First Edition December, 1896.
Second Edition, Revised, with many Additional Illustrations, May, 1897.
This series of monographs has been planned to supply visitors to the great English Cathedrals with accurate and well illustrated guide books at a popular price. The aim of each writer has been to produce a work compiled with sufficient knowledge and scholarship to be of value to the student of archæology and history, and yet not too technical in language for the use of an ordinary visitor or tourist.
To specify all the authorities which have been made use of in each case would be difficult and tedious in this place. But amongst the general sources of information which have been almost invariably found useful are:—firstly, the great county histories, the value of which, especially in questions of genealogy and local records, is generally recognized; secondly, the numerous papers by experts which appear from time to time in the transactions of the antiquarian and archæological societies; thirdly, the important documents made accessible in the series issued by the Master of the Rolls; fourthly, the well-known works of Britton and Willis on the English Cathedrals; and, lastly, the very excellent series of Handbooks to the Cathedrals, originated by the late Mr. John Murray, to which the reader may in most cases be referred for fuller detail, especially in reference to the histories of the respective sees.
E. F. Strange.
Editors of the Series.
Among authorities consulted in the preparation of this volume, the author desires to name specially Prof. Willis’s “Architectural History of Canterbury Cathedral” (1845), Dean Stanley’s “Historical Memorials of Canterbury” (Murray, 1855, and fifth edition, 1868), “Canterbury,” by the Rev. R.C. Jenkins (1880), and the excellent section devoted to Canterbury in Murray’s “Handbooks to the English Cathedrals, Southern Division,” wherein Mr. Richard John King brought together so much valuable matter, to which reference has been made too often to be acknowledged in each instance. For permission to use this the publishers have to thank Mr. John Murray.
For the reproduction of the drawings of the various parts of the Cathedral, and the arms on the title page, by Mr. Walter Tallent Owen, the editors are greatly indebted to the artist, from whose volume, “Bits of Canterbury Cathedral,” published by W.T. Comstock, New York, 1891, they have been taken. Others are taken from Charles Wild’s “Specimens of Mediæval Architecture,” and from Carter’s “Ancient Sculpture and Paintings.”
The illustrations from photographs in this volume have been reproduced from the originals by Messrs. Carl Norman and Co.
|Chapter I.—History of the Building||3|
|Chapter II.—Exterior and Precincts:|
|The Angel or Bell Tower||24|
|Ruins of the Infirmary||38|
|The Lavatory Tower||40|
|The Chapter House||42|
|The Green Court||48|
|The Central Tower||55|
|The Western Screen||56|
|The Choir Screen||64|
|The Choir Stalls||65|
|South-West Choir Aisle||69|
|St. Anselm’s Tower and Chapel||69|
|The Watching Chamber||72|
|Tomb of the Black Prince||75|
|St. Andrew’s Tower||88|
|Chapel of the Martyrdom||92|
|The Dean’s Chapel||94|
|St. Michael’s Chapel||95|
|The Main Crypt||96|
|The Eastern Crypt||101|
|Chapter IV.—The History of the See||103|
|The Cathedral from the South||Frontispiece|
|The Cathedral from the North||1|
|Plan of Canterbury Cathedral (Circa 1165)||4|
|Arms of Canterbury||Title|
|View on the Stour||22|
|The Central Tower, “Bell Harry”||25|
|Detail of St. Anselm’s Tower||32|
|The Christchurch Gate||33|
|The South-West Porch of the Cathedral||36|
|Cloisters of the Monks’ Infirmary||37|
|Ruins of the Monks’ Infirmary||38|
|The Baptistery Tower||39|
|Turret of South-West Transept||41|
|Norman Staircase in the Close||45|
|Details of the Norman Staircase in the Close||46|
|Details of Ornament||47|
|Old Painting, “The Murder of St. Thomas à Becket”||51|
|The Shrine of St. Thomas à Becket (from the Cottonian MS.)||52|
|Capitals of Columns in the Eastern Apse||54|
|The Choir—looking East||59|
|Do. before Restoration||62|
|A Miserere in the Choir||65|
|Some Mosaics from the Floor of Trinity Chapel||73|
|The Black Prince’s Tomb||77|
|Shield, Coat, etc., of the Black Prince||80|
|Trinity Chapel, looking into Corona, “Becket’s Crown”||88|
|Chair of St. Augustine||89|
|Transept of “The Martyrdom”||92|
|Part of South-Western Transept||94|
|Do. St. Gabriel’s Chapel||100|
|Do. Cardinal Morton’s Monument||101|
|Plans of Cathedral at three periods||130|
THE HISTORY OF THE BUILDING.
More than four hundred years passed by between the beginning of the building of this cathedral by Archbishop Lanfranc (1070-1089) and its completion, by the addition of the great central tower, at the end of the fifteenth century. But before tracing the history of the construction of the present well-known fabric, a few words will not be out of place concerning the church which preceded it on the same site. A British or Roman church, said to have been built by a certain mythical King Lucius, was given to St. Augustine by Ethelbert in a.d. 597. It was designed, broadly speaking, on the plan of the old Basilica of St. Peter at Rome, but as to the latest date of any alterations, which may or may not have been made by Augustine and his immediate successors, we have no accurate information. It is, however, definitely stated that Archbishop Odo, who held the see from a.d. 942-959, raised the walls and rebuilt the roof. In the course of these alterations the church was roofless for three years, and we are told that no rain fell within the precincts during this time. In a.d. 1011 Canterbury was pillaged by the Danes, who carried off Archbishop Alphege to Greenwich, butchered the monks, and did much damage to the church. The building was, however, restored by Canute, who made further atonement by hanging up his crown within its walls, and bringing back the body of Alphege, who had been martyred by the Danes. In the year 1067 the storms of the Norman Conquest overwhelmed St. Augustine’s church, which was completely destroyed by fire, together with many royal deeds of privilege and papal bulls, and other valuable documents.
A description of the church thus destroyed is given by Prof. Willis, who quotes all the ancient writers who mention it. The chief authority is Eadmer, who was a boy at the monastery school when the Saxon church was pulled down, and was afterwards a monk and “singer” in the cathedral. It is he who tells us that it was arranged in some parts in imitation [Pg 2] of the church of St. Peter at Rome. Odo had translated the body of Wilfrid, Archbishop of York, from Ripon to Canterbury, and had “worthily placed it in a more lofty receptacle, to use his own words, that is to say, in the great Altar which was constructed of rough stones and mortar, close to the wall at the eastern part of the presbytery. Afterwards another altar was placed at a convenient distance before the aforesaid altar.... In this altar the blessed Elphege had solemnly deposited the head of St. Swithin ... and also many relics of other saints. To reach these altars, a certain crypt which the Romans call a Confessionary had to be ascended by means of several steps from the choir of the singers. This crypt was fabricated beneath in the likeness of the confessionary of St. Peter, the vault of which was raised so high that the part above could only be reached by many steps.” The resting-place of St. Dunstan was separated from the crypt itself by a strong wall, for that most holy father was interred before the aforesaid steps at a great depth in the ground, and at the head of the saint stood the matutinal altar. Thence the choir of the singers was extended westward into the body of the church.... In the next place, beyond the middle of the length of the body there were two towers which projected beyond the aisles of the church. The south tower had an altar in the midst of it, which was dedicated in honour of the blessed Pope Gregory.... Opposite to this tower and on the north, the other tower was built in honour of the blessed Martin, and had about it cloisters for the use of the monks.... The extremity of the church was adorned by the oratory of Mary.... At its eastern part, there was an altar consecrated to the worship of that Lady.... When the priest performed the Divine mysteries at this altar he had his face turned to the east.... Behind him, to the west, was the pontifical chair constructed with handsome workmanship, and of large stones and cement, and far removed from the Lord’s table, being contiguous to the wall of the church which embraced the entire area of the building.
Lanfranc, the first Norman archbishop, was granted the see in 1070. He quickly set about the task of building himself a cathedral. Making no attempt to restore the old fabric, he even destroyed what was left of the monastic building, and built up an entirely new church and monastery. Seven years[Pg 3] sufficed to complete his cathedral, which stood on the same ground as the earlier fane. His work, however, was not long left undisturbed. It had not stood for twenty years before the east end of the church was pulled down during the Archiepiscopate of Anselm, and rebuilt in a much more splendid style by Ernulph, the prior of the monastery. Conrad, who succeeded Ernulph as prior, finished the choir, decorating it with great magnificence, and, in the course of his reconstruction, nearly doubling the area of the building. Thus completed anew, the cathedral was dedicated by Archbishop William in a.d. 1130. At this notable ceremony the kings of England and Scotland both assisted, as well as all the English bishops. Forty years later this church was the scene of Thomas à Becket’s murder (a.d. 1170), and it was in Conrad’s choir that the monks watched over his body during the night after his death.
Eadmer also gives some description of the church raised by Lanfranc. The new archbishop, “filled with consternation” when he found that “the church of the Saviour which he undertakes to rule was reduced to almost nothing by fire and ruin,” proceeded to “set about to destroy it utterly, and erect a more noble one. And in the space of seven years he raised this new church from the very foundations and rendered it nearly perfect.... Archbishop Anselm, who succeeded Lanfranc, appointed Ernulf to be prior.... Having taken down the eastern part of the church which Lanfranc had built, he erected it so much more magnificently, that nothing like it could be seen in England, either for the brilliancy of its glass windows, the beauty of its marble pavement, or the many coloured pictures which led the wondering eyes to the very summit of the ceiling.” It was this part of the church, however, that was completed by Ernulf’s successor, Conrad, and afterwards known as Conrad’s choir. It appears that Anselm “allowed the monks to manage their own affairs, and gave them for priors Ernulf, and then Conrad, both monks of their own monastery. And thus it happened that, in addition to the general prosperity and good order of their property, which resulted from this freedom, they were enabled to enlarge their church by all that part which stretches from the great tower to the east; which work Anselm himself provided for,” having “granted to the said church the revenues of his town of[Pg 4] Peckham, for seven years, the whole of which were expended upon the new work.” Prof. Willis, unable to account for the haste with which the east end of Lanfranc’s church was pulled down, assumes that the monks “did not think their church large enough for the importance of their monastery,” and moreover wanted shrine-room for the display of relics. The main body of Lanfranc’s church was left standing, and is described as follows by Gervase. “The tower, raised upon great pillars, is placed in the midst of the church, like the centre in the middle of a circle. It had on its apex a gilt cherub. On the west of the tower is the nave of the church, supported on either side upon eight pillars. Two lofty towers with gilded pinnacles terminate this nave or aula. A gilded corona hangs in the midst of the church. A screen with a loft (pulpitum) separated in a manner the aforesaid tower from the nave, and had in the middle and on the side towards the nave, the altar of the holy cross. Above the pulpitum and placed across the church, was the beam, which sustained a great cross, two cherubim, and the images of St. Mary and St. John the Apostle.... The great tower had a cross from each side, to wit, a south cross and a north cross, each of which had in the midst a strong pillar; this pillar sustained a vault which proceeded from the walls on three of its sides,” etc. Prof. Willis considers that as far as these parts of the building are concerned, the present fabric stands exactly on the site of Lanfranc’s. “In the existing building,” he says, “it happens that the nave and transepts have been transformed into the Perpendicular style of the fourteenth century, and the central tower carried up to about double its original altitude in the same style. Nevertheless indications may be detected that these changed parts stand upon the old foundations of Lanfranc.”
