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Title: Canterbury
Author: Danks, Canon
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Canterbury" ***

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                [Illustration: THE CANTERBURY WEAVERS

                               (_Page 12_) _Frontispiece_]


                       DESCRIBED BY CANON DANKS

                     PICTURED BY E. W. HASLEHUST

                        BLACKIE & SON LIMITED

                          LONDON AND GLASGOW

       *       *       *       *       *



The Canterbury Weavers             _Frontispiece_

St. Nicholas, Harbledown                                   8

Canterbury from the Stour                                 12

The Greyfriars' House                                     16

Mercery Lane                                              20

Canterbury Cathedral from Christ Church Gate              24

Christ Church Gate, Entrance to Cathedral Precincts       29

Fordwich                                                  33

St. Martin's Church                                       37

Westgate                                                  44

The Gateway, St. Augustine's Abbey                        48

Gateway of St. John's Hospital                            52

       *       *       *       *       *

[Illustration: CANTERBURY]


This little essay on a great subject is neither a guidebook nor a
history, though it may, for many, be enough, for their purpose, of
both. With its illustrations of ancient and famous scenes it is, let
us say, a keepsake or memorial for some of the hundred thousand
pilgrims who still annually visit Canterbury, and fall under the spell
of its enchantments. It may recall to them in distant homes, some of
them overseas, the thrill with which they first beheld the mother-city
of English Christianity, the great church, inwoven with so much of
English history, which in the Middle Ages contained one of the most
venerated and far-sought shrines in Europe.

There are certainly not more than one or two cities in the kingdom
which rival Canterbury in interest, or bring back to us more vividly
"the days that are no more". Here is the work of pre-historic man in
the Dane John (variant of Donjon or stronghold) and long earthen
rampart which guarded the ford of the Stour. Here are the bastions and
parapet of the city wall, with which the soldiers of the Middle Ages
faced and fortified the British earthwork. Here is Saxon building with
Roman materials, as in the churches of St. Pancras and St. Martin,
where Roman bricks abound, and Roman columns, perhaps of some
forgotten heathen temple, are not wanting. In the Roman cemeteries
outside the walls have been found bracelets, pins, mirrors,
horse-bits, coins, even rouge-pots. Hither converged the Roman roads
from the military ports of Richborough, Dover, and Lympne (now high
and dry). Along these roads for some four hundred years tramped the
Roman legionaries under their centurions, entering and leaving the
city respectively by the streets now known as Burgate, Watling Street,
and Wincheap. Here dwelt, in the sixth century, Queen Bertha,
foster-mother of English Christianity, with her heathen husband
Ethelbert, King of Kent; and here, in the new era which dated from the
arrival of Augustine's monkish procession with its silver cross and
painted Christ (as told once for all by Dean Stanley), these three
laboured at that "building without hands" of which the Cathedral is an
outward type and embodiment. Hither converged in mediæval times the
Pilgrims' Ways, still partly traceable on the ordnance map, from
London, as in Chaucer's Tales, from Southampton, and from Sandwich.

On July 7, the feast of the Translation of Becket's bones from the
Crypt to the Trinity Chapel, and especially at the Great Pardons or
Jubilees of the Feast every fifty years, from 1220 to 1520, these ways
were crowded with pilgrims, English or foreign, on foot or on
horseback, sick or whole, sad or merry, intent on paying homage and
receiving a blessing, above all of winning the promised plenary
indulgence at the miracle-working shrine. From the offerings of these
pilgrims came in great measure the huge sums of money which enabled
the monks to extend and exalt their church to its present
magnificence. In 1220, the first of the Great Pardons, it has been
estimated that 100,000 pilgrims offered £20,000 of our money; and this
did not include the stream of worshippers and gifts that flowed on
other days of the year. If we add to these "devotions of the people"
the splendid generosity of the monks and clergy, we begin to
understand how the Cathedral was paid for. Lanfranc gave the whole
revenues of the manor of East Peckham, bestowed on him by William the
Conqueror; and he was but the first of a series of munificent

It is one of the curiosities of history, though by no means without
parallel, that these lavish gifts and this energy of costly building
continued up to the very edge of doom. The great central tower, the
Angel Steeple or Bell Harry, was not finished till 1490; Christ Church
Gatehouse not till 1517; Henry VIII himself made offerings at the
shrine in 1520. In 1538 he gave orders to plunder the shrine and burn
Becket's bones, and in 1540 the monastery was dissolved.

It may be as well here to give some idea of the value of the spoil.
"The official return of the actual gold of the shrine was 4994-3/4
oz., the gilt plate weighed 4425 oz., the parcel gilt 840 oz., and the
plain silver 5286 oz." But Erasmus, who visited Canterbury in 1513,
writes: "The least valuable portion was gold; every part glistened,
shone, and sparkled with rare and very large jewels, some of them
exceeding the size of a goose's egg.... The principal of them were
offerings sent by sovereign princes." As, for instance, the golden cup
presented by Louis VII of France in 1179, and the Royal Jewel of
France, an immense ruby or carbuncle, given by the same Prince, which
afterwards figured in a great ring on Henry's portentous thumb, and
(we are rather surprised to learn) in the necklace of his Roman
Catholic daughter Mary. There were crucifixes, statuettes, and
ornaments of precious metal; there were innumerable gems, so that the
last visitor at the shrine, in the very year of its destruction,
declared "that if she had not seen it, all the men in the world could
never a' made her to believe it".


(_Page 10_)]

We are scarcely surprised, therefore, to hear of the two large chests
with which seven or eight men staggered out of the church, or of the
twenty-six cartloads of vestments, plate, and other Cathedral property
which were dispatched to London. The total value of Henry's
confiscations from this church and priory is thought to have been not
less than three million pounds of our money. For more than three
hundred years there had been, outside Rome, no more famous place of
pilgrimage, no more wonderful treasury of gifts and relics. One can
guess the thoughts of the "sovereign princes" and other devout donors,
when their costly offerings and those of their ancestors were poured
pell-mell into the gaping coffers of the English king. It is less easy
to guess the thoughts of the Canterbury citizens and other English
folk who looked on with scarcely a protest. Some probably were cowed,
and some sympathetic. Perhaps a dim consciousness was waking in the
minds of the people, that monasticism and relic-worship had outlived
their day of service, and that a new age was at hand. Even under Queen
Mary no attempt was made to replace the shrine or renew the

Let us, however, be as pilgrims ourselves--Chaucer's if you will--and
enter the city along their ancient well-trodden way from the Tabard
Inn at Southwark. Only we will start a short mile and a half from
Canterbury at the Leper Hospital of Harbledown. It is now a group of
modern almshouses, but still has its prior and sub-prior, as in the
days when the lepers lived under the shadow of Lanfranc's Church of
St. Nicholas, which they were forbidden to enter. This church and the
square-timbered entrance by the porter's lodge are shown in our

An aged bedesman, on the steps to this garden porch, would greet the
travellers in the road with a shower of sprinkled holy water, and hold
out to be kissed by them a crystal set in the upper leather of the
martyred Becket's shoe. The upper leather is gone, perhaps kissed
away, but the crystal is still shown in the hospital, set in an old
bowl of maple-wood. Erasmus and Colet came here in 1513, and were
invited to do as others. They were scholars and thinkers, full of the
new learning, and therefore scornful of the sanctity of slippers and
bones. They declined--Colet rather crossly; Erasmus (tolerant soul)
with a humorous twinkle and a kindly coin for the bedesman's box which
is still to be seen within.

