Chapter Three - Canterbury Cathedral

Trip Start Sep 28, 2012
Trip End Oct 14, 2012

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Where I stayed
The Olde Shoppe
What I did
Canterbury Cathedral
Read my review - 5/5 stars

Flag of United Kingdom  , England,
Sunday, September 30, 2012

"Wow! It costs 9.50 (US$15) to get into Canterbury Cathedral? I thought admission to churches was free." Claims Miryam.

“Once upon a time, Miryam. I guess they feel a tourist isn't going to church to pray, merely to gawp at art and architecture, so why shouldn’t there be a charge to help maintain the building? Anyway, if you go for a service or mass, they generally don’t charge. We are going to attend Sung Eucharist at 11:00 am today. There is no charge for attending the service, and afterwards we can wander around the cathedral at will.”

A lavish breakfast with complimentary bread is enjoyed by all, after which we sally forth for Canterbury. It’s only a few miles and we are there by 9:30am. We park the car and walk towards the centre. It is totally deserted. All the shops are closed. We feel like the only people in town.

Crossing over an empty High Street we approach Christ Church Gate. The entry is closed.

“Hello. What time does the Cathedral open?” I ask the attendant at the office within the gate.

“On Sunday it opens at 12:30” she informs me.

“Oh, but we are here to attend the morning service”

“You are a bit early for that. It’s not until 11:00. Come by at 10:30 and you’ll be able to get in.”

Canterbury. The city dates from AD 597, when St. Augustine was sent by the pope as a missionary to Britain. Construction of the present cathedral was started in 1070.

We wander down the High Street to the Westgate, the original main entry to the city and used by pilgrims for hundreds of years.  Canterbury has been a European pilgrimage site of major importance for over 800 years since the assassination of Archbishop Thomas Becket in 1170. It is also the beginning of the route to Santiago de Compostella in Spain and the Via Francigena to Rome.

It’s strange to see this city, one of the principal tourist attractions of Britain, so empty on a Sunday morning. Makes for great photos though, and we enjoy coffee in an almost deserted Starbucks.

At 10:30 we approach Christ Church Gate again and are ushered inside the cathedral. Onlookers wonder if we are visiting VIPs or something. I guess it never occurred to them to visit the cathedral during a church service, for free.

We find seats in the beautiful quire just past the nave, facing the choir. The experience brings me back to my youth in Droxford when I went to Sunday morning services every week with my mother. After such a long time, I actually remember many of the prayers and responses, even though I am no longer a believer. The choir is absolutely divine, singing several well-known hymns and psalms. Even the sermon is inspiring, and the overall experience is so much more enlightening than just a guided tour around the building.

After the service, we wander around the magnificent cathedral. We see the spot where Thomas Becket was assassinated by followers of Henry II, and his shrine, which even today is a centre for pilgrimages. We see fascinating stained glass windows showing stories from Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, which was written between 1387-92.   

Upon exiting the church at 12:30, we are trampled by the 9.50 crowd now allowed entry to visit the cathedral. The streets are packed with visitors...The day trippers have arrived! So after another coffee and some sweet snacks we depart Canterbury for lunch in Sandwich.

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greekcypriot on

It was very clever to enter the cathedral and the service. With the money you saved you spared for

Cesar Barroso on

After reading this post, the Church of England is going to send you a bill by mail: $45.00 plus a fine.
Good photos. Congratulations.

Karen & Ed Wild on

As always we enjoyed your take on our mutual Fatherland, causing us to wish for more time in the "Old Country"

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