The building, however, was not destined to remain long intact. In a.d. 1174 the whole of Conrad’s choir was destroyed by a fire, which was described fully by Gervase, a monk who witnessed it. He gives an extraordinary account of the rage and grief of the people at the sight of the burning cathedral. The work of rebuilding was immediately set on foot. In September, 1174, one William of Sens, undertook the task, and wrought thereat until 1178, when he was disabled by an unfortunate fall from a scaffolding, and had to give up his charge and return to France. Another William, an Englishman this[Pg 5] time, took up the direction of the work, and under his supervision the choir and eastern portion of the church were finished in a.d. 1184. Further alterations were made under Prior Chillenden at the end of the fourteenth century. Lanfranc’s nave was pulled down, and a new nave and transepts were constructed, leaving but little of the original building set up by the first Norman archbishop. Finally, about a.d. 1495, the cathedral was completed by the addition of the great central tower.
During the four centuries which passed during the construction and reconstruction of the fabric, considerable changes had manifested themselves in the science and art of architecture. Hence it is that Canterbury Cathedral is a history, written in solid stone, of architectural progress, illustrating in itself almost all the various kinds of the style commonly called Pointed. Of these the earliest form of Gothic and Perpendicular chiefly predominate. The shape and arrangement of the building was doubtless largely influenced by the extraordinary number of precious relics which it contained, and which had to be properly displayed and fittingly enshrined. Augustine’s church had possessed the bodies of St. Blaize and St. Wilfrid, brought respectively from Rome and from Ripon; of St. Dunstan, St. Alphege, and St. Ouen, as well as the heads of St. Swithin and St. Furseus, and the arm of St. Bartholomew. These were all carefully removed and placed, each in separate altars and chapels, in Lanfranc’s new cathedral. Here their number was added to by the acquisition of new relics and sacred treasures as time went on, and finally Canterbury enshrined its chiefest glory, the hallowed body of St. Thomas à Becket, who was martyred within its walls.
Since, owing to an almost incredible act of royal vindictiveness in a.d. 1538, Becket’s glorious shrine belongs only to the history of the past, some account of its splendours will not be out of place in this part of our account of the cathedral. It stood on the site of the ancient chapel of the Trinity, which was burnt down along with Conrad’s choir in the destructive fire of a.d. 1174. It was in this chapel that Thomas à Becket had first solemnized mass after becoming archbishop. For this reason, as we may fairly suppose, this position was chosen to enshrine the martyr’s bones, after the rebuilding of the injured portion of the fabric. Though the shrine itself has[Pg 8] been ruthlessly destroyed, a mosaic pavement, similar to that which may be seen round the tomb of Edward the Confessor in Westminster Abbey, marks the exact spot on which it stood. The mosaic is of the kind with which the floors of the Roman basilicas were generally adorned, and contains signs of the zodiacs and emblems of virtues and vices. This pavement was directly in front of the west side of the shrine. On each side of the site is a deep mark in the pavement running towards the east. This indentation was certainly worn in the soft, pinkish marble by the knees of generations of pilgrims, who prostrated themselves here while the treasures were displayed to their gaze. In the roof above there is fixed a crescent carved out of some foreign wood, which has proved deeply puzzling to antiquaries. A suggestion, which hardly seems very plausible, connects this mysterious crescent with the fact that Becket was closely related, as patron, with the Hospital of St. John at Acre. It was believed that his prayers had once repulsed the Saracens from the walls of the fortress, and he received the title of St. Thomas Acreusis. Near this crescent a number of iron staples were to be seen at one time, and it is likely that a trophy of some sort depended from them. The Watching Tower was set high upon the Tower of St. Anselm, on the south side of the shrine. It contained a fireplace, so that the watchman might keep himself warm during the winter nights, and from a gallery between the pillars he commanded a view of the sacred spot and its treasures. A troop of fierce ban-dogs shared the task of guarding the shrine from theft. How necessary such precautions were is shown by the fact that such a spot had to be guarded not only from common robbers in search of rich booty, but also from holy men, who were quite unscrupulous in their desire to possess themselves and their own churches of sacred relics. Within the first six years after Becket’s death we read of two striking instances of the lengths to which distinguished churchmen were carried by what Dean Stanley calls “the first frenzy of desire for the relics of St. Thomas.” Benedict, a monk of Christ Church, and “probably the most distinguished of his body,” was created Abbot of Peterburgh in a.d. 1176. Disappointed to find that his cathedral was very poor in the matter of relics he returned to Canterbury, “took away with him the flagstones immediately surrounding the sacred spot,[Pg 9] with which he formed two altars in the conventual church of his new appointment, besides two vases of blood and parts of Becket’s clothing.” Still more striking and characteristic of the prevalent passion for relics is the story of Roger, who was keeper of the “Altars of the Martyrdom,” or “Custos Martyrii.” The brothers of St. Augustine’s Abbey were so eager to obtain a share in the glory which their great rival, the neighbouring cathedral, had won from the circumstances of Becket’s martyrdom within its walls, that they actually offered Roger no less a reward than the position of abbot in their own institution, on condition that he should purloin for them some part of the remains of the martyr’s skull. And not only did Roger, though he had been specially selected from amongst the monks of Christ Church to watch over this very treasure, agree to their conditions, and after duly carrying out this piece of sacrilegious burglary become Abbot of St. Augustine’s; but the chroniclers of the abbey were not ashamed to boast of this transaction as an instance of cleverness and well-applied zeal.
The translation of Becket’s remains from the tomb to his shrine took place a.d. 1220, fifty years after his martyrdom. The young Henry III., who had just laid the foundation of the new abbey at Westminster, assisted at the ceremony. The primate then ruling at Canterbury was the great Stephen Langton, who had won renown both as a scholar and a statesman. He had carried out the division of the Bible into chapters, as it is now arranged, and had won a decisive victory for English liberty by forcing King John to sign the Great Charter. He was now advanced in years, and had recently assisted at the coronation of King Henry at Westminster.
The translation was carried out with imposing ceremony. The scene must have been one of surpassing splendour; never had such an assemblage been gathered together in England. Robert of Gloucester relates that not only Canterbury but the surrounding countryside was full to overflowing:
The archbishop had given notice two years before, proclaiming the day of the solemnity throughout Europe as well as England:[Pg 10] the episcopal manors had been bidden to furnish provisions for the huge concourse, not only in the cathedral city, but along all the roads by which it was approached. Hay and provisions were given to all who asked it between London and Canterbury; at the gates of the city and in the four licensed cellars tuns of wine were set up, that all who thirsted might drink freely, and wine ran in the street channels on the day of the festival. During the night before the ceremony the primate, together with the Bishop of Salisbury and all the members of the brotherhood, who were headed by Walter the Prior, solemnly, with psalms and hymns, entered the crypt in which the martyr’s body lay, and removed the stones which covered the tomb. Four priests, specially conspicuous for their piety, were selected to take out the relics, which were then placed in a strong coffer studded with iron nails and fastened with iron hasps.
Next day a procession was formed, headed by the young king, Henry III. After him came Pandulf, the Italian Bishop of Norwich and Papal Nuncio, and Langton the archbishop, with whom was the Archbishop of Rheims, Primate of France. The great Hubert de Burgh, Lord High Justiciary, together with four other barons, completed the company, which was selected to bear the chest to its resting-place. When this had been duly deposited, a solemn mass was celebrated by the French archbishop. The anniversary of this great festival was commemorated as the Feast of the Translation of the Blessed St. Thomas, until it was suppressed by a royal injunction of Henry VIII. in 1536.
A picture of the shrine itself is preserved among the Cottonian MSS., and a representation of it also exists in one of the stained windows of the cathedral. At the end of it the altar of the Saint had its place; the lower part of its walls were of stone, and against them the lame and diseased pilgrims used to rub their bodies, hoping to be cured of their afflictions. The shrine itself was supported on marble arches, and remained concealed under a wooden covering, doubtless intended to enhance the effect produced by the sudden revelation of the glories beneath it; for when the pilgrims were duly assembled on their knees round the shrine, the cover was suddenly raised at a given signal, and though such a device may appear slightly theatrical in these days, it is easy to imagine how the devotees[Pg 11] of the middle ages must have been thrilled at the sight of this hallowed tomb, and all the bravery of gold and precious stones which the piety of that day had heaped upon it. The beauties of the shrine were pointed out by the prior, who named the giver of the several jewels. Many of these were of enormous value, especially a huge carbuncle, as large as an egg, which had been offered to the memory of St. Thomas by Louis VII. of France, who visited the shrine in a.d. 1179, after having thrice seen the Saint in a vision. A curious legend, thoroughly in keeping with the mystic halo of miraculous power which surrounds the martyred archbishop’s fame, relates that the French king could not make up his mind to part with this invaluable gem, which was called the “Regale of France;” but when he visited the tomb, the stone, so runs the story, leapt forth from the ring in which it was set, and fixed itself of its own will firmly in the wall of the shrine, thus baffling the unwilling monarch’s half-heartedness. Louis also presented a gold cup, and gave the monks a hundred measures, medii, of wine, to be delivered annually at Poissy, also ordaining that they should be exempt from “toll, tax, and tallage” when journeying in his realm. He himself was made a member of the brotherhood, after duly spending a night in prayer at the tomb. It is said that, “because he was very fearful of the water,” the French king received a promise from the Saint that neither he nor any other that crossed over from Dover to Whitsand, should suffer any manner of loss or shipwreck. We are told that Louis’s piety was afterwards rewarded by the miraculous recovery, through St. Thomas’s intercession, of his son from a dangerous illness. Louis was the first of a series of royal pilgrims to the shrine. Richard the Lion Heart, set free from durance in Austria, walked thither from Sandwich to return thanks to God and St. Thomas. After him all the English kings and all the Continental potentates who visited the shores of Britain, paid due homage, and doubtless made due offering, at the shrine of the sainted archbishop. The crown of Scotland was presented in a.d. 1299 by Edward Longshanks, and Henry V. gave thanks here after his victory over the French at Agincourt. Emperors, both of the east and west, humbled themselves before the relics of the famous English martyr. Henry VIII. and the Emperor Charles V. came together at Whitsuntide, a.d. 1520, in more than royal[Pg 12] splendour, and with a great retinue of English and Spanish noblemen, and worshipped at the shrine which had then reached the zenith of its glory.