A few steps onward up the steep little Harbledown Hill and we have a
view of Canterbury Cathedral across the River Stour--a view which has
delighted the eye and heart of many pilgrims, whether ancient or
modern. Nearly a mile downhill and we come to St. Dunstan's Church in
the environs of Canterbury. Here in a vault is the head of a nobler
martyr than Becket--of a man with all Becket's constancy and faith,
with more than Becket's intellect, and without his haughty spirit and
violent temper. All the world knows how the head of Sir Thomas More,
one of the best and wisest of Englishmen, was set on London Bridge as
the head of a traitor, and how, after fourteen days of this ignominy,
it secretly passed into the possession of his daughter, Margaret
Roper. It is less generally known that she finally placed it in the
Roper vault in St. Dunstan's.

On the opposite side of the road, a little nearer the town, is the old
brick archway which was once the approach to Margaret Roper's house,
and beneath which father and daughter, who loved each other dearly,
must often have passed together.

We have all been with David Copperfield and his aunt to Mr.
Wickfield's house in Canterbury--"A very old house bulging out over
the road; a house with long, low lattice windows bulging out still
farther, and beams with carved heads on the ends bulging out too; so
that I fancied that the whole house was leaning forward, trying to see
who was passing on the pavement below".

Nowhere in the country will you find so many of these old houses; some
of them in part dating back to the fourteenth century; and Dickens
felt the charm of them. Many are now hidden behind ugly modern fronts,
but many are yet unspoiled. Doubtless some of these in St. Dunstan's
Street took in belated pilgrims who arrived after curfew and the
shutting of the city gate.

Just outside Westgate is the old Falstaff Inn, with its sign suspended
from a remarkable bracket of fifteenth-century ironwork. This reminds
us that before the era of coal mining in the north, Kentish men were
craftsmen in iron, obtaining unlimited fuel from the forest of the
Weald. Doubtless there were Kentish pikes and blades, Kentish helmets
and hauberks, at Cressy and Poitiers, at Agincourt, in the Wars of the
Roses, and at Flodden. While we are looking at old houses let us pass
through Westgate (we will return in a moment) and visit the Canterbury
Weavers, shown in our illustration. It rises sheer from the water, and
its windows "bulge" over the water, where the river crosses the
street near Eastbridge Hospital. It is, in spite of repairs and
restorations, a fifteenth-century building, and, as viewed from the
bridge, not less picturesque than a nook of Bruges or Ghent.


(_Page 11_)]

Eastbridge Hospital, just opposite, belongs to the thirteenth and
fourteenth centuries, but is not a specimen of domestic architecture.
It is a charitable foundation which survived Tudor confiscations
through the intercession of Cranmer, and still shelters its aged poor.
Somewhat farther, on the same side, is No. 37, a French silk-weaver's
house, built in the fifteenth century for one of the refugees from
religious persecution. It is almost unchanged: the ground floor is the
shop, the first floor is for the family and the loom, and the story
above has its door for receiving the bales of silk hauled up from the

We must not wander farther without turning to look at Westgate, the
last remaining of Canterbury's seven city gates and the best thing of
its kind in the kingdom. With its round flanking towers and its
massive portal, it takes us back in a moment to the fourteenth
century, and makes us wonder and sigh that citizens could have had the
heart to destroy its fellows. For even as late as the beginning of the
nineteenth century the walls and gates of the ancient town were almost
intact. With grim amusement, not unmixed with disgust, we recall the
story that once the Town Council was equally divided on the
proposition that it should be pulled down to admit the huge caravans
of Wombwell's Wild Beast Show. It was saved only by the casting vote
of the Mayor, to whose common sense it occurred to make a way round
it. And that Mayor, not the least of Canterbury's worthies, is not
even yet commemorated by--

                        "Colossal bust
    Or column trophied for triumphal show".

There was an earlier Norman gateway here with, oddly as it seems to
us, the Church of the Holy Cross on the top of it. In 1380 Archbishop
Simon Sudbury built the present structure and found ground space
beside it for the church. And thereby hangs a tale. Sudbury was not
only a munificent builder, but a man of vigorous mind, wise before his
time. He overtook a company of pilgrims nearing this gate, and spoke
to them very plainly on the matter of relics and pilgrimages,
declaring that no Pope or plenary indulgence could avail without the
contrite heart and the changed life. This was, be it remembered, 150
years before the Reformation, and not even from a bishop could such a
doctrine be received. The fury of the crowd found voice in the curse
flung then and there upon the preacher by one of the Kentish gentry:
"My Lord Bishop, for this act of yours, stirring the people to
sedition against St. Thomas, I stake the salvation of my soul that you
will close your life by a most terrible death". "From the beginning of
the world", adds the Chronicler, "it never has been heard that anyone
ever injured the Cathedral of Canterbury and was not punished by the
Lord." Eleven years later, for his share in the hated Poll-tax, the
Archbishop was dragged out of the Tower of London by the rebels under
Wat Tyler and beheaded. His body was buried in the choir of the
Cathedral, and when uncovered accidentally was found to have a leaden
ball in the place of the head, which is still preserved at his native

From Westgate the main street, under as many _aliases_ as a hardened
criminal, starting as St. Peter's Street, continuing as High Street,
Parade, and St. George's Street, runs the whole length of the city,
with quaint and curious dwellings on either hand. If we were real
pilgrims, and had walked or ridden all the way from London, we should
make at once for "The Chequers of the Hope" mentioned in the
supplementary Canterbury Tale. It is only a few hundred yards away,
where Mercery Lane turns off to the left, and has, or had, its
dormitory of a hundred beds. Alas! it was burned down in 1865, and we
shall recognize it only by a modern carving of the Black Prince's
crest--the leopard with protruding tongue--on the stone corner of the
house where the two streets meet.

As, however, we are but amateur pilgrims, and not very tired, we will
loiter about the city. Let us ask Mr. Pierce's permission to trespass
in his Franciscan Gardens in Stour Street, near the Post Office. For
there we shall find, neglected and decayed, but still beautiful with a
sad and ruined beauty, the last monument of the Greyfriars or
Franciscans, once the most popular of the monastic orders. It is a
little house which occupies no ground, for it is built on arches over
a branch of the Stour, and its slender supporting pillars rise from
the middle of the river bed. As we consider it, we may remember the
story of Elizabeth Barton "The Holy Maid of Kent", the devout,
visionary, hysterical girl, promoted from a kitchen to a nunnery, who,
amongst other and harmless or edifying revelations, felt bidden to
denounce the King's divorce from Katherine, and was taken, or bravely
went, to Henry to tell him so.


(_Page 16_)]

The poor creature was executed at Tyburn with some six of her
teachers, confessors, and abettors, amongst them the warden and one of
the brethren of Greyfriars, who must often have gone in and out of
this battered doorway. Let us add, to the credit of luckless Anne
Boleyn, that she alone of all concerned had the grace to intercede
with her royal tiger on the girl's behalf. There is a perhaps more
attractive memory clinging to the place. In the seventeenth century
here, for a time, lived Richard Lovelace, the handsomest man of his
time--the Royalist poet who wrote two of the best songs in the
language, the gay cavalier who died in want and despair because his
lady-love, on his reported death, married another man. He may have
written "Going to the Wars" in this very house--

    "I could not love thee, dear, so much
    Loved I not honour more".

