Canterbury Cathedral is alive with history and fascinating stories. The information below gives a brief insight into the history of this magnificent building.
Until the 10th century the Cathedral community lived as the household of the Archbishop. During the 10th century, it became a formal community of Benedictine monks, which continued until the monastery was dissolved by King Henry VIII in 1540.
Augustine’s original building lies beneath the floor of the nave– it was extensively rebuilt and enlarged by the Saxons, and the Cathedral was rebuilt completely by the Normans in 1070 following a major fire. There have been many additions to the building over the last nine hundred years, but parts of the quire and some of the windows and their stained glass date from the 12th century.
By 1077, Archbishop Lanfranc had rebuilt it as a Norman church, described as “nearly perfect”. A staircase and parts of the North Wall – in the area of the North West transept also called the Martyrdom – remain from that building.
During the Second World War, the Precincts were heavily damaged by enemy action and the Cathedral’s Library was destroyed. Thankfully, the Cathedral itself was not seriously harmed, due to the bravery of the team of fire watchers, who patrolled the roofs and dealt with the incendiary bombs dropped by enemy bombers.
Today, the Cathedral stands as a place where prayer to God has been offered daily for over 1,400 years; nearly 2,000 services are held each year, as well as countless private prayers from individuals. The Cathedral offers a warm welcome to all visitors – its aim is to show people Jesus, which we do through the splendour of the building as well as the beauty of the worship.
- St Augustine arrived in Kent and soon established the first Cathedral
- Cathedral rebuilt by Archbishop Lanfranc
- New Quire built over a Crypt (present Western Crypt)
- Thomas Becket murdered in the Cathedral
- Quire rebuilt. Eastern Crypt, Trinity and Corona Chapels added (all as seen today)
- Becket’s body placed in new Shrine in Trinity Chapel
- Lanfranc Nave demolished and rebuilt as seen today; Cloister vaulting inserted
- Pulpitum Screen constructed
- Bell Harry Tower extended and the Cathedral largely complete as seen today
- Becket’s Shrine destroyed by Henry VIII
- Monastery dissolved by royal command
- New Foundation of Dean and Chapter established
- Repair and refurbishing after Puritan damage
- North West tower rebuilt
- Library rebuilt, repairing War damage
- Altar of the Sword’s Point (Martyrdom) restored
- Compass Rose placed in the Nave
- International Study Centre opened in the Precincts