But though the stately stories of these royal progresses to the tomb of the martyred archbishop strike the imagination vividly, yet the picture presented by Chaucer’s “Canterbury Tales” is in reality much more impressive. For we find there all ranks of society alike making the pilgrimage—the knight, the yeoman, the prioress, the monk, the friar, the merchant, the scholar from Oxford, the lawyer, the squire, the tradesman, the cook, the shipman, the physician, the clothier from Bath, the priest, the miller, the reeve, the manciple, the seller of indulgences, and, lastly, the poet himself—all these various sorts and conditions of men and women we find journeying down to Canterbury in a sort of motley caravan. Foreign pilgrims also came to the sacred shrine in great numbers. A curious record, preserved in a Latin translation, of the journey of a Bohemian noble, Leo von Rotzmital, who visited England in 1446, gives a quaint description of Canterbury and its approaches. “Sailing up the Channel,” the narrator writes, “as we drew near to England we saw lofty mountains full of chalk. These mountains seem from a distance to be clad with snows. On them lies a citadel, built by devils, ‘a Cacodæmonibus extructa,’ so stoutly fortified that its peer could not be found in any province of Christendom. Passing by these mountains and citadel we put in at the city of Sandwich (Sandvicum).... But at nothing did I marvel more greatly than at the sailors climbing up the masts and foretelling the distance, and approach of the winds, and which sails should be set and which furled. Among them I saw one sailor so nimble that scarce could any man be compared with him.” Journeying on to Canterbury, our pilgrim proceeds: “There we saw the tomb and head of the martyr. The tomb is of pure gold, and embellished with jewels, and so enriched with splendid offerings that I know not its peer. Among other precious things upon it is beholden the carbuncle jewel, which is wont to shine by night, half a hen’s egg in size. For that tomb has been lavishly enriched by many kings, princes, wealthy traders, and other righteous men.”
Such was Canterbury Cathedral in the middle ages, the resort of emperors, kings, and all classes of humble folk, English[Pg 13] and foreign. It was in the spring chiefly, as Chaucer tells us, that
The miracles performed by the bones of the blessed martyr are stated by contemporary writers to have been extraordinarily numerous. We have it on the authority of Gervase that two volumes full of these marvels were preserved at Canterbury, and in those days a volume meant a tome of formidable dimensions; but scarcely any record of these most interesting occurrences has been preserved. At the time of Henry VIII.’s quarrel with the dead archbishop—of which more anon—the name of St. Thomas and all account of his deeds was erased from every book that the strictest investigation could lay hands on. So thoroughly was this spiteful edict carried out that the records of the greatest of English saints are astonishingly meagre. A letter, however, has been preserved, written about a.d. 1390 by Richard II. to congratulate the then archbishop, William Courtenay, on a fresh miracle performed by St. Thomas: “Litera domini Regis graciosa missa domino archiepiscopo, regraciando sibi de novo miraculo Sancti Thome Martiris sibi denunciato.” The letter refers, in its quaint Norman-French, to the good influence that will be exercised by such a manifestation, as a practical argument against the “various enemies of our faith and belief”—noz foie et creaunce ount plousours enemys. These were the Lollards, and the pious king says that he hopes and believes that they will be brought back[Pg 14] to the right path by the effect of this miracle, which seems to have been worked to heal a distinguished foreigner—en une persone estraunge.
Another document (dated a.d. 1455) preserves the story of the miraculous cure of a young Scotsman, from Aberdeen, Allexander Stephani filius in Scocia, de Aberdyn oppido natus. Alexander was lame, pedibus contractus, from his birth, we are told that after twenty-four years of pain and discomfort—vigintiquatuor annis penaliter laborabat—he made a pilgrimage to Canterbury, and there “the sainted Thomas, the divine clemency aiding him, on the second day of the month of May did straightway restore his legs and feet, bases et plantas, to the same Alexander.”
Other miracles performed by the saint are pictured in the painted windows of Trinity Chapel, of which we shall treat fully later on. The fame of the martyr spread through the whole of Christendom. Stanley tells us that “there is probably no country in Europe which does not exhibit traces of Becket. A tooth of his is preserved in the church of San Thomaso Cantuariense at Verona, part of an arm in a convent at Florence, and another part in the church of St. Waldetrude at Mons; in Fuller’s time both arms were displayed in the English convent at Lisbon; while Bourbourg preserves his chalice, Douay his hair shirt, and St. Omer his mitre. The cathedral of Sens contains his vestments and an ancient altar at which he said mass. His story is pictured in the painted windows at Chartres, and Sens, and St. Omer, and his figure is to be seen in the church of Monreale at Palermo.”
In England almost every county contained a church or convent dedicated to St. Thomas. Most notable of these was the abbey of Aberbrothock, raised, within seven years after the martyrdom, to the memory of the saint by William the Lion, king of Scotland. William had been defeated by the English forces on the very day on which Henry II. had done penance at the tomb, and made his peace with the saint, and attributing his misfortunes to the miraculous influence of St. Thomas, endeavoured to propitiate him by the dedication of this magnificent abbey. A mutilated image of the saint has been preserved among the ruins of the monastery. This is perhaps the most notable of the gifts to St. Thomas. The volume of the offerings which were poured into the Canterbury coffers by grateful[Pg 15] invalids who had been cured of their ailments, and by others who, like the Scotch king, were anxious to propitiate the power of the saint, must have been enormous. We know that at the beginning of the sixteenth century the yearly offerings, though their sums had already greatly diminished, were worth about £4,000, according to the present value of money.
The story of the fall of the shrine and the overthrow of the power of the martyr is so remarkable and was so implicitly believed at the time, that it cannot be passed over in spite of the doubts which modern criticism casts on its authenticity. It is said that in April, a.d. 1538, a writ of summons was issued in the name of King Henry VIII. against Thomas Becket, sometime Archbishop of Canterbury, accusing him of treason, contumacy, and rebellion. This document was read before the martyr’s tomb, and thirty days were allowed for his answer to the summons. As the defendant did not appear, the suit was formally tried at Westminster. The Attorney General held a brief for Henry II., and the deceased defendant was represented by an advocate named by Henry VIII. Needless to relate, judgment was given in favour of Henry II., and the condemned Archbishop was ordered to have his bones burnt and all his gorgeous offerings escheated to the Crown. The first part of the sentence was remitted and Becket’s body was buried, but he was deprived of the title of Saint, his images were destroyed throughout the kingdom, and his name was erased from all books. The shrine was destroyed, and the gold and jewels thereof were taken away in twenty-six carts. Henry VIII. himself wore the Regale of France in a ring on his thumb. Improbable as the story of Becket’s trial may seem, such a procedure was strictly in accordance with the forms of the Roman Catholic Church, of which Henry still at that time professed himself a member: moreover it is not without authentic parallels in history: exactly the same measures of reprisal had been taken against Wycliffe at Lutterworth; and Queen Mary shortly afterwards acted in a similar manner towards Bucer and Fagius at Cambridge.
The last recorded pilgrim to the shrine of St. Thomas was Madame de Montreuil, a great French dame who had been waiting on Mary of Guise, in Scotland. She visited Canterbury in August, a.d. 1538, and we are told that she was taken to see the wonders of the place and marvelled at all the riches thereof,[Pg 16] and said “that if she had not seen it, all the men in the world could never ’a made her believe it.” Though she would not kiss the head of St. Thomas, the Prior “did send her a present of coneys, capons, chickens, with divers fruits—plenty—insomuch that she said, ‘What shall we do with so many capons? Let the Lord Prior come, and eat, and help us to eat them tomorrow at dinner’ and so thanked him heartily for the said present.”
Such was the history of Becket’s shrine. We have dwelt on it at some length because it is no exaggeration to say that in the Middle Ages Canterbury Cathedral owed its European fame and enormous riches to the fact that it contained the shrine within its walls, and because the story of the influence of the Saint and the miracles that he worked, and the millions of pilgrims who flocked from the whole civilized world to do homage to him, throws a brighter and more vivid light on the lives and thoughts and beliefs of mediæval men than many volumes stuffed with historical research. No visitor to Canterbury can appreciate what he sees, unless he realizes to some extent the glamour which overhung the resting place of St. Thomas in the days of Geoffrey Chaucer. We have no certain knowledge as to whether the other shrines and relics which enriched the cathedral were destroyed along with those of St. Thomas. Dunstan and Elphege at least can hardly have escaped, and it is probable that most of the monuments and relics perished at the time of the Reformation. We know that in a.d. 1541, Cranmer deplored the slight effect which had been wrought by the royal orders for the destruction of the bones and images of supposed saints. And that he forthwith received letters from the king, enjoining him to cause “due search to be made in his cathedral churches, and if any shrine, covering of shrine, table, monument of miracles, or other pilgrimage, do there continue, to cause it to be taken away, so as there remain no memory of it.” This order probably brought about the destruction of the tombs and monuments of the early archbishops, most of whom had been officially canonised, or been at least enrolled in the popular calendar, and were accordingly doomed to have their resting-places desecrated. We know that about this time the tomb of Winchelsey was destroyed, because he was adored by the people as a reputed saint.