But "To Althea"--

    "Stone walls do not a prison make,
    Nor iron bars a cage",

he wrote while imprisoned by the House of Commons for presenting a
Kentish Petition on behalf of King Charles.

While we are thinking of poets, and their not infrequent tendency (in
the past) to a bad end, we may as well walk up High Street. Various
epochs and ages look down upon us on either side, though too often
through modern windows. Near the top, on the right-hand side, we shall
find a very old house with a very new front, and the business label
of Achille Serre. This is the birthplace of Christopher Marlowe, one
of the nest of Elizabethan singing-birds--

    "With mouth of gold, and morning in his eyes",

who, perhaps, had a hand in Shakespeare's _Henry VI_. He was born in
the same year as Shakespeare, and, in spite of a reckless life and
early death, came nearer to him in power than any other dramatist of
the day. He was killed in a tavern brawl before he was thirty, but
found time to write immortal things, amongst them "The Passionate

    "Come live with me and be my love",

a quite other sort of pilgrim than those who sought Becket's shrine.

It is said that he was an "atheist", and that the tavern dagger was
just in time to save him from imminent risk of stake and faggot. This
naturally leads us from his birthplace, along St. George's Terrace,
which is really the old earthwork faced with mediæval stone, to the
spot where atheists, heretics, traitors, and witches used to meet
their fate. This is the Dane John already mentioned as a pre-historic
mound. Dr. Cox, in his volume on Canterbury in the "Ancient Cities"
series, gives the following extract from the city accounts touching
the death on the Dane John of one John Stone, an Austin friar, who
denied that the Sovereign was Supreme Head of the Church:--

     "Paid for half a tonne of tymber to make a payre of Gallaces
     to hang Fryer Stone. For a Carpenter for making the same
     Gallaces and the dray. For a labourer who digged the holes.
     To iiij men who holp set up the Gallaces. For drynk to them.
     For carriage of tymber from Stablegate to the Dongeon. For
     ij men that sett the Ketyl and parboyled hym. To ij men that
     caryed his quarters to the gate and set them up. For a
     halter to hang hym. For two halfpenny halters. For Sandwich
     cord. For Strawe. To the woman that scowred the Ketyll. To
     hym that dyd execucion iiijs viijd."

Friar Stone, it is to be feared, is only one of a long procession of
tortured ghosts who might meet us where the children play on the Dane
John. But it was not always the place of execution, it came to be a
coign of vantage from which the orthodox (for the time being) could
comfortably view, not without lunch-baskets, what went on in Martyr's
Field, now marked with an obelisk a little to the south-west of the
mound. Here were forty, men, women, and children, "brent" or burnt at
the stake in the reign of Queen Mary for asserting what Friar Stone
denied. Their names are carved in granite on the spot where they died,
and the motto on the monument is: "Lest We Forget".

From the Dane John we may return along the earthen rampart by the
city wall to St. George's Street, and ask our way to St. Martin's,
believed by competent enquirers to be the oldest church not only in
England, but in Europe. It certainly existed in the sixth century,
when Queen Bertha came to its services through the postern still known
as Quenengate. Bede, the father of English history and the most
learned man of the seventh century, says that there was a Christian
church here during the Roman occupation. As the Romans left in 410,
this gives a record of fifteen centuries of worship on this site. Here
King Ethelbert was baptized by Augustine, and a representation of this
event graven on an ancient seal gives a font much resembling the one
still in use.

The walls, of course, have been patched and repaired many times, but
are, especially in the chancel, full of Roman bricks and Saxon
workmanship. There are indications that some of the courses were
actually laid by Roman hands; and, if this be so, imagination may
carry us back far earlier than Augustine, to the legend that Joseph of
Arimathea brought the Gospel to Britain within a generation of the
death of Our Lord.

[Illustration: MERCERY LANE

(_Page 21_)]

On our way back to the town, if we step inside the Infirmary grounds,
we shall see the ruins of St. Pancras, built, it is said, by Augustine
on the foundations of an "Idol-temple" where Ethelbert worshipped
before his conversion. Roman bricks abound, Roman pillars are built
into the wall, and there are still the remains of an altar in a tiny
chapel where probably Augustine officiated.

Now we may return to the "Chequers of the Hope", but not to its
dormitory of a hundred beds. There is a fine frankness, far removed
from modern municipal ambition, in the names of these old streets.
Mercery Lane, Butchery Lane, Wincheap (Wine Market), and Beer-Cart
Lane tell their own story. As we look down narrow, crooked Mercery
Lane, with its overhanging fronts, struggling to survive
"improvements", we not only recognize "the last enchantments of the
Middle Age", but we ask what kind of mercery used to stock the stalls
under the arcades which once sheltered the sidewalks? Chiefly, no
doubt, cheap memorials or "signs" of the accomplished pilgrimage; the
little leaden bottles or "ampulles", containing water from the well
near Becket's tomb in the crypt, and the infinitesimal tincture
therein of the martyr's blood; also leaden brooches representing his
mitred head. "These signs", says Dean Stanley, "they fastened on their
hats or caps, or hung from their necks, and thus were henceforth
distinguished. As the pilgrims from Compostella brought home the
scallop-shells which still lie on the seashores of Gallicia--as the
'Palmers' from Palestine brought the palm-branches still given at the
Easter Pilgrimage--as the 'roamers' from Rome brought models of St.
Peter's keys, or a 'Vernicle'--that is a pattern of Veronica's
handkerchief--sewed on their caps--so the Canterbury Pilgrim had his
hat thickset with a 'hundred ampulles' or with leaden brooches. Many
of these are said to have been found in the beds of the Stour and the
Thames, dropped as the vast concourse departed from Canterbury or
reached London."

What processions, triumphal or funereal, have passed along Mercery
Lane and crossed the little open space before the gateway to the
Precincts! Two French kings, and nearly every English sovereign till
Queen Anne, have been here. Louis VII of France as a pilgrim, John of
France as the captive of the Black Prince, Henry II on his bitter
pilgrimage of penance in 1174; Richard Coeur de Lion with his
captive, William the Lion of Scotland, in 1189; Henry III with the
Magna Carta Archbishop Stephen Langton at the Great Pardon of 1220.
Here before the Cathedral gate halted for a moment the weeping
cavalcade when they buried the Black Prince, in 1376--

    "To the noise of the mourning of a mighty nation,
    Mourning when its leaders fall".

No man bearing weapons was admitted to the Precincts after the murder
of Becket; therefore the two emblematic riders who had accompanied the
bier from Westgate, "one bearing the Prince's arms of England and
France, the other the ostrich feathers--one to represent the Prince in
his splendid suite as he rode in war, the other to represent him in
black as he rode to tournaments"--had here to fall out of rank. Here
were borne to their grave Henry IV and his Queen Joan of Navarre. Dean
Stanley remarks that Henry IV as a child of ten was perhaps present as
a mourner at the Black Prince's funeral, unknowing that he should
overthrow the Prince's son Richard II and finally rest by the famous
warrior's side.

