I visited the old city of Canterbury as I have always wanted to see the famous Cathedral. I also wanted to see the place where the tales of Chaucer ended (The Canterbury Tales). I was not disappointed by this beautiful old city. Stunning period houses, all higgledy-piggledy wound there way up to the gates of the cathedral itself.
The gates of the Cathedral were wonderful, they were colourfully painted in places and adorned with statues and roses. The Cathedral from the outside looked large but like most Cathedrals of that kind. To be honest I was a little unimpressed with the outside…..however on entering the building I was completely awestruck….I mean I just couldn’t fathom what my eyes were trying to absorb. The high arched ceilings had the effect of making me feel tiny and insignificant. I will leave you to view the photos below however I urge you to go and experience the place yourselves as the photos do no justice at all.
Working my way around the Cathedral there is so much to see. I will tell you of some of the pieces that caught my attention the most.
The Sanctuary for the French Huguenot
It was 1685 and French Protestants escaped persecution in France by the Catholics. 200,000 of these refugees were given sanctuary in Canterbury. There is now a special prayer room set up in their honour within the Cathedral. A lot of their decedents go to a French language mass that is held every Sunday at the Cathedral.
This is a very relevant to today when we are witnessing one of the biggest exodus of refugees in crises coming to us Europeans looking for sanctuary. Remember our humanity and help those in need.
Story of Thomas Beckett
The story about the murder of Thomas Beckett the first Archbishop of Canterbury is a very interesting story. It talks about the friendship between two men, a king and an archbishop. They were pulled apart by differences of opinion which led to the eventual (accidental) murder of the Archbishop. The archbishop was righteous while the king was greedy. The King never forgave himself for the unintended murder of his friend and joined the pilgrimage in a sack cloth and bare feet to cleanse his soul.
Amnesty International Candle
An Amnesty International candle continuously burns in Canterbury Cathedral as a constant reminder of the horrors of war.
On the 2nd of July former hostage Terry Waite lit the candle, he spoke of the horrors of his imprisonment and how a small clink of light was his only solis in his dark prison cell to which he spent five years shackled in.
Artist – Anthony Gormleys Floating Sculpture
Artist Anthony Gormley was asked to create a piece that represented the passing of Thomas Becketts using old nails off the roof of the Cathedral. I wanted to take a photo of the sculpture however it was in the Crypt which is sacred and photography is not permitted. The sculpture is almost ghost like as it gently moves suspended from the ceiling by almost invisible wires. It is suspended from the roof of the crypt, below the floor where it is said Thomas Beckett was murdered. It is as if his soul was floating in this sacred place. I found the piece very restful and quiet. If feel the position of it in the crypt tightened the sense of peace….which I find strange as it is a representation of a righteous and goodly man who was brutally murdered.
The Monks Teachings – Pantings on the Walls
If you look closely at the exposed wall in the crypt you can sometimes make out forms and lines. These simple lines make up larger images, you do have to look hard. One of the guides saw me considering one of these images and came over. He told me that it is thought that they were perhaps used by the monks to teach the illiterate about their faith, their God and the angles. I like the idea of the images used as teaching tools.
Artist – Luke Jerram Exhibition – Glass Microbiology
Luke’s Glass Microbiology exhibition in Canterbury Cathedral had a stunning display of dangerous viruses made into beautiful blown glass sculptures. Nature is truly beautiful if also a little terrifying. I feel these pieces were placed with great juxtaposition, each piece, impeccably clean and glowing in the light, placed on clinically white plinths and all within the grounds of the dusty and ancient cathedral. Ironically (probably the artists intention) the viruses these sculptures represent precede the Cathedral by eons. There was a sense of elegance and beauty, of danger and fragility. I could imagine picking one of these objects up only for it to cause pain and I then in turn drop it and watch it smash into innumerable tiny but sharp pieces.
Play Me, I’m Yours – Luke Jerram
Later I came across random pianos dotted around Canterbury in public places, both outside and inside. I saw one being played giddily by a group of young girls in the shopping centre. This was my favourite piece of art that I had seen all day. I loved hearing the laughter from the girls and seeing the smiles on peoples faces as they went along with their daily tasks. It was a break in the mundane, and an unexpected joy. I only wish I knew more piano than Flur de Lis (played quite badly) as I would have loved to join in. It was a lot later when I realised that this piece was also by artist Luke Jerram, I really appreciate his diversity in craft and concept.
“Touring internationally since 2008, Play Me, I’m Yours is an artwork by artist Luke Jerram. More than 1400 pianos have now been installed in 49 cities across the globe, from Paris to Lima, bearing the simple invitation Play Me, I’m Yours. The project has already reached more than six million people worldwide.”
Find out more about the pianos: Here
There is lots more to see in Canterbury and I could keep going on and on…it is a wonderful place to visit, steeped in history and the locals are lovely too.