Any monuments that may have escaped royal vandalism at the Reformation period, fell before the even more effective[Pg 17] fanaticism of the Puritans, who seem to have exercised their iconoclastic energies with especial zeal and vigour at Canterbury. Just before their time Archbishop Laud spent a good deal of trouble and money on the adornment of the high altar. A letter to him from the Dean, dated July 8th, a.d. 1634, is quoted by Prynne, “We have obeyed your Grace’s direction in pulling down the exorbitant seates within our Quire whereby the church is very much beautified.... Lastly wee most humbly beseech your Grace to take notice that many and most necessary have beene the occasions of extraordinary expences this yeare for ornaments, etc.” And another Puritan scribe tells us that “At the east end of the cathedral they have placed an Altar as they call it dressed after the Romish fashion, for which altar they have lately provided a most idolatrous costly glory cloth or back cloth.”
These embellishments were not destined to remain long undisturbed. In a.d. 1642, the Puritan troopers hewed the altar-rails to pieces and then “threw the Altar over and over down the three Altar steps, and left it lying with the heels upwards.” This was only the beginning: we read that during the time of the Great Rebellion, “the newly erected font was pulled down, the inscriptions, figures, and coats of arms, engraven upon brass, were torn off from the ancient monuments, and whatsoever there was of beauty or decency in the holy place, was despoiled.”
A manuscript, compiled in 1662, and preserved in the Chapter library, gives a more minute account of this work of destruction. “The windows were generally battered and broken down; the whole roof, with that of the steeples, the chapter-house and cloister, externally impaired and ruined both in timber-work and lead; water-tanks, pipes, and much other lead cut off; the choir stripped and robbed of her fair and goodly hangings; the organ and organ-loft, communion-table, and the best and chiefest of the furniture, with the rail before it, and the screen of tabernacle work richly overlaid with gold behind it; goodly monuments shamefully abused, defaced, and rifled of brasses, iron grates, and bars.”
The ringleader in this work of destruction was a fanatic named Richard Culmer, commonly known as Blue Dick. A paper preserved in the Chapter library, in the writing of Somner, the great antiquarian scholar, describes the state in which the[Pg 18] fabric of the cathedral was left, at the time of the Restoration of King Charles II., in 1660. “So little,” says this document, “had the fury of the late reformers left remaining of it besides the bare walles and roofe, and these, partly through neglect, and partly by the daily assaults and batteries of the disaffected, so shattered, ruinated, and defaced, as it was not more unserviceable in the way of a cathedral than justly scandalous to all who delight to serve God in the beauty of Holines.” Most of the windows had been broken, “the church’s guardians, her faire and strong gates, turned off the hooks and burned.” The buildings and houses of the clergy had been pulled down or greatly damaged; and lastly, “the goodly oaks in our common gardens, of good value in themselves, and in their time very beneficial to our church by their shelter, quite eradicated and set to sale.” This last touch is interesting, as showing that the reforming zeal of the Puritans was not always altogether disinterested.
After the Restoration some attempt was made to render the cathedral once more a fitting place of worship, and the sum of £10,000 was devoted to repairs and other public and pious uses. A screen was put up in the same position as the former one, and the altar was placed in front. But, in a.d. 1729, this screen no longer suited the taste of the period, and a sum of £500, bequeathed by one of the prebendaries, was devoted to the erection of a screen in the Corinthian style, designed by a certain Mr. Burrough, afterwards Master of Caius College, Cambridge. A little before this time the old stalls, which had survived the Puritan period were replaced: a writer describes them, in the early half of the seventeenth century, as standing in two rows, an upper and lower, on each side, with the archbishop’s wood throne above them on the south side. This chair he mentions as “sometime richly guilt, and otherwise well set forth, but now nothing specious through age and late neglect. It is a close seat, made after the old fashion of such stalls, called thence faldistoria; only in this they differ, that they were moveable, this is fixt.”
Thus wrote Somner in a.d. 1640: the dilapidated throne of which he speaks was replaced, in a.d. 1704, by a splendid throne with a tall Corinthian canopy, and decorated with carving by Grinling Gibbons, the gift of Archbishop Tenison, who also set up new stalls. At the same time Queen Mary the[Pg 19] Second presented new and magnificent furniture for the altar, throne, stalls of the chief clergy, and pulpit. Since then many alterations have been made. The old altar and screen have been removed, and a new reredos set up, copied from the screen work of the Lady Chapel in the crypt; and Archbishop Tenison’s throne has given place to a lofty stone canopy. In 1834 owing to its tottering condition the north-west tower of the nave had to be pulled down. It was rebuilt on an entirely different plan by Mr. George Austin, who, with his son, also conducted a good deal of repairing and other work in the cathedral and the buildings connected with it. A good deal of the external stonework had to be renewed, but the work was carried out judiciously, and only where it was absolutely necessary. On the west side of the south transept a turret has been pulled down and set up again stone by stone. The crypt has been cleared out and restored, and its windows have been reopened. The least satisfactory evidences of the modern hand are the stained glass windows, which have been put up in the nave and transepts of the cathedral. The Puritan trooper had wrought havoc in the ancient glass, smashing it wherever a pike-thrust could reach; and modern piety has been almost as ruthless in erecting windows which are quite incredibly hideous.
In September, 1872, Canterbury was once more damaged by fire, just about seven hundred years after the memorable conflagration described by Gervase. On this occasion, however, the damage did not go beyond the outer roof of the Trinity Chapel. The fire broke out at about half-past ten in the morning, and was luckily discovered before it had made much progress, by two plumbers who were at work in the south gutter. According to the “Builder” of that month, “a peculiar whirring noise” caused them to look inside the roof, and they found three of the main roof-timbers blazing. “The best conjecture seems to be that the dry twigs, straw, and similar débris, carried into the roof by birds, and which it has been the custom to clear at intervals out of the vault pockets, had caught fire from a spark that had in some way passed through the roof covering, perhaps under a sheet raised a little at the bottom by the wind.” Assistance was quickly summoned, and “by half-past twelve the whole was seen to be extinguished. At four o’clock the authorities held the evening service, so as not to [Pg 20] break a continuity of custom extending over centuries; and in the smoke-filled choir, the whole of the Chapter in residence, in the proper Psalm (xviii.), found expression for the sense of victory over a conquered enemy.”
Thus little harm was done, but it must have been an exciting crisis while it lasted. “The bosses [of the vaulting], pierced with cradle-holes, happened to be well-placed for the passage of the liquid lead dripping on the back of the vault from the blazing roof,” which poured down on to the pavement below, on the very spot which Becket’s shrine had once occupied. “Through the holes further westward water came, sufficient to float over the surfaces of the polished Purbeck marble floor and the steps of the altar, and alarmed the well-intentioned assistants into removing the altar, tearing up the altar-rails, etc., etc. The relics of the Black Prince, attached to a beam (over his tomb) at the level of the caps of the piers on the south side of Trinity Chapel, were all taken down and placed away in safety. The eastern end of the church is said to have been filled with steam from water rushing through with, and falling on, the molten lead on the floor; and, in time, by every opening, wood-smoke reached the inside of the building, filling all down to the west of the nave with a blue haze.” The scene in the building is said to have been one of extraordinary beauty, but most lovers of architecture would probably prefer to view the fabric with its own loveliness, unenhanced by numerous streams of molten lead pouring down from the roof.
Since that date Canterbury Cathedral has been happy in the possession of no history, and we pass on, therefore, to the examination in detail of its exterior.
EXTERIOR AND PRECINCTS—THE MONASTERY.
The external beauties of Canterbury Cathedral can best be viewed in their entirety from a distance. The old town has nestled in close under the walls of the church that dominates it, preventing anything like a complete view of the building from the immediate precincts. But Canterbury is girt with a ring of hills, from which we may enjoy a strikingly beautiful view of the ancient city, lying asleep in the rich, peaceful valley of the Stour, and the mighty cathedral towering over the red-tiled roofs of the town, and looking, as a rustic remarked as he gazed down upon it “like a hen brooding over her chickens.” Erasmus must have been struck by some such aspect of the cathedral, for he says, “It rears its crest (erigit se) with so great majesty to the sky, that it inspires a feeling of awe even in those who look at it from afar.” Such a view may well be got from the hills of Harbledown, a village about two miles from Canterbury, containing in itself many objects of antiquarian and æsthetic interest. It stands on the road by which Chaucer’s pilgrims wended their way to the shrine of St. Thomas, and it is almost certainly referred to in the lines in which the poet speaks of
The name Harbledown is derived by local philologists from Bob Up and Down, and the hilly nature of the country fully justifies the title. Here stands Lanfranc’s Lazar-house, “so picturesque even now in its decay, and in spite of modern alterations which have swept away all but the ivy-clad chapel[Pg 24] of Lanfranc.” In this hospital a shoe of St. Thomas was preserved which pilgrims were expected to kiss as they passed by; and in an old chest the modern visitor may still behold a rude money-box with a slit in the lid, into which the great Erasmus is said to have dropped a coin when he visited Canterbury at the time when St. Thomas’s glory was just beginning to wane. Behind the hospital is an ancient well called “the Black Prince’s Well.” The Black Prince, as is well known, passed through Canterbury on his way from Sandwich to London, whither he was escorting his royal prisoner, King John of France, whom he had captured at the battle of Poitiers, a.d. 1357. We need not doubt that he halted at Harbledown to salute the martyr’s shoe, and he may have washed in the water of the well, which was henceforward called by his name. Another tradition relates that he had water brought to him from this well when he lay sick, ten years later, in the archbishop’s palace at Canterbury.