The devout but incapable and unfortunate Henry VI was at Canterbury
eleven times, and more than once as a pilgrim. As a pilgrim, in
humblest guise, he was here after his final defeat at Tewkesbury, his
Queen in captivity, his son dead on the field "stabbed by the Yorkist
Lords after Edward (the Fourth) had met his cry for mercy with a
buffet from his gauntlet". Henry himself went hence to die in the
Tower, and so end the hopes of the House of Lancaster.

The little open space between Mercery Lane and the Precincts gatehouse
has seen many strange doings which we cannot record. In the
thirteenth century Canterbury was requisitioned for a contingent of
Edward I's Welsh invasion, and the monks refused to bear their share
of the expense. This led to a furious dispute with the citizens, an
embittered kind of "Town and Gown". A trench was dug before the gate
to prevent ingress and egress of men or victuals, and the brethren
appear to have been starved out. In the fifteenth century Edward IV
hanged the Mayor and some of his friends here for complicity in

But these "old, unhappy far-off things" were before the existence of
the present beautiful Perpendicular gatehouse, depicted in our
illustration. Its Norman predecessor was still standing, lower,
plainer, grimmer, like most Norman buildings. Prior Goldston did not
finish this one till 1517. In 1520, when its carvings were fresh and
the stone bright in the sunshine, and the great statue of Our Lord
looked down from over the archway, and the octagonal side-turrets,
like those of St. Augustine's, were not within three hundred years of
being pulled down that bank-clerks might see the Cathedral clock from
the other end of Mercery Lane--then there came to the last of the
Great Pardons, with trumpetings and gorgeous retinue, two great kings
riding under one canopy. One was Henry VIII and the other the
mightiest monarch in Christendom, Charles V the Emperor of Germany,
Spain, and the Netherlands, President of the Diet which tried to
murder Luther, as the Council of Constance had murdered Huss; but a
far better man than Henry, and uncle of Henry's Queen, Katherine.
Before them rode Cardinal Wolsey, and there were Spanish Grandees, and
English Nobles, and Queen Katherine herself. "The streets", says Dr.
Cox, "were lined with priests and clerks from all the parishes within
twenty miles of the city, with censers, crosses, surplices, and copes
of the richest sort. At the great west doors of the church (still
opened only for royalties and archbishops) they were met by the
Archbishop, and after saying their devotions they proceeded to
Wareham's Palace. On one evening of that week Wareham gave a great
ball in the hall of the Palace, when the Emperor danced with the then
Queen of England, and Henry with the Queen of Aragon, the Emperor's


(_Page 24_)]

Henry, as we know, had a taste for cloth of gold, and the affair must
have been sufficiently sumptuous. This was perhaps the last of the
great pageants.

Charles I came here with his fifteen-year-old bride; Charles II was
gracious at considerable expense to the citizens, and brought as his
Archbishop the faithful Juxon, who had been chaplain on the fatal day
at Whitehall and had received the mystic word "Remember"; Elizabeth in
her haughty way was "exceeding magnifical" at the charges of
Archbishop Parker, whose wife she declined to call Madam, since
clergymen had no business with wives. The little square has also
humbler associations. It has been a bull-ring, where the poor beasts
were baited "to make them man's meat and fit to be eaten". It has had
a beautifully carved Market Cross, which gave place to the doubtful
memorial to Marlowe. The massive oaken doors bear Juxon's coat of
arms, for he set them up in place of those destroyed by the Puritans.
They are open; let us pass to the object of our pilgrimage, the great
Cathedral whose builders built better than they knew, and left for all
time a history of this land and its faith, written and illuminated in


Once within Christ Church Gate, and in view of the whole southern side
of the Cathedral, we may pause for a moment and enjoy the vision. That
central tower, surely for dignity and beauty without its peer in the
land, took from first to last fifty years in the building, and was
christened from its first stone the Angel Steeple, from the figure
with which it was to be crowned, though now, the Angel having taken
flight, it is usually known as Bell Harry, from the great bell hung in
it. Mark in the sunshine (for it is a sunny day) the depth and variety
of shadows and lights on its moulded and sculptured surface. Not
without pity and indignation do we read that Goldwell, the last of the
priors who built the gatehouse and completed the tower, begged in
vain, when a palsied old man, at the dissolution of the convent, to be
continued in his old home as the first Dean. Nicholas Wotton, a wily
monk not of the fraternity, whose stone effigy you will see kneeling
in the Trinity Chapel, was appointed in his stead.

After Bell Harry, the next place in our admiration is due to the
Norman staircase-turret, somewhat farther east, with arcading so fine
and decorative as to remind us of arabesque. This turret, with its
fellow on the north side, and the ruined staircase in the Green Court,
are Norman work unsurpassed anywhere. The fivelight Decorated window
of St. Anselm's Chapel is believed by well-qualified judges to be the
most beautiful instance of early fourteenth-century tracery in the
country. It is, of course, much later than the chapel, and was
inserted, in 1336, by Prior Oxenden, whose account states the cost at
£42, or about £650 of our money, all given by himself and his friends.

On our walk to the Norman turret and St. Anselm's Chapel we notice,
under the east window of the Warrior's Chapel, a projection like a low
buttress. It is the foot of Stephen Langton's tomb. He was originally
buried within, when the chapel was built on to the transept; and later
laid here, with the altar over his head, and his feet in the open


(_Page 24_)]

As we move along the Precincts we are treading on the dust of the
Cathedral-builders. For all this southern side was a graveyard--of the
laity as far as St. Anselm's, and of the monks and clergy beyond. The
two were divided by a wall, in which was set as gateway the gabled
Norman arch which is now the entrance to the Bowling Green in front of
us. It is a curious reflection that, in those days of primitive
transport, these walls and towers were brought stone by stone from the
quarries at Caen in Normandy. The barges crossed the Channel and were
unloaded at Fordwych, about two miles from Canterbury. Formerly the
tides came up the river in considerable volume, and Fordwych was a
flourishing port with its Mayor and Corporation; and still has its
queer little town hall, its ducking stool for scolds, and its prison,
though only a tiny hamlet of one hundred and fifty people. When Louis
VII of France made his annual grant of 1600 gallons of wine to Christ
Church Priory, a fee was paid to the Mayor of Fordwych for the use of
his crane in lifting the barrels from the boats. Not many years ago,
at an audit of the Chapter Accounts, a yearly item of forty shillings
was identified as this very fee, which has been regularly paid for
centuries, after the "Wine of St. Thomas" had been consumed,
discontinued, and forgotten. Whether this odd survival will more
interest the historic, or shock the financial, sense of our American
visitors is a question of psychology.

The nave was not built till the end of the fourteenth century, and is
therefore one of the latest parts of the church. Of the two western
towers the northern stood, as built by Lanfranc shortly after the
Conquest, till 1834. During the excavations preparatory to the
present structure it is said that the skeletons of a man and two
bullocks were found in an upright position, as they had sunk into the
marsh in Norman times. All this side was very marshy, and the crypt of
the choir was frequently flooded. The ground-level has risen during
the last few centuries, but is still only some 20 or 30 feet above the

Above the outer entrance of the south-west porch is a bas-relief,
blackened with age, of the altar which, after Becket's murder in the
Martyrdom, was erected at the spot where he fell. It was called the
Altar of the Sword's Point; and the fragment of Richard the Breton's
sword, which dealt the last fierce blow, and was shivered on the
pavement, is seen here at the foot of the altar. Above it is a
crucifix with the figures of St. John and the Virgin. The pilgrims
used to offer their gifts and prayers at three holy places in
succession, at the "Sword's Point", in the Martyrdom; then at the
earlier tomb of Becket in the crypt; and lastly at the shrine in the
Trinity Chapel.

