expected when you visit and it is restricted for tourists on a Sunday during Mass and other Christian events.
During the summer it is open from 09:00 to 18:00
Winter opening times are 09:00 to 17:00/ 18:00
The Crypt is open from 10:00 until 17:00.
All last visitors are permitted 30 minutes prior to closing times.
Sunday opening during the year is 12:30 to 14:30 and 16:30 to 17:30 depending on events.
When I was younger there wasnt an entry fee to view the Cathedral and only a donation was accepted to the upkeep of the Cathedral.
Due to pollution and general age the Cathedral needs to raise £50 million to restore a lot of the external elevations so now an entry charge is levied.
Adults £6:50 but if pre booking a group this is reduced to £5:50
Children £5:00 and again in pre booked group this is £4:50
You can gain free entry to the Cathedral if you work in the old city or area volunteer working on behalf of the Cathedral.
The cathedral has a wide range of facilities available and includes toilets, and a small refreshment kiosk just outside the main entrance.
Please be aware that the building is Medieval and therefore it has been constructed on three levels, which results and quite a lot of steps and many routes to take. The cathedral offers a small brochure/map for disabled visitors to have in order for them to gain the full benefit of there visit. They also have a number of guides who are trained to give guided tours for the hard of hearing and blind visitors, which I feel is very good
Parking is not on site and they have a few disabled bays available with prior arrangement. But as I stated earlier public transport and car parks within Canterbury are easily accessible to the Cathedral, so it really isnt a problem at all.
Photography is allowed in the Cathedral but not in the Crypt.
The Cathedral Shop
This does sell the usual merchandise such as postcards, paperweights and pens, but also a lot of locally made souvenirs .They also sell a lot of fair trade goods to help less fortunate countries in way of funds.
They sell pottery from Poole, guides, books and scented candles. There is a range of Kent produce such as wines, preserves and Canterbury Ale.
Inside the Cathedral
The Cathedral is site with surrounding walls, enclosing it complete. This has a number of ruins and buildings on the perimeter.
The Chapter House from the Cloisters is the largest of its kind in the whole of England, here the Monks used to assemble here for the daily routine of discussing the Cathedral business. Here they studied and met on the small stone benches that still remain today and are worn smooth from use over the centuries.
The Nave was replaced in the 14Th century by the one which is still viewed today, its huge stone moulded columns rise to the vaulted arches and the gilted bosses high in the roof.
The Quire, Trinity Chapel and Corona
The Quire was rebuilt and extended after a fire broke out in 1174.Sir Thomass shrine was placed here in 1220 until it was destroyed as stated earlier by Henry VII in 1538. The Corona, built as a separate shrine which housed a piece of Becket's skull, completes the eastern exterior of the Cathedral. Beautiful stained glass windows show miracles and stories associated with St Thomas Beckett.
The Crypt dates back to the 11 Th Century and makes this the oldest part of the Cathedral. Many of the original details in the masonry survive, including some fine wall paintings and a lot of carvings in the columns.
This is a modern memorial in the spot where Thomas Beckett was murdered. This memorial consists of 2 jagged swords with a broken sword point which cast a shadow on the bare stone alter behind.
The grounds and gardens of the Cathedral are called the Kent Memorial gardens. This is well looked after and when I last visited there you were able to sit on the grass and enjoy a packed lunch.
There are a number of fine trees in the garden and what is believed to be one of the oldest Mulberry trees in the country sits proudly in the middle of one grassed area.
This is truly one of Englands finest Cathedrals if not Europes? Well worth the visit and paying the entrance fee in the knowledge that you are doing you bit for the preservation of our historical buildings. It is in easy access of all major routes from London and it truly is a good morning or afternoon out.