Another good view may be had from the crest on which stands St. Martin’s Church, which was formerly believed to be the oldest in England, so ancient that its origin was connected with the mythical King Lucius. Modern research has decided that it is of later date, but there is no doubt that on the spot on which it now stands, Bertha, the wife of Ethelbert—who was ruling when Augustine landed with his monks—had a little chapel, as Bede relates, “in the east of the city,” where she worshipped, before her husband’s conversion, with her chaplain, Luidhard, a French priest. Dean Stanley has described this view in a fine passage:
“Let any one sit on the hill of the little church of St. Martin, and look on the view which is there spread before his eyes. Immediately below are the towers of the great abbey of St. Augustine, where Christian learning and civilization first struck root in the Anglo-Saxon race; and within which, now, after a lapse of many centuries, a new institution has arisen, intended to carry far and wide to countries of which Gregory and Augustine never heard, the blessings which they gave to us. Carry your view on—and there rises high above all the magnificent pile of our cathedral, equal in splendour and state to any, the noblest temple or church, that Augustine could have seen in ancient Rome, rising on the very ground which derives its consecration from him. And still more than the grandeur of the outward building that rose from the little church of Augustine, and the little palace of Ethelbert, have been the institutions of all kinds, of which these were the earliest cradle. From the first English Christian city—from Kent, the first English Christian kingdom—has, by degrees, arisen the whole constitution of Church and State in England which now binds together the whole British Empire. And from the Christianity here established in England has flowed, by direct consequence, first, the Christianity of Germany—then after a long interval, of North America, and lastly, we may trust in time, of all India and all Australasia. The view from St. Martin’s Church is, indeed, one of the most inspiriting that can be found in the world; there is none to which I would more willingly take any one who doubted whether a small beginning could lead to a great and lasting good—none which carries us more vividly back into the past, or more hopefully forward to the future.”
In the town itself, the best point of vantage from which the visitor can get a good view of the cathedral is the summit of the Dane John, a lofty mound crowned by an obelisk; from this height we look across at the roof and towers of the cathedral rising above thickly clustering trees: from here also there is a fine view over the beautiful valley of the Stour in the direction of Thanington and Chartham.
In the immediate precincts, a delightful picture is presented from the Green Court, which was once the main outer court of the monastery. Here are noble trees and beautifully kept turf, at once in perfect harmony and agreeable contrast with the rugged walls of the weather-beaten cathedral: the quiet soft colouring of the ancient buildings and that look of cloistered seclusion only to be found in the peaceful nooks of cathedral cities are seen here at their very best.
The chief glory of the exterior of Canterbury Cathedral is the central Angel or Bell Tower. This is one of the most perfect structures that Gothic architecture, inspired by the loftiest purpose that ever stimulated the work of any art, has produced. It was completed by Prior Selling, who held office in 1472, and has been variously called the Bell Harry Tower from the mighty Dunstan bell, weighing three tons and three hundredweight, and the Angel Tower from the gilded figure of an angel poised on one of the pinnacles, which has long ago disappeared. The tower itself is of two stages, with two two-light windows in each stage; the windows are transomed in each face, and the lower tier is canopied; each angle is rounded off with an octagonal turret and the whole structure is a marvellous example of architectural harmony, and in every way a work of transcendent beauty. The two buttressing arches and the ornamental braces which support it were added at the end of the fifteenth century by Prior Goldstone, to whom the building of the whole tower is apparently attributed in the following quaint passage from a mediæval authority: “He by the influence and help of those honourable men, Cardinal John Morton and Prior William Sellyng, erected and magnificently completed that lofty tower commonly called Angyll Stepyll in the midst of the church, between the choir and the nave—vaulted with a most beautiful vault, and with excellent and artistic workmanship in every part sculptured and gilt, with ample windows glazed and ironed. He also with great care and industry annexed to the columns which support the[Pg 27] same tower two arches or vaults of stone work, curiously carved, and four smaller ones, to assist in sustaining the said tower” (“Ang. Sac.” i. 147, translated by Professor Willis). The western front of the cathedral is flanked by two towers of great beauty; a point in which Mediæval architecture has risen above that of all other ages is the skill which it displays in the use of towers of different heights, breaking the dull straight line of the roof and carrying the eye gradually up to the loftiest point of the building. Canterbury presents an excellent example of the beauty of this subordination of lower towers to the chief; we invite the visitor, when looking at the exterior, to compare it mentally, on the one hand, with the dull severity of the roof line of a Greek temple, and on the other, to take a fair example of modern so-called Gothic, with the ugly straight line of the Houses of Parliament, as seen from the Lambeth Embankment, broken only by the two stark and stiff erections at each end. The two towers at the west end of Canterbury were not always uniform. At the northern corner an old Norman tower formerly uplifted a leaden spire one hundred feet high. This rather anomalous arrangement must have had a decidedly lopsided effect, and it is probable that the appearance of the cathedral was changed very much for the better when the spire, which had been taken down in 1705, was replaced by Mr. Austin in 1840, by a tower uniform with the southernmost tower, called the Chicele or Oxford steeple: this tower was completed by Prior Goldstone, who, during his tenure of office from 1449-68, also built the Lady Chapel. On its south side stands the porch, with a remarkable central niche, which formerly contained a representation of Becket’s martyrdom. The figures of the Archbishop’s assassins now no longer remain; but their place has been filled up with figures of various worthies who have lived under the shadow of the cathedral. Dean Alford suggested, about 1863, that the many vacant niches should be peopled in this manner, and since then the work has proceeded steadily. The western towers are built each of six stages: each of the two upper tiers contains two two-light windows, while below there is a large four-light window uniform with the windows of the aisles. The base tier is ornamented with rich panelling. The parapet is battlemented and the angles are finished with fine double pinnacles. At the west end there is a large window of seven lights, with three[Pg 28] transoms. The gable contains a window of very curious shape, filled with intricate tracery. The space above the aisle windows is ornamented with quatrefoiled squares, and the clerestory is pierced by windows of three lights. In the main transept there is a fine perpendicular window of eight lights; the choir, or south-east transept, has a Norman front, with arcades, and a large round window; also an arcaded west turret surmounted by a short spire. Beyond this, the line is again broken by the projection of St. Anselm’s so-called Tower; this chapel hardly merits such a title, unless we adopt the theory that it, and the corresponding building on the north side, were at one time a good deal more lofty, but lost their upper portions at the time of the great fire. The end of the cathedral has a rather untidy appearance, owing to the fact that the exterior of the corona was never completed. On the northern side the building is so closely interwoven with the cloister and monastic buildings that it can only be considered in conjunction with them. The length of the cathedral is 514 feet, the height of the central tower 235 feet, and that of the western towers 130 feet.
The chief interest of ancient buildings to the ordinary observer, as apart from the architectural specialist, is the fact that they are after all the most authentic documents in our possession from which we can gain any insight into the lives and modes of thought of our ancestors. To tell us how ordinary men lived and busied themselves is beneath the dignity of history. As Carlyle says: “The thing I want to see is not Redbook Lists, and Court Calendars, and Parliamentary Registers, but the Life of Man in England: what men did, thought, suffered, enjoyed; ... Mournful, in truth, is it to behold what the business ‘called History’ in these so enlightened and illuminated times, still continues to be. Can you gather from it, read till your eyes go out, any dimmest shadow of an answer to that great question: How men lived and had their being; were it but economically, as, what wages they got, and what they bought with these? Unhappily they cannot.... History, as it stands all bound up in gilt volumes, is but a shade more instructive than the wooden volumes of a backgammon-board.” Most of us have felt, at one time or another, the truth of these words, though it is only fair to add that the fault lies not so much at the door of the[Pg 29] modern historian as of our ancestors themselves, who were too busy with fighting and revelling to leave any but the most meagre account of their own lives behind them; so that “Redbook Lists and Parliamentary Registers” are all that the veracious chronicler, who will not let his imagination run riot, can find to put before us. But happily, in the wildest days of the Middle Ages, there were found some peace-loving souls who preferred to drone away their lives in quiet meditation behind the walls of the great monasteries, undisturbed by the clash of swords. Some outlet had to be found for their innate energies and their intense religious enthusiasm; missionary zeal had not yet been invented, and the writing of books would have seemed to them a waste of good parchment, for in their eyes the Scriptures and the Aristotelian writings supplied all the food that the most voracious intellect could crave for. So they applied all their genius—and it is probable that the flower of the European race, as far as intelligence and culture are concerned, was gathered in those days into the Church—and all the ecstatic fervour of their religious devotion, the strength of which men of these latter days can hardly realize, to the construction of beautiful buildings for the worship of God. They have written a history in stone, from which a thoughtful student can supply much that is left out by the dry-as-dust annalists, for it is not only the history, but the actual result and expression, of the lives of the most gifted men of the Middle Ages.
If we would read this history aright it is necessary that we should look at it as far as possible, as it was originally published. If the old binding has been torn off, and the volume hedged in by a crowd of modern literature, we must try to put these aside and consider the book as it was first issued; in other words, to drop metaphor altogether, in considering a building like Canterbury Cathedral, we must forget the busy little country town, with its crowded streets and noisy railway stations, though, from one point of view, the contrast that they present is agreeable and valuable, and try to conceive the church as it once stood, the centre of a harmonious group of monastic buildings.