Inside the porch, when Erasmus was here (1513), there were three stone
figures of the murderers in full armour, "enjoying", he says, "the
same sort of fame as Judas, Pilate, and Caiaphas". In Saxon times the
porch served not only as entrance to the church, but also as
courthouse and muniment room, where the Kings of Kent did justice and
judgment. Of course the present structure is much later, but both
porch and nave cover the ground-plan of the ancient church of
Lanfranc, which had a short choir, and an apse like that of a Roman

Let us enter, and, having looked at the great west window, filled with
thirteenth-century glass from other parts of the Cathedral, let us
face eastward, with the vast piers and lofty arches on either hand. We
see the long flight of steps up to the choir, and perhaps get a
glimpse, through the door in the screen, of the farther and higher
flight up to the Holy Table. This long vista, with its double ascent,
is said to have greatly impressed the mediæval pilgrims, as indeed it
still impresses us. There is nothing, I think, elsewhere quite like
it; and it was doubtless intended to symbolize and accentuate the idea
of "going up to" the shrine, which was in the exalted Trinity Chapel
as in a throne-room. Incidentally this unusual elevation of the
eastern floor of the church made possible one of the finest crypts in
existence, which for space and dignity is a church in itself.

As we go forward to the choir steps, and stand below the screen and
under the central tower, there is much to observe. Overhead are the
carved stone "struts" or crosspieces with which Prior Goldston
buttressed his piers, and distributed the strain of the tower's
enormous weight. Their date is marked by the rebus of the builder's
name T and P (for Thomas, Prior), and between the letters a gilded
stone. A similar rebus is in the crypt on Cardinal Morton's
monument--a mort or hawk perched on a tun or barrel.

The great window in the south transept, on our right, belongs to the
fifteenth century, but is filled with magnificent glass brought from
the choir clerestory, and 200 years older than the mullions which
frame it. The corresponding north transept window was filled with
splendid glass by Edward IV; the ecclesiastical figures in the topmost
tracery, some borders, and the panels representing the King with his
two sons who perished in the Tower, and his Queen, Elizabeth
Woodville, with her daughters, still remain. The eldest girl is
Elizabeth of York, who married Henry VII, and so ended the feud of
York and Lancaster. The rest of the glass, which illustrated the life
of the Virgin, and the miracles of St. Thomas of Canterbury, was
smashed by the pike of the Puritan miscreant Culmer, who gloried in
having "rattled down Becket's glassy bones". It is strange that he
spared three of the unique thirteenth-century Becket windows in the
Trinity Chapel. It is said that, as he was at work on his ladder, a
townsman below enquired what he was doing. "The work of the Lord," was
the reply. "Then if it please the Lord I will help you," and an
adroit boulder was flung at his head. This may have cooled his zeal;
but, alas! there is room for misgiving that he ducked his head in
time. So the happiest hopes of history have sometimes miscarried.

[Illustration: FORDWICH

(_Page 29_)]

On our right, again, is the entrance from the south transept into St.
Michael's, or the Warriors' Chapel, where the honoured grave of
Langton, the Magna Charta archbishop, is half inside and half outside,
the wall striding over him by an arch so that his head should lie
under the altar. This chapel contains, and was probably enlarged to
contain, the extremely fine monument of Lady Margaret Holland and her
two husbands, which is a perfect study of the armour and dress of the
early fifteenth century. The first husband was Earl of Somerset and
half-brother of Henry IV, and the second was, curiously, nephew of the
first and brother of Henry V. The lady outlived them both and placed
their effigies here with her own between them. She was the
stepdaughter of the Black Prince.

On our left again, in the north transept, is the far-famed Martyrdom,
the spot where Becket died and became St. Thomas. Here is the ground
on which the hunted prelate, powerful in body as in mind, caught up
Tracy in his full armour and flung him on the pavement. Here is the
door from the cloister through which Becket came for sanctuary, and
which he refused to bar against his assailants come for murder--"The
Church must not be turned into a Castle." Here is the place where the
slain Archbishop lay, his head "four feet from the wall", where
afterwards was erected to his memory the Altar of the Sword's Point.

From hence he was carried to the tomb in the crypt, where he lay for
fifty years until the Translation to the Shrine in Trinity Chapel in
1220. It is not for me in this brief sketch to tell what has been told
so dramatically by Stanley in his _Memorials_, and with such
historical insight by Green in his History. It was a duel between the
Civil and the Ecclesiastical sovereignties, represented respectively
by Henry II and his Archbishop; both of them, for all their genius,
too haughty, violent, and headstrong to bring a difficult controversy
to a close, or even to a lasting truce.

Before we leave the Martyrdom we must notice the oldest effigy in the
Cathedral, that of Peckham, Edward I's Archbishop, who died in 1292,
and beside it that of Wareham, the last archbishop before the
Reformation, who half yielded to Henry VIII and repented of yielding,
and in a few months died, partly perhaps of the sore perplexity and
trouble of the time. A comparison of the two canopies will mark for us
the advance in decorative art between the thirteenth and the early
sixteenth centuries. The door into the cloister has its brighter as
well as its dark memory. For here, at the entrance of what was then
deemed the most sacred enclosure in the land, was Edward I, that
great, stern, tender-hearted King, married to Margaret of Anjou, nine
years after he had lost the wife of whom he wrote: "I loved her
tenderly in her life; I do not cease to love her now she is dead".

The pilgrims were usually conducted from the altar in the Martyrdom to
the "Tumba" or first resting place of the "holy blissful martyr",
which was in the crypt. The whole of the crypt was dedicated to the
Virgin, and the Chapel of Our Lady of the Undercroft, though now dark
and deserted, is still enclosed by the lovely stone tracery placed
round it by the Black Prince as a memorial of his marriage. When
Erasmus was here he said it was "so loaded with riches" as to be "a
more than royal spectacle", and he added: "It is shown but to noblemen
and particular friends". Doubtless though the treasures were hidden
from the common pilgrim, the altar was always accessible to his
devotion. Cardinal Morton desired to be buried near the image of Our
Lady of the Undercroft, and his tomb is close by. He may be remembered
as the minister of Henry VII and author of _Morton's Fork_. It was an
eminently successful method of finance, which may remind us of a
modern Budget. Its principle was that those who spend much can
obviously afford to pay, and those who spend little can well afford
the taxation of their savings.

Under the south choir transept is another memorial of the Black
Prince. It is the double chantry exacted by the Pope as the price of a
dispensation to marry his cousin. The Prince came to Canterbury
himself, met the prior and the mason, and gave orders for the work,
which perhaps included the sculptured face of his beautiful wife in
one of the bosses of the roof. The chantry, with its two apses for the
mass priests, is now the Chapel of the French Protestants, who have
had services here since the royal permission in 1575. After the
Revocation of the Edict of Nantes, in 1685, the refugees are said to
have numbered three thousand, and to have gained for Canterbury a
large trade in silk-weaving and paper-making. Their descendants are
now merged into the English population, but their names and the weekly
French service still survive.

