The Canterbury Cathedral
For at least fourteen hundred years the worship of God has been offered on the site of this Cathedral, and through the prayers of the Church his power and grace have shaped human lives. Ever since the murder of Archbishop Thomas Becket in the Cathedral in 1170, Canterbury has attracted thousands of pilgrims. This tradition continues to this day, and a large team of Welcomers, Guides, Cathedral Assistants and Chaplains are there to give all visitors a warm welcome.
The Cathedral and Metropolitical Church of Christ Canterbury is a holy place of pilgrimage, founded by St Augustine for the worship of Almighty God and the honour of Christ our Saviour.
It is the seat of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Primate of all England and President of the worldwide Anglican Communion of Churches.
The first Archbishop of Canterbury was St Augustine who arrived on the coast of Kent as a missionary to England in 597 AD. He came from Rome, sent by Pope Gregory the Great.
The story goes that Gregory had seen "Angle" slaves for sale in the city market and struck by their beauty, had remarked "not Angles but Angels". Such a people he was convinced should be converted to Christianity, and ordered Augustine and a group of monks to set out for England.
On his arrival Augustine was given a church at Canterbury by the local King Ethelbert whose Queen, Bertha, was already a Christian. This building had been a place of worship during the Roman occupation of Britain.
Soon consecrated Bishop, Augustine established his seat (or "cathedra") in this place as the first Archbishop of Canterbury. The present archbishop, George Carey, is 103rd in the line of succession.
Until the 10th century the Cathedral community was a family of clergy, living a regulated life as the household of the Archbishop. Not until 998 do we find evidence that they were living by the Rule of St. Benedict as a formal monastic community. The Benedictine community of monks continued until the monastery was dissolved in 1540.
The next year a new Foundation, called the Dean and Chapter, was constituted by Royal Charter. Today there is a Dean and four Residentiary Canons in the Chapter, who, with the Precentor, make up the establishment of full-time clergy.
Canterbury Cathedral is linked to the lives of many great ecclesiastical and national figures. Among the former are the Saints of Canterbury -- Augustine, Theodore, Odo, Dunstan, Alphege, Anselm, Thomas and Edmund - all of whom were Archbishops of Canterbury and held in universal respect.
The one who became most famous of all was Thomas Becket, who was murdered in his cathedral on 29 December 1170. Appointed by his King and friend, Henry II, to bring the Church to the heel of the monarchy, he did the reverse. He espoused its rights in the face of the King's desire to control them.
Four knights, with their own agendas of complaint, thinking to ingratiate themselves with the King, came to Canterbury and killed...