The founder of the monastic system in the West was the famous Benedict of Nursia, who had adapted the strict code of St. Basil, mitigating its severity, and making it more in[Pg 30] accordance with the climate, manners, and general circumstances of Western peoples. His code was described by Gregory the Great as “excellent in its discretion, lucid in its expression”—discretione præcipuam sermone luculentam. He founded the monasteries of Montecassino and Subiaco in the beginning of the sixth century. In the ninth and tenth centuries—the worst period of the Dark Ages—corruption and laxity pervaded society in general, and the Benedictine monasteries especially. At the end of this deplorable epoch many efforts were made in the direction of reform. Gregory the Great himself was a member of the Benedictine brotherhood; so also was Augustine, who founded the great monastery of Christ Church. The venerable Bede relates that “when Augustine, the first Archbishop of Canterbury, assumed the episcopal throne in that royal city, he recovered therein, by the king’s assistance, a church which, as he was told, had been constructed by the original labour of Roman believers. This church he consecrated in the name of the Saviour, our God and Lord Jesus Christ, and there he established an habitation for himself and all his successors.” This was the Basilica-Church, mentioned in an earlier part of this work, an imitation of the original Basilica of St. Peter at Rome. Augustine’s monastery was handsomely endowed. A large stretch of country was given to the monks, and they were the first who brought the soil into cultivation, and built churches and preached in them. “The monks,” says Bede, “were the principal of those who came to the work of preaching.” In the city itself there were thirty-two “mansuræ” or mansions, held by the clergy, rendering 35s. a year, and a mill worth 5s. per annum. Augustine’s monastery lived and prospered—though, as we shall see, it did not escape the general corruption of the eighth and ninth centuries—until the time of the Norman invasion. In 1067 a fire destroyed the Saxon cathedral and the greater part of the monastic buildings. But the year 1070 marks an epoch in the history of the monastery, for it was then that William the Conqueror having deposed Stigand, the Saxon Primate, invited Lanfranc, the Abbot of Caen, to accept the vacant see. He “being overcome by the will of God as much as by the apostolic authority, passed over into England, and, not forgetful of the object for which he had come, directed all his endeavours to the correction of the manners of his[Pg 31] people, and settling the state of the Church. And first he laboured to renew the church of Canterbury ... and built also necessary offices for the use of the monks; and (which is very remarkable) he caused to be brought over the sea in swift sailing vessels squared stones from Caen in order to build with. He also built a house for his own dwelling near the church, and surrounded all these buildings with a vast and lofty wall.” Also “he duly arranged all that was necessary for the table and clothing of the monks,” and “many lands which had been taken away he brought back into the property of the Church and restored to it twenty-five manors.” He also added one hundred to the original number of the monks, and drew up a new system of discipline to correct the laxity which was rife when he entered on the primacy. He tells Anselm in a letter that “the land in which he is, is daily shaken with so many and so great tribulations, is stained with so many adulteries and other impurities, that no order of men consults for the benefit of his soul, or even desires to hear the salutary doctrine of God for his increase in holiness.” Perhaps the most interesting feature of his reconstruction of the “regula,” or rule for the monks’ discipline, was his enactment with regard to the library and the studies of the brethren. In the first week in Lent, the monks had to bring back and place in the Chapter House the books which had been provided for their instruction during the previous year. Those who had not duly performed the yearly portion of reading prostrated themselves, confessing their fault and asking pardon. A fresh distribution was then made, and the brethren retired, each furnished with a year’s literary task. Apparently no examination was held, no test applied to discover whether the last year’s instruction had been digested and assimilated. It was assumed that anything like a perfunctory performance of the allotted task was out of the question.
Another important alteration introduced by Lanfranc was his inauguration of the system under which the monastery was in immediate charge, no longer of the archbishop, but of a prior. Henceforward the primate stood forth as the head of the Church, rather than as merely the chief of her most ancient foundation.
We have dwelt at some length on the subject of the monastery at Canterbury, because, as we have said, it is impossible[Pg 32] to learn the lesson of the cathedral truly, unless we regard the fabric in its original setting, surrounded by monastic buildings; and it is impossible to interest ourselves in the monastic buildings without knowing something of the institution which they housed.
The buildings which contained a great monastery like that of Canterbury were necessarily very extensive. Chief among them was the chapter house, which generally adjoined the principal cloister, bounded by the nave of the church and one of the transepts. Then there were the buildings necessary for the actual housing and daily living of the monks—the dormitory, refectory, kitchen, buttery, and other indispensable offices. Another highly important building, usually standing eastward of the church, was the infirmary or hospital for sick brethren, with its chapel duly attached. Further, the rules of Benedictine monasteries always enjoined the strict observance of the duty of hospitality, and some part of the buildings was invariably set aside for the due entertainment of strangers of various ranks. Visitors of distinction were entertained in special rooms which generally were attached to the house of the prior or abbot: guests of a lower order were lodged hard[Pg 35] by the hall of the cellarer; while poor pilgrims and chance wanderers who craved a night’s shelter were bestowed, as a rule, near the main gate of the monastery. Lastly, it must not be forgotten that a well-endowed monastery was always the steward of a great estate, so that many storehouses and farm-buildings—barns, granaries, bakehouse, etc.—were a necessary part of the institution. Extensive stabling was also required to shelter the horses of illustrious visitors and their suites. Moreover, the clergy themselves were often greatly addicted to the chase, and we know that the pious St. Thomas found time to cultivate a taste for horseflesh, which was remarkable even in those days when all men who wanted to move at all were bound to ride. The knights who murdered him thought it worth while to pillage his stable after accomplishing their errand.
The centre round which all these manifold buildings and offices were ranged was, of course, the cathedral. Wherever available space and the nature of the ground permitted it, the cloister and chief buildings were placed under the shelter of the church on its southern side, as may be seen, for instance, at Westminster, where the cloisters, chapter house, deanery, refectory (now the College Hall), etc., are all gathered on the south side of the Abbey. At Canterbury, however, the builders were not able to follow the usual practice, owing to the fact that they were hemmed in closely by the houses of the city on the south side, so that we find that the space between the north side of the cathedral and the city wall, all of which belonged to the monks, was the site of the monastic buildings. The whole group formed by the cathedral and the subsidiary buildings was girt by a massive wall, which was restored and made more effective as a defence by Lanfranc. It is probable that some of the remains of this wall, which still survive, may be considered as dating from his time. The chief gate, both in ancient and modern days, is Prior Goldstone’s Gate, usually known as Christ Church Gate, an exceedingly good example of the later Perpendicular style. A contemporary inscription tells us that it was built in 1517. It stands at the end of Mercery Lane, a lofty building with towers at its corners, and two storeys above the archway. In front there is a central niche, in which an image of our Saviour originally stood, while below a row of shields, much battered and weather-beaten,[Pg 36] display armorial bearings, doubtless those of pious contributors to the cost of the building. An early work of Turner’s has preserved the corner pinnacles which once decorated the top of the gate; these were removed some thirty years ago.
Entering the precincts through this gateway we find ourselves in what was the outer cemetery, in which members of the laity were allowed to be buried. The inner cemetery, reserved as a resting-place for the brethren themselves, was formerly divided from the outer by a wall which extended from St. Anselm’s chapel. A Norman door, which was at one time part of this wall, has now been put into a wall at the east end of the monks’ burying ground. This space is now called “The Oaks.” A bell tower, campanile, doubtless used for tolling the passing bell, once stood on a mound in the cemetery, close to the dividing wall. The houses on the south side of this space are of no great antiquity or interest, and the site on which they stand did not become part of the monastery grounds before a comparatively late period. But if we skirt the east[Pg 38] end of the cathedral we come to the space formerly known as the “Homors,” a word supposed to be a corruption of Ormeaux, a French word, meaning elms. Here stood the building in which guests of rank and distinction were entertained; and the great hall, with its kitchen and offices, is still preserved in a house in the north-east corner of the inclosure, now the residence of one of the prebendaries. The original building was one of great importance in a monastery like Canterbury, which was so often visited, as has already been shown, by royal pilgrims. It is said to have been rebuilt from top to bottom by Prior Chillenden, and the nature of the architecture, as far as it can be traced, is not in any way at variance with this statement. The hall, as it originally stood, was pierced with oriel windows rising to the roof, and at its western end a walled-off portion was divided into two storeys, the lower one containing the kitchens, while the upper one was either a distinct room separated from the hall, or it may have been a gallery opening upon it.
To the west of this house we find the ruins of the Infirmary, which contained a long hall with aisles, and a chapel at the east end. The hall was used as the hospital, and the aisles were sometimes divided into separate compartments; the chapel was really part of the hall, with only a screen intervening, so that the sick brethren could take part in the services. This infirmary survived until the Reformation period, but not without undergoing alterations. Before the fifteenth century the south aisle was devoted to the use of the sub-prior, and the chancel at the east end of the chapel was partially restored about the middle of the fourteenth century. A large east window was put in with three-light windows on each side. In the north wall there is a curious opening, through which, perhaps, sufferers from infectious diseases were allowed to assist at the services. On the southern side, the whole row of the pillars and arches of the chapel, and some traces of a clerestory, still remain. On the wall are some traces of paintings, which are too faded to be deciphered. Such of the pillars and arches of the hall as still survive are strongly coloured by the great fire of 1174, in which Prior Conrad’s choir was destroyed.
Westward of the infirmary, and connected with St. Andrew’s tower, stands a strikingly beautiful building, which was once the Vestiarium, or Treasury: it consists of two storeys,[Pg 41] of which the lower is open on the east and west, while the upper contained the treasury chamber, a finely proportioned room, decorated with an arcade of intersecting arches.
An archway leads us from the infirmary into what is called the Dark Entry, whence a passage leads to the Prior’s Gate and onward into the Prior’s Court, more commonly known as the Green Court: this passage was the eastern boundary of the infirmary cloister. Over it Prior de Estria raised the scaccarium, or checker-building, the counting-house of the monastery.
Turning back towards the infirmary entrance we come to the Lavatory Tower, which stands out from the west end of the substructure of the Prior’s Chapel. The chapel itself was pulled down at the close of the seventeenth century, and a brick-built library was erected on its site. The lavatory tower is now more commonly called the baptistery, but this name gives a false impression, and only came into use because the building now contains a font, given to the cathedral by Bishop Warner. The lower part of the tower is late Norman in style, and was built in the latter half of the twelfth century, when the monastery was supplied with a system of works by which water was drawn from some distant springs, which still supply the cathedral and precincts. The water was distributed from this tower to the various buildings. The original designs of the engineer are preserved at Trinity College, Cambridge. The upper part of the tower was rebuilt by Prior Chillenden.
From the lavatory tower a covered passage leads into the great cloister, which can also be approached from a door in the north-west transept. The cloister, though it stands upon the space covered by that built by Lanfranc, is largely the work of the indefatigable Prior Chillenden. It shows traces of many architectural periods. The east walk contains a door, leading into the transept, embellished with a triple arcade of early English; under the central arch of the arcade is the doorway itself, a later addition in Perpendicular. There is also a Norman doorway which once communicated with the monks’ dormitory: after the Reformation it was walled up, but in 1813 the plaster which concealed it was taken away, and since then it has been carefully restored. The rest of the work in this part of the cloister is chiefly Perpendicular. The north walk is adorned with an Early English arcade, against[Pg 43] which the shafts which support Chillenden’s vaulting work are placed with rather unsatisfactory effect. Towards the western end of this walk is the door of the refectory.
The cellarer’s quarters were outside the west walk, and they were connected with the cloister by a doorway at the north-west corner: opposite this entrance was a door leading to the archbishop’s palace, and through this Becket made his way towards the cathedral when his murderers were in pursuit of him.
