The history of the Canterbury Cathedral is filled with intrigue; from the murder of Thomas Becket in the twelfth century, to the ancient Roman crypt that rests below the structure, Canterbury Cathedral is one of the oldest buildings in England. This impressive gothic structure is the current Cathedral of the Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury, the Primate of All England, and the leader of the Church of England. It also happens to be one of the major tourist attractions of England, and Canterbury tours are among one of the most popular activities for travelers.
In 597 A.D., Canterbury Cathedral received its first Archbishop, St. Augustine. Recent excavations of the current cathedral floor have revealed details of this ancient Saxon structure, which is thought to be exhibiting Roman work, though this point is still disputed. An ancient Roman crypt was also located deep below the current cathedral, and the cathedral was the main burial spot for archbishops for many centuries, until a later renovation of the Canterbury Cathedral.
One of the most notable events in the early history of the Canterbury Cathedral was the assassination of Archbishop Thomas Becket in the northeast Transept in December of 1170. Archbishop Becket was murdered by followers of King Henry II in a dispute over the rights and privileges of the church. The scene of this historical event continues to be a major draw for Canterbury Tours to this day and an important part of UK history.
Though various smaller cathedrals were constructed in the following years, it was the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries that saw the most lasting structural changes to the Canterbury Cathedral. Thomas Chillenden oversaw a renovation of the Canterbury Cathedral that resulted in its current Gothic style and layout. The buildings that occupy the grounds today form separate groups, with the church itself maintaining the center. Monasteries still occupy the north side, while the west and east sides feature buildings devoted to housing pilgrims and other visitors. There is also an infirmary, and various servants" quarters. The actual cathedral is striking both inside and out, as the builders meant the church to pay homage to the grandeur of their deity.
The Canterbury Cathedral Archives is located on the site of the medieval dormitory, and continues to keep records dating back for the last 1300 years. The Canterbury Cathedral Archives still maintain records of the history of the Canterbury Cathedral, along with the Canterbury diocese, parishes in the Canterbury archdeaconry, the Canterbury City Council, and other organizations in the area. The Canterbury Cathedral Archives are a fascinating historical treasure, both for the building they occupy and the documents themselves.
Canterbury tours are available for a moderate fee, ranging from about 2 British Pounds to 20 British Pounds, depending on the type of tour and number of people. Audio tours may also be arranged, as well as live guided tours. Morning and Evening prayer services are still held each day; both lovely services that involve beautiful prayer songs, and are well worth attending no matter what your personal beliefs. A Eucharist service is also held on Sunday mornings, and all worship services are open to the public.
Whether you come to the Canterbury Cathedral to gape at the violence of history, experience the tranquility of one of the world"s oldest cathedrals, or visit a striking example of lasting Gothic architecture, Canterbury tours are one of the most popular attractions in England.