[Illustration: ST. MARTIN'S CHURCH

(_Page 20_)]

There have been two comparatively recent discoveries in the crypt. One
is the well which probably supplied the water for the "ampulles" or
leaden bottles of the pilgrims, the other is a stone chest containing
bones which many believe to be the actual remains of Becket. They
are certainly those of a tall man, placed in a receptacle which was
not their original coffin, and there is certainly the mark of violence
on the skull. It has been cogently argued by Dr. Moore, a canon of
this Cathedral, and Principal of St. Edmund's Hall, Oxford, in a
lecture which will, I hope, be printed, that as the bones of Dante at
Ravenna, and of Cuthbert at Durham, were removed from their shrines to
avoid violation, and others substituted to avoid discovery of the
removal, so the bones of Becket were removed and hidden by the monks
in the interval of suspense before the King's final orders arrived.
They remain where they were found, and the slab above them, though it
bears no inscription, will be readily pointed out by a guide. Before
we bid farewell to the crypt we must call to mind one of the earliest
and greatest of all the pilgrims. In 1174, not quite four years after
the murder, Henry II, as a barefooted penitent, laid his head on the
tomb of Becket between those two slender pillars, and gave his back to
the scourge of the monks and clergy. How far this suffering and
humiliation, which brought on a serious illness, was dictated by
penitence and how far by policy will never be known. But urgent
dangers were closing round the King, which were immediately afterwards
dissipated in a series of triumphs which he may have thought due to
miraculous interposition.

Following the track of the pilgrims, we leave the crypt on the south side,
emerge into the transept, and ascend, along the south choir aisle, by
steps worn hollow by penitential knees (for it was a kind of _scala
santa_--a sacred stair) to the Trinity Chapel, the sanctuary of the
martyr's shrine. Let us try to recall what this was like. It stood in the
centre of the now vacant space beneath the crescent in the vaulted roof.
Three steps led up to a platform figured with a kind of mosaic. The lowest
step, worn by pilgrims' knees, and three of the inlaid "roundles" form
part of the present pavement. On the platform three arches sustained the
body of the saint in a gilded and richly wrought coffin. Two of these
arches, with their columns, were hung with the precious offerings of those
who had sought or received benefit by the saint's intercession. Through
the third, suppliants were allowed to pass, that by contact with the
pillars they might derive some virtue from the relics. The whole was
enclosed in an elaborate oaken case, which was let down and drawn up by
ropes and pulleys from above. One of the monks had charge of the
proceedings--the Mystagogus or Master of the Mysteries, as Erasmus, with a
touch of mockery, calls him--and when a sufficient concourse had
assembled he drew up the cover and revealed to the wondering throng all
the splendour of gold and gems.

Within thirty years of Erasmus's visit every vestige of this
magnificence was swept away; and so completely were all memorials of
Becket destroyed that only one representation of the shrine survives.
This, perhaps, was overlooked, for it is a small panel of stained
glass, and may be found in the highest group of the central of the
three thirteenth-century windows on the north side of the Trinity
Chapel. St. Thomas is mitred and in full canonical vestments, leaning
from or coming out of his shrine, above a figure lying on a bed or
couch below. It is a pictorial record of a vision of the saint which
is related by Benedict, his historian, as having appeared to himself.
The inscription is _Prodire Feretro_, which fails in grammatical
construction, but probably is intended to mean _Issuing from the

It should be noted that the casket or coffin portrayed elsewhere in
these windows, is not the great shrine in the Trinity Chapel, but the
earlier "tumba" at which Henry II did his penance in the crypt. The
determination of Henry VIII to obliterate everything which could
minister to the cult was probably due not merely to zeal against
superstition, but was part of his policy of stamping out the
resistance of the clergy to common law; for in the history of Becket,
and in the honour paid to his remains, was the chief support of their
claim. This throws light on the extraordinary legal process by which,
more than three hundred years after his death, "Thomas Becket,
sometime Archbishop of Canterbury", was summoned, tried, and condemned
for treason, contumacy, and rebellion.

The summons was solemnly read by the shrine, and when, after thirty
days, no voice or presence had issued from it, the case was formally
tried at Westminster, sentence pronounced, the bones of the defendant
were adjudged to be publicly burned, his treasures confiscated to the
Crown, and his name blotted out of every service-book. Strange as the
trial of a dead man may seem to us, it was not without precedent. So
had the dead Wycliffe been cited, and his bones burned. So did Queen
Mary to the dead Bucer. It is pleasanter to think of the Emperor
Charles V by the grave of Erasmus. A courtier proposed that he should
exhume and burn the great scholar "who laid the egg which Luther
hatched"; the Emperor's fine reply was: "I war not with the dead".

Long before these changes and troubles, when the Chapel of the Shrine
was the most honoured of the high places in the Cathedral, the Black
Prince was laid here as the most honoured of its dead; and it is a
testimony to the tenacious affection of the nation for his memory,
that no desecrating hand has ever been laid, even in turbulent times,
on his grave. The armour of the beautiful effigy has lost the gilding
which once made him a golden knight, but it is fresh and clear in its
outlines as it was in the fourteenth century. His helm, surcoat,
gauntlets, shield, and scabbard still hang above him; round his
resting place is the railing with its six tall iron posts for the
great candles, which were lit on the anniversaries of his death. What
tragedies and tumults would have been arrested by his strong hand, had
he lived, we cannot tell; but a more impressive monument to a more
beloved memory does not perhaps exist.

A few yards away lies the man who wrested the throne from the Prince's
son, Richard II, while Canterbury nave was building. Visitors
sometimes recognize in the portrait-statue of Henry IV, as he lies
beside his Queen, Joan of Navarre, a curious family likeness to King
Edward VII, witnessing to the persistence of Plantagenet blood. When
the vault was opened in 1832 its occupant was found to be in a
singular state of preservation, with a little simple cross, of two
twigs tied together, laid upon his breast. The monument is of rare
artistic merit, as is the chantry close by, which he built for "twey
preestes" to say masses for his soul.

The next monument eastward of the Black Prince's is Archbishop
Courtenay's (1396); and beyond this a mean brick mound without
inscription but not without a history. Here lies Odet de Coligny,
brother of the great admiral. Though a prince, a cardinal, an
inquisitor, and a bishop, his sympathies were with the Huguenots, and
he undertook a mission on their behalf to Queen Elizabeth. In the
canonical house, formerly known as Master Omer's, at the southeast
corner of the Precincts, he was poisoned by his servants, whether or
not by foreign instigation is not known. Those were days when the
murderer's hand reached far and freely, especially in causes political
and religious. He was laid here and rudely bricked over, in
expectation of his removal to France; but the French wars of religion
left men no leisure to care for their dead. Against the south wall is
a tomb without inscription and long unidentified. When opened in 1889
there was found, in full pomp of episcopal vestments, pastoral staff,
chalice and paten, wearing a ring graven with strange Egyptian
symbols, Hubert Walter, acclaimed archbishop on the field of Acre and
afterwards the faithful chancellor who kept the kingdom and raised the
ransom for Coeur de Lion. Beside him was a collecting box, perhaps
for Peter's Pence, or for the King's ransom. These relics are kept
under glass in Henry IV's chantry.