The great dormitory of the monks was built along the east walk of the cloister, extending some way beyond it. It was pulled down in 1547, but the substructure was left standing, and some private houses were erected upon it. These were removed in the middle of the last century, and a good deal of the substructure remained until 1867, when the vaulting which survived was pulled down to make way for the new library, which was erected on the dormitory site. Some of the pillars on which the vault of the substructure rested are preserved in a garden in the precincts; and a fragment of the upper part of the dormitory building, which escaped the demolition in 1547, may be seen in the gable of the new library. The substructure was a fine building, 148 feet by 78 feet; the vaulting was, as described by Professor Willis, “of the earliest kind; constructed of light tufa, having no transverse ribs, and retaining the impressions of the rough, boarded centring upon which they had been formed.” A second minor dormitory ran eastward from the larger one, while outside this was the third dormitory, fronting the Green Court. Some portion of the vaults of this building is still preserved in the garden before the lavatory tower.
The Chapter House lies eastward of the wall of the cloister, on the site of the original Norman building, which was rather less extensive. The present structure is oblong in shape, measuring 90 feet by 35 feet. The roof consists of a “barrel vault” and was built by Prior Chillenden, along with the whole of the upper storey at the end of the fourteenth century. The windows, high and four-lighted, are also his work; those at the east and west ends exceed in size all those of the cathedral, having seven lights. The lower storey was built by Prior de Estria about a century before the work was completed by Chillenden. De Estria also erected the choir-screen in the[Pg 45] cathedral, which will be described in its proper place. The walls of the chapter house are embellished with an arcade of trefoiled arches, surmounted by a cornice. At the east end stands a throne with a splendid canopy. This building was at one time, after the Reformation, used as a sermon house, but the inconvenience caused by moving the congregation from the choir, where service was held, across to the chapter house to hear the discourse, was so great that the practice was not long continued. It has been restored, and its opening by H.R.H. the Prince of Wales, May 29th, 1897, is announced just as this edition goes to press.
The Library covers a portion of the site of the monks’ dormitory. Stored within it is a fine collection of books, some of which are exceedingly rare. The most valuable specimens—among which are some highly interesting bibles and prayer-books—are jealously guarded in a separate apartment called the study. The most interesting document in the collection of charters and other papers connected with the foundation is the charter of Edred, probably written by Dunstan propriis digitorum articulis; this room also contains an ancient picture of Queen Edgiva painted on wood, with an inscription below enlarging on the beauties of her character and her munificence towards the monastery.
In the garden before the lavatory tower, to the west of the prior’s gateway, two columns are preserved which once were part of the ancient church at Reculver—formerly Regulbium, whither Ethelbert retired after making over his palace in Canterbury to Augustine. These columns were brought to Canterbury after the destruction, nearly a hundred years ago, of the church to which they belonged. After lying neglected for some time they were placed in their present position by Mr. Sheppard, who bestowed so much care on all the “antiquities” connected with the cathedral. These columns are believed by experts to be undoubted relics of Roman work: they are of circular form with Ionic capitals. A curious ropework decoration on the bases is said to be characteristically Roman, occurs on a monument outside the Porta Maggiore at Rome.
The Deanery is a very much revised version of what once was the “New Lodging,” a building set up for the entertainment of strangers by Prior Goldstone at the beginning of the sixteenth century. Nicholas Wotton, the first Dean, chose this[Pg 48] mansion for his abode, but since his day the building has been very materially altered.
The main gate of the Green Court is noticeable as a choice specimen of Norman work; on its northern side formerly stood the Aula Nova which was built in the twelfth century; the modern buildings which house the King’s School have supplanted the hall itself, but the splendid staircase, a perfect example of Norman style and quite unrivalled in England, is luckily preserved, and ranks among the chief glories of Canterbury.
The site of the archbishop’s palace is commemorated by the name of the street—Palace Street—in which a ruined archway, all that remains of the building, may still be seen. This mansion, in which so many royal and imperial guests had been entertained with “solemne dauncing” and other good cheer, was pillaged and destroyed by the Puritans; since then the archbishops have had no official house in their cathedral city.
Dean Stanley tells us that in the days of our Saxon forefathers and for some time after, “all disputes throughout the whole kingdom that could not be legally referred to the king’s court or to the hundreds of counties” were heard and judged on in the south porch of Canterbury Cathedral. This was always the principal entrance, and was known in early days as the “Suthdure” by which name it is often mentioned in “the law books of the ancient kings.” Through this door we enter the nave of the cathedral; this part of the building was erected towards the end of the fourteenth century; Lanfranc’s nave seems to have fallen into an unsafe and ruinous state, so much so that in December, 1378, Sudbury, who was then archbishop, “issued a mandate addressed to all ecclesiastical persons in his diocese enjoining them to solicit subscriptions for rebuilding the nave of the church, ‘propter ipsius notoriam et evidentem ruinam’ and granting forty days’ indulgence to all contributors.” Archbishop Courtenay gave a thousand marks and more for the building fund, and Archbishop Arundell gave a similar contribution, as well as the five bells which were known as the “Arundell ryng.” We are told also that “King Henry the 4th helped to build up a good part of the Body of the Chirch.” The immediate direction of the work was in the hands of Prior Chillenden, already frequently mentioned; his epitaph, quoted by Professor Willis, states that “Here lieth Thomas Chyllindene formerly Prior of this Church, Decretorum Doctor egregius, who caused the nave of this Church and divers other buildings to be made anew. Who after nobly ruling as prior of this Church for twenty years twenty five weeks and five days, at length on the day of the assumption of the Blessed[Pg 51] Virgin Mary closed his last day. In the year of the Lord 1411.” It is not certain that Chillenden actually designed the buildings which were erected under his care, with which his name is connected. For we know that work which was conceived and executed by humble monks was ascribed as a matter of course to the head of the monastery, under whose auspices and sanction it was carried out. Matthew Paris records that a new oaken roof, well covered with lead, was built for the aisles and tower of St. Alban’s by Michael of Thydenhanger, monk and camerarius; but he adds that “these works must be ascribed to the abbot, out of respect for his office, for he who sanctions the performance of a thing by his authority, is really the person who does the thing.” Prior Chillenden became prior in 1390, and seems at any rate to have devoted a considerable amount of zeal to the work of renovating the ruined portions of the church.
The new Nave replaced the original building of Lanfranc. Professor Willis says: “The whole of Lanfranc’s piers, and all that rested on them, appear to have been utterly demolished, nothing remaining but the plinth of the side-aisle walls.... The style [of Chillenden’s new work] is a light Perpendicular, and the arrangement of the parts has a considerable resemblance to that of the nave of Winchester, although the latter is of a much bolder character. Winchester nave was going on at the same time with Canterbury nave, and a similar uncertainty exists about the exact commencement. In both, a Norman nave was to be transformed; but at Winchester the original piers were either clothed with new ashlaring, or the old ashlaring was wrought into new forms and mouldings where possible; while in Canterbury the piers were altogether rebuilt. Hence the piers of Winchester are much more massive. The side-aisles of Canterbury are higher in proportion, the tracery of the side windows different, but those of the clerestory are almost identical in pattern, although they differ in the management of the mouldings. Both have ‘lierne’ vaults [i.e., vaults in which short transverse ribs or ‘liernes’ are mixed with the ribs that branch from the vaulting capitals], and in both the triforium is obtained by prolonging the clerestory windows downward, and making panels of the lower lights, which panels have a plain opening cut through them, by which the triforium space communicates with the passage over the roof of the side-[Pg 53]aisles.” Chillenden, then, setting to work with the thoroughness that marks his handiwork throughout, rebuilt the nave from top to bottom, leaving nothing of Lanfranc’s original structure save the “plinth of the side-aisle walls,” which still remains. The resemblance between the naves of Canterbury and Winchester, pointed out by Professor Willis, will at once strike a close observer, though the greater boldness of character shown in the Winchester architecture is by no means the only point of difference. The most obvious feature in the Canterbury nave—a point which renders its arrangement unique among the cathedrals both of England and the Continent—is the curious manner in which the choir is raised aloft above the level of the floor; this is owing to the fact that it stands immediately above the crypt; the flight of steps which is therefore necessarily placed between the choir and the nave adds considerably to the general effect of our first view of the interior. On the other hand, the raising of the choir is probably to some extent responsible for the great height of the nave in comparison with its length, a point which spoils its effectiveness when we view it from end to end. Stanley, in describing the entrance of the pilgrims into the cathedral, points out how different a scene must have met their eyes. “The external aspect of the cathedral itself,” he says, “with the exception of the numerous statues which then filled its now vacant niches, must have been much what it is now. Not so its interior. Bright colours on the roof, on the windows, on the monuments; hangings suspended from the rods which may still be seen running from pillar to pillar; chapels, and altars, and chantries intercepting the view, where now all is clear, must have rendered it so different, that at first we should hardly recognize it to be the same building.” The pilgrims on entering were met by a monk, who sprinkled their heads with holy water from a “sprengel,” and, owing to the crowd of devout visitors, they generally had to wait some time before they could proceed towards a view of the shrine. Chaucer relates that the “pardoner, and the miller, and other lewd sots,” whiled away the time with staring at the painted windows which then adorned the nave, and wondering what they were supposed to represent:
None of these windows now remain entire, though the west window has been put together out of fragments of the ancient glass. The latter-day pilgrims will do well to look as little as possible at the hideous glass which the Philistinism of modern piety has inserted, during the last half-century, in the windows of the clerestory and the nave. Its obtrusive unpleasantness make one wish that “Blue Dick” and his Puritan troopers might once more be let loose, under judicious direction, for half an hour on the cathedral. When Erasmus visited Canterbury, the nave contained nothing but some books chained to the pillars, among them the “Gospel of Nicodemus”—printed by Wynkyn de Worde in 1509—and the “tomb of some person unknown.” The last words must refer either to the chapel in the south wall, which was built by Lady Joan Brenchley in 1447, and removed in 1787, or to the monument of Archbishop William Wittlesey, who died in 1374, and was interred in the south side of the nave in a marble tomb with a brass, now destroyed. At present the south aisle contains a monument, in alabaster, to Dr. Broughton, sometime Bishop of Sydney, who was educated in the King’s School, under the shadow of the cathedral. The figure is recumbent, and the base of the monument, which is by Lough, is decorated with the arms of the six Australian sees. In the north aisle we find monuments to Orlando Gibbons, Charles I.’s organist; Adrian Saravia, prebendary of Canterbury, and the friend of Hooker, the author of the “Ecclesiastical Polity;” Sir John Boys, who founded a hospital for the poor outside the north gate of the town, and died in 1614; Dean Lyall, who died in 1857; and Archbishop Sumner, who died in 1862. These last two monuments are by Phillips and H. Weekes, R.A., respectively.
