Canterbury Cathedral: A Treasure HouseCathedrals | November 20, 2010
Canterbury Cathedral has a rich and unique history. Many splendid stories are associated with the Canterbury Cathedral. The information provided below gives the reader a glimpse into the history of the structure.
The first Archbishop of Canterbury was St Augustine. He appeared along Kent’s coast in the form of a missionary to England in the year 597 AD. He arrived from Rome. He was sent by Pope Gregory the Great. It is believed that Gregory was influenced by the sheer beauty of Angle slaves that he saw in a city market. The slaves were for sale. He quickly dispatched Augustine and other monks for their Christian conversion.
Augustine was allocated a cathedral at Canterbury: St Martin’s. This church is standing till today. Local king Ethelbert had done the allocation. Queen Bertha, who was a French Princess, was a Christian by birth. The building served as a place of worship while the Romans occupied Britain. Canterbury Cathedral is the oldest, extant cathedral present in England.
Augustine was made a bishop in France. He was consecrated an archbishop by the Pope. He set up his seat within the city walls of Rome. The English word ‘cathedral’ is derived from the Latin ‘cathedra’, which means ‘seat’. Augustine built the first cathedral in Canterbury, becoming its Archbishop. Since then, a strong community exists around Canterbury Cathedral. This community offers prayer to God on a daily basis. Canterbury Cathedral is the oldest institution in the English-speaking world. The current Archbishop, the revered Dr Rowan Williams, lies at number 104 in the succession line from St Augustine.
The community at the Canterbury Cathedral was part of the Archbishop’s household till the 10th century. Canterbury Cathedral became an official community of Benedictine monks. The community continued till the monastery saw its dissolution in the year 1540 by King Henry VIII.
The original building of Augustine is situated beneath the nave’s floor. It was rebuilt to a large extent by the Saxons. Canterbury Cathedral was subsequently enlarged. Because of the fire, the Normans rebuilt the Cathedral completely. Over the course of the last nine hundred years, there have been numerous additions to Canterbury Cathedral. Some quire parts and stained-glass windows trace their origins to the 12th century.
In the year 1077, Archbishop Lanfranc rebuilt Canterbury Cathedral in the style of a Norman church. It was completely perfect and pristine. A staircase and sections of the North Wall are extant from the original structure. They are located at the Northwest transept, which is also known as Martyrdom.