East of Trinity Chapel is the circular space called the Corona, or
Becket's Crown, either as the head or crown of Becket's church, or, as
Dr. Cox thinks, because here by the altar to the Trinity was a silver
bust of Becket containing the fragment of his skull cut off by Richard
the Breton's sword. The three most famous objects in the Cathedral are
the site of the shrine, the Black Prince's monument, and the chair of
St. Augustine; and here is the last of the three. In this seat of
Purbeck or Bethersden marble have been enthroned from time immemorial
the Archbishops of Canterbury. If some critics say that it is no older
than the thirteenth century, others say that it was in existence in
the sixth century, when Augustine arrived, and that Kentish kings were
crowned on it. It has always a place in the triple enthronement of an
Archbishop of Canterbury. He is seated on the throne in the choir as
Diocesan Bishop, in the chapter house as titular Abbot, and in St.
Augustine's chair as Primate of All England.

The pilgrims were conducted from Trinity Chapel back to the nave,
along the south choir aisle, where the steps still show the marks of
the two iron gates which divided the ascending from the descending
stream. We, however, will take the north choir aisle, which was
strictly reserved for monks, clerics, and officials, and find our way
into the choir. The pavement is still that of Lanfranc or Anselm, for,
when any part of it is taken up, bits of lead are found which fell
melted from the roof, in the great fire of 1174. Facing east by the
archbishop's throne we see the monuments of six archbishops. Nearest
on our right is Cardinal Kemp, who was with Henry V at Agincourt; then
Stratford, the opponent of Edward III; and lastly Simon Sudbury, who
built Westgate and lost his head. Nearest on our left is the gorgeous
tomb of Chicheley, who, in old age, was stricken with remorse for
having instigated Henry V's French campaigns in order to distract
attention from Lollard schemes for confiscating Church property. He
founded All Souls College, Oxford, to pray for the souls of those who
fell in the wars, and the Warden still renews, when needed, the
colour-decoration of his monument. Then Howley, who crowned Queen
Victoria, and finally Bourchier, who crowned Edward IV, Richard III,
and Henry VII, and, by wedding the latter to Elizabeth of York,
terminated the Wars of the Roses.

[Illustration: WESTGATE

(_Page 13_)]

In Canterbury Cathedral have been buried some fifty archbishops, the
Black Prince, Henry IV, two queens, and many others of royalty or
distinction. Of the old monuments only about eighteen are left. The
great fires of 1067 and 1174, the violence of men, and the ravages of
time have all taken their toll.

Of the architectural history of the Cathedral, deeply interesting as
it is, little can here be said. It may be summed up as a happy
alternation of destructive fires and vigorous priors, aided by
munificent archbishops and master masons of genius. There is no
history of the first Christian settlement in these islands; but we
dimly descry a Roman, and on its foundations a Saxon building which
lasted till the Conquest Then came a fire, and with it Lanfranc's
opportunity. He had driving power, and in the brief period of seven
years (1070-7) built a stone Cathedral over the Roman and Saxon ground
plans, adding a short choir and western towers of which one remained
till 1834.

Only twenty years after Lanfranc, Anselm, greatly daring, pulled down
most of his choir, and with his prior, Ernulf, began a slightly wider
and much longer choir, extending about as far as the present Holy
Table. This came to be known as "the glorious choir of Conrad", from
the name of the prior who completed it. Anselm's or Ernulf's work
still remains as part of the present crypt. In 1174, a hundred years
later, the year of Henry II's penance at Becket's tomb, the whole
church was ruined by the most devastating fire in its annals. How
severe was the blow, both to monks and people, we may learn from
Gervase, who was an eyewitness and one of the fraternity. The people
"tore their hair and beat the walls and pavement of the church with
their heads and hands, blaspheming the Lord and his Saints"; the monks
"wailed and howled rather than sang their daily and nightly services"
in the roofless nave.

French William, the designer of the Cathedral at Sens in Normandy, was
chosen for the restoration; and the mark of his handiwork is plainly
to be seen in the resemblances between the two churches. Genius
transforms hindrances into triumphs. French William's difficulty was
that the side chapels of St. Andrew and St. Anselm, built on the arc
of the old apse, were too near together to admit of the full width of
his new and longer choir. He kept the chapels, contracted the choir at
their nearest points and then expanded it into the Trinity Chapel,
with the remarkable effect which strikes every observer.

When his work was partly accomplished, and he was on the scaffolding
to prepare for the turning of the vault, he fell with a mass of timber
and stone from a height of 50 feet, and was disabled for life. He
chose for his successor another man of genius, known as English
William, one of his staff, "small of body, but in many kinds of
workmanship acute and honest", who added to his master's design the
great uplift of the floor of the Trinity Chapel and completed that and
the Corona or Becket's Crown. Since 1185 no substantial alteration has
been made in the eastern half of the Cathedral.

If the reader desires to know the chief sources of our information
about the early history of Canterbury Cathedral, the reply is in
itself a picture of the times. Eadmer was a boy in the convent school
before the Conquest, and singer or precentor in Lanfranc's choir of
monks. He also lived through the rule of Anselm.

Gervase was a monk of Christ Church when Becket died in the Martyrdom.
He witnessed the fire of 1174, the desolation it left behind, and the
immortal achievements of French William and of his English namesake.
Eadmer and Gervase have both left us narratives, not umixed with
monkish legend, but faithful and full of curious information.

It is not easy for us to understand the veneration paid to relics; yet
from that veneration sprang all the glories of the Cathedral. And when
we read in these old chronicles, translated from Latin in Willis'
_Architectural History_, of the desperate, almost agonized labours of
the monks to save from fire, weather, or dishonour the remains of
their buried saints, we shall withhold our scorn for their
superstition, and find less surprising the immense sums paid in the
Middle Age for the arm or skull of a dead man.

The earlier Saxon archbishops were laid in the ground of St.
Augustine's Abbey, which thus accumulated a store of sanctity which
roused the sore jealousy of their Christ Church brethren. Accordingly
in the eighth century Cuthbert obtained a secret permission from the
Pope to be buried in the Cathedral. His death was not divulged until
he was safely interred, and when the monks of St. Augustine's came to
demand as usual the body of the dead archbishop, they were met with
derisive shouts, and the brandishing of the Papal decree. Thus Gervase
records that Cuthbert, "being endowed with great wisdom, procured for
Christ Church the right of free sepulture".


(_Page 51_)]

There is at least one "secret chamber" in the Cathedral for the hiding
away of relics or of treasures. This is the Chapel of St. Gabriel in
the crypt. The entrance was through a hole which was entirely
concealed by an outside altar. This chapel was so successfully hidden
that the monk Gervase was evidently ignorant of its existence in the
twelfth century; and its roof is covered with very curious painting
of that date, which the darkness (for there is no window) has kept
in remarkable preservation. There is also a room, over the Treasury,
accessible only by a door opening 6 feet above the floor of St.
Andrew's Chapel, requiring therefore a ladder as means of approach.
But it was never a really secret chamber, and was probably at one time
entered by an ordinary stone stairway.


It must be remembered that Canterbury Cathedral was originally the
church or chapel of the monastery. The people were admitted to the
nave, but only monks and clergy took any official part in the
services, or entered the choir, which was the sanctuary of the
Brotherhood. Indeed the entire Precincts belonged to them; and though
they allowed the ground near the Christ Church Gate to be used as a
general churchyard, or "exterior cemetery", entrance to the inner
Precincts was only by permission or invitation. The present boundary
of this monkish domain on the south and east is the old fortified wall
of the city, but formerly the monastery had an interior wall of its
own, running parallel to it, and leaving a space or lane about 14 feet
wide, for the carrying of munitions and provisions to the defenders of
the outer wall, and of materials for its repair.

The unique remnant of this lane is known as Quenengate or Queeningate
Lane, and if we can borrow a canon's key and pass through the Norman
archway of the Bowling Green, near the east end of the Cathedral, we
may see not only Queeningate Lane but also the postern door in the
outer wall through which Queen Bertha, in the sixth century, went to
her daily prayer at St. Martin's. Nay, as we open that door we are
face to face with the turreted fourteenth-century gateway of St.
Augustine's, founded by and named after the great man, and once
ranking second only to Subiaco among the Benedictine monasteries of
Europe. Time was when St. Augustine's looked down upon Christ Church,
as upon a little brother who should not presume. When, at the
invitation of Edward I, Archbishop Peckham went to the Abbey to dine,
he was refused admission, unless he would lower his cross or crozier
on entering. He declined this indignity, and was absent from the royal
dinner-party. Ethelbert's Tower, a splendid remnant of the Norman
abbey church, stood till 1822, when it was battered down by the
Philistines to provide cheap building material and make room for a
tea-garden. In Bede's time this church had a tomb inscribed: "Here
resteth the Lord Augustine, first Archbishop of Canterbury A.D. 605".
To share the sanctity of a spot so consecrated, saints, nobles, and
kings were brought hither on their last journey. Cuthbert turned the
tide when he so cunningly gained the right of sepulture for Christ
Church, and eventually, as we know, Becket's shrine quite eclipsed St.
Augustine's. After the dissolution the abbey became for a time a
royal lodge, and Queen Elizabeth and the First and Second Charles have
occupied the guest-chamber over the gateway.

Returning to the Precincts, we are again reminded that the makers of
Canterbury were the pilgrims and the monks. Of the three houses on our
right, the first is Master Omer's, the guest-house for pilgrims where
Odet de Coligny was murdered; the second incorporates part of the
infirmary; the third was its frater and kitchen; while the long arcade
of ruins, still reddened with the fire of 700 years ago, and
stretching along the north side of the choir to the Dark Entry, was
the monks' hospital.

So vast an infirmary as this, with its chapel at one end and cloister
at the other, for a community of 100 to 150 monks, seems at first
unaccountable. This and some other things we shall understand better
when we have walked through the infirmary cloister, and along
Lanfranc's vaulted passage to the great or main Cloister of the
convent. This was the centre of the whole monastic life, in which the
monks spent the greater part of the day, and from which doors gave
access to every part of the building, dining hall or frater,
dormitories, cellarer's stores and lodging, deportum or recreation
room, chapter house for business and discipline, Cathedral choir
for worship, infirmary for the sick or weary. Here they read and
wrote, here they learned and taught, here were chronicles completed,
missals illuminated, and various tasks of hand or head performed under
the direction of the superiors.


(_Page 56_)]

Yet with all its splendour of traceried arch it is a comfortless
place. Not until a few years before the fall of the monastery was it
glazed even on one side. In the long summers and hot sunshine of
Italy, where the Benedictine order took its rise, it was natural
enough to build for coolness and air; hence not only the open alleys
of the cloister, but also its situation on the north side of the
church. It is possible that at Canterbury there was some difficulty
about space on the south side; certainly in a chilly climate open
cloisters hidden from the sun by a mountain of masonry must have
inflicted much hardship on the monks, and added to the austerities of
their ascetic life. They were a delicate and short-lived race, usually
failing to attain forty years of age, and compelled by statute to
spend three days of each month in the infirmary, independently of
occasional recourse thither for ailments and for being bled, which was
regarded as periodically necessary. Ordericus Vitalis, a monkish
historian living in Normandy, says several times in his chronicle:
"The winter has now come, and my fingers are so numbed by the cold
that I can write no more till the spring". Visiting members of other
convents were not asked to share the full discipline, but were
hospitably lodged in the infirmary as the most comfortable quarters.
Moreover, epidemics occurred, as in 1348, the year of the Black Death,
when Archbishop Bradwardine died of the Plague within a few weeks of
his installation, and half the nation perished. So the infirmary was
probably not too large after all. It must not be forgotten that
silence was strictly enjoined in the Cloister, so that to the agonies
of cold hands and feet was added the privation, with which we cannot
fail to sympathize, of being unable to talk about the inclemency of
the weather.

In the cloister garth are two graves perhaps as well worth visiting as
ever Becket's was, though no miracles have yet occurred at them. They
are those of Archbishop Temple and Dean Farrar.

If we retrace our way along Lanfranc's gloomy passage to the infirmary
cloister, where guests and invalid brethren took the air, and turn to
the left along the Dark Entry, by the ruins of the Lord Prior's
Lodging and Chequer House or Office, we emerge into the Green Court.
Here servants had their quarters, and at the great gate of the convent
received guests and pilgrims. Those of distinction they conducted to
Master Omer's, those of middle rank to Chillenden Chambers or the
vanished New Lodging; the common wayfarers ascended that lovely and
unique Norman staircase to the Great North Hall. These had to bring
their own bedding and cooking utensils, like the steerage passengers
in an emigrant ship; and their hall was kitchen, parlour, and bedroom
in one, so that its superb approach was no measure of the quality of
its accommodation. The cowl or habit of a monk would rarely be seen in
the Green Court. It belonged too much to the outside world and the
secular life.

Before we ourselves return to that outside world let us turn
southwards for a moment for a view that we shall not easily forget.
Below the immense mass and broken outlines of the church, and flanked
by ruins of cloister and dormitory, we see across a little breadth of
lawn the picturesque octagonal tower called the Baptistery. It was
really a monks' lavatory, and the centre of the water supply. For,
strange as it may be to our conceited modern ears, the monks had from
the twelfth century an elaborate system of waterworks, and probably
owed to this their comparatively small mortality during the
visitations of plague. There still exists a twelfth-century plan
showing the various pipes, tanks, and basins, for drinking, washing,
or cooking. So the little octagonal tower, as so often happens, was
useful as well as beautiful. And if the chart which indicates the path
of every pipe and runnel, and the place of every layer for personal
ablution, fails to indicate any laundry for the washing of
clothes--why, the monks wore all-wool garments, and did not think
fastidiousness a virtue. Let us hope for the best.

So we pass the Convent Gate and cross the Mintyard. This is now a
"quad" of the King's School, but archbishops till Cranmer exercised
here their right of coinage. From the Mintyard we step back into a
rather squalid street of a modern world. But the house just opposite
is old enough to have housed pilgrims, and two or three hundred yards
along Northgate Street, to our right, is the fifteenth-century
timbered archway of St. John's Hospital, shown in our illustration.
St. John's was founded before the days of the pilgrims as a nook of
safety and peace for the aged poor, and this it still remains. How
many wearied souls have bidden here their long farewell to Canterbury!
We, too, will bid our farewell, less solemn, and not without hope of
return, but still with regret. If these pages and pictures enable you,
reader, to revisit in spirit the place of your pilgrimage, they will
have accomplished their end.

       *       *       *       *       *

Beautiful England




Beautiful Scotland


Beautiful Ireland


Beautiful Switzerland


       *       *       *       *       *


       *       *       *       *       *

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