The Central Tower.—In the nave the whole of Lanfranc’s work was destroyed, but in the central tower, which we will next examine, the original supporting piers were left standing, though they were covered over by Prior Chillenden with work more in keeping with the style in which he had renewed the nave. “Of the tower piers,” says Willis, “the western are probably mere casings of the original, and the eastern certainly appendages to the original.... Of course I have no evidence to show how much of Lanfranc’s piers was allowed to remain[Pg 56] in the heart of the work. The interior faces of the tower walls appear to have been brought forward by a lining so as to increase their thickness and the strength of the piers, with a view to the erection of a lofty tower, which however was not carried above the roof until another century had nearly elapsed.” It was Prior Goldstone the second who, about 1500, carried upward the central tower, which Chillenden seems to have left level with the roof of the cathedral. “With the countenance and help of Cardinal John Morton and Prior William Sellyng he magnificently completed that lofty tower commonly called Angyll Stepyll in the middle of the church. The vaulting of the tower is his work—testudine pulcherrimâ concameratam consummavit—and he also added the buttressing arches—with great care and industry he annexed to the columns which support the same tower two arches or vaults of stonework, curiously carved, and four smaller ones, to assist in sustaining the said tower.” The addition of these buttressing arches, not altogether happy in its artistic effect, was probably rendered necessary by some signs of weakness shown by the piers of the tower, for the north-west pier, which was not so substantially reinforced as the others, now shows a considerable bend in an eastward direction. The “two arches or vaults of stonework” were inserted under the western and southern tower arches. “The eastern arch having stronger piers did not require this precaution, and the northern, which opened upon the ‘Martyrium,’ seems to have been left free, out of reverence to the altar of the martyrdom, and accordingly to have suffered the dislocation just mentioned.” The four smaller arches connected the two western tower-piers with the nearest nave-pier and the wall of the transept. The buttressing arches are strongly built, and are adorned with curious bands of reticulated work. The central western arch occupies the place of the rood-loft, and it is probable that until the Reformation the great rood was placed over it. The rebus of Prior Thomas Goldstone—a shield with three gold stones—is carved upon these arches.
The Western Screen, which separates the nave from the choir, is now more commonly known as the organ-screen: it is a highly elaborate and beautiful piece of work, and the carvings which decorate it are well worthy of examination. In the lower niches there are six crowned figures: one holding a[Pg 57] church is believed to be Ethelbert, while it has been assumed that the figure on the extreme right represents Richard II.: probably Henry IV., who, as has been already mentioned, “helped to build a good part of the body of the Church” has a place of honour here, but no certainty on this matter is possible. The thirteen mitred niches which encircle the arch once contained figures of Christ and the twelve Apostles, but these were destroyed by the Puritans. The exact date of this outward screen is uncertain, but it was set up at some time during the fifteenth century. “A little examination,” says Willis, “of its central archway will detect the junction of this new work with the stone enclosure of the choir.” In fact, this archway is considerably higher than that of De Estria which still remains behind it. The apex of this arch reaches but a little above the capitals of the new arch, and the flat space, or tympanum, thus left between the two, is filled with Perpendicular tracery.
The Choir.—“In the year of grace one thousand one hundred and seventy-four, by the just but occult judgment of God, the Church of Christ at Canterbury was consumed by fire, in the forty-fourth year from its dedication, that glorious choir, to wit, which had been so magnificently completed by the care and industry of Prior Conrad” (“Gervase,” translated by Willis). The work of rebuilding was immediately begun by William, the architect of Sens. At the beginning of the fifth year of his work, he was, by a fall from the height of the capitals of the upper vault, “rendered helpless alike to himself and for the work, but no other person than himself was in the least injured. Against the master only was the vengeance of God or spite of the devil directed.” He was succeeded in his charge by one “William by name, English by nation, small in body, but in workmanship of many kinds acute and honest.” Now in the sixth year from the fire, we read that the monks were “seized with a violent longing to prepare the choir, so that they might enter it at the coming Easter. And the master, perceiving their desires, set himself manfully to work, to satisfy the wishes of the convent. He constructed, with all diligence, the wall which encloses the choir and presbytery. He carefully prepared a resting-place for St. Dunstan and St. Elfege. The choir thus hardly completed even with the greatest labour and diligence, the monks were resolved to enter on Easter Eve with[Pg 58] the ‘new fire,’” that is, the paschal candle which was lit on Easter Eve and burnt until Ascension Day. The kindling of this light was carried out in a very ceremonious manner as enjoined in Lanfranc’s statutes. A fire was made in the cloister and duly consecrated, and the monks, having lit a taper at this fire carried it on the end of a staff in solemn procession, singing psalms and hymns and burning incense, and lit the paschal candle in the choir with it.
Thus was the new choir completed, in the sixth year after the burning of Conrad’s. This part of the cathedral will be peculiarly interesting to the architectural student, owing to the curious mixture of styles, which enables him to compare the Norman and Early English characteristics side by side. A striking feature in the aspect of the building, as seen from the choir, is the remarkable inward bend with which the walls turn towards one another at the end of the cathedral. The choir itself is peculiar in the matter of length (180 feet—the longest in any English church), and the lowness of the vaulting. The pillars, with their pier-arches and the clerestory wall above are said by Willis to be without doubt the work of William of Sens: but the whole question as to where the French William left off and his English namesake began is extremely uncertain, as there can be no doubt that William of Sens had fully planned out the work which he was destined never to complete, and it is more than probable that his successor worked largely upon his plans. We are on safer ground when we assert that the new choir was altogether different from the building which it replaced. The style was much more ornate and considerably lighter: the characteristics of the work of the Williams are rich mouldings, varied and elaborately carved capitals on the pillars, and the introduction of gracefully slender shafts of Purbeck marble. Gervase, in pointing out the differences between the works before and after the fire, mentions that “the old capitals were plain, the new ones most artistically sculptured. The old arches and everything else either plain or sculptured with an axe and not with a chisel, but in the new work first rate sculpture abounded everywhere. In the old work no marble shafts, in the new innumerable ones. Plain vaults instead of ribbed behind the choir.” “Sculptured with an axe,” reads rather curiously, but Professor Willis points out that “the axe is not quite so rude a weapon in the hands of a mason as it might[Pg 61] appear at first sight. The French masons use it to the present day with great dexterity in carving.” The mouldings used by Ernulf were extremely simple, and were decorated with a “peculiar and shallow class of notched ornament,” of which many examples exist in other buildings of the period; while the mouldings of William of Sens “exhibit much variety, but are most remarkable for the profusion of billet-work, zigzag and dogtooth, that are lavished upon them.” The first two methods of ornamentation are Norman, the last an Early English characteristic. This mixture is not confined to the details of decoration but may be observed also in the indiscriminate employment of round and pointed arches. This feature, as Willis remarks, “may have arisen either from the indifference of the artist as to the mixture of forms or else from deliberate contrivance, for as he was compelled, from the nature of his work, to retain round-headed arcades, windows, and arches, in the side-aisles, and yet was accustomed to and desirous of employing pointed arches in his new building, he might discreetly mix some round-headed arches with them, in order to make the contrast less offensive by causing the mixture of forms to pervade the whole composition, as if an intentional principle.”
Whatever the motive, this daring mixture renders the study of the architectural features of our cathedral peculiarly interesting. In the triforium we find a semicircular outer arch circumscribing two inner pointed ones. The clerestory arch is pointed, while some of the transverse ribs of the great vault are pointed and some round.
The inward bend of the walls at the end of the choir was necessitated by the fact that the towers of St. Anselm and St. Andrew had survived the great fire of 1174. Naturally the pious builders did not wish to pull down these relics of the former church, so that a certain amount of contraction had to be effected in order that these towers should form part of the new plan. This arrangement also fitted in with the determination to build a chapel of the martyred St. Thomas at the end of the church, on the site of the former Trinity Chapel. For the Trinity Chapel had been much narrower than the new choir, but this contraction enabled the rebuilders to preserve its dimensions.
The Altar, when the choir was at first completed by William, stood entirely alone, and without a reredos; behind it the [Pg 62]archbishop’s chair was originally placed, but this was afterwards transferred to the corona. The remarkable height at which the altar was set up is due to the fact that it is placed over the new crypt, which is a good deal higher than the older, or western crypt. Before the Reformation the high altar was richly embellished with all kinds of precious and sacred ornaments and vessels: while beneath it, in a vault, were stored a priceless collection of gold and silver vessels: such of these as escaped the rapacity of Henry VIII. were destroyed by the bigotry of the Puritan zealots: the latter made havoc of the reredos which had been erected behind the high altar, probably during the fourteenth century, and also a “most idolatrous costly glory cloth,” the gift of Archbishop Laud. The reredos was replaced by a Corinthian screen, which was of elaborate design, but must have been strangely out of keeping with its surroundings; it was removed about 1870, to make way for the present reredos which was designed in the style of the screen work in the Lady Chapel in the crypt, but which cannot be commended as an object of beauty. The altar coverings which are now in use were presented to the cathedral by Queen Mary, the wife of William III., when she visited Canterbury. A chalice, given by the Earl of Arundel in 1636, is among the communion-plate. In his account of the building of the new choir, Gervase tells us that “the Master carefully prepared a resting-place for St. Dunstan and St. Elfege—the co-exiles of the monks.” When the choir was ready, “Prior Alan, taking with him nine of the brethren of the Church in whom he could trust, went by night to the tombs of the saints, so that he might not be incommoded by a crowd, and having locked the doors of the church, he commanded the stone-work that inclosed them to be taken down. The monks and the servants of the Church, in obedience to the Prior’s commands, took the structure to pieces, opened the stone coffins of the saints, and bore their relics to the vestiarium. Then, having removed the cloths in which they had been wrapped, and which were half-consumed from age and rottenness, they covered them with other and more handsome palls, and bound them with linen bands. They bore the saints, thus prepared, to their altars, and deposited them in wooden chests, covered within and without with lead: which chests, thus lead-covered, and strongly bound with iron, were inclosed in stone-work that was consolidated with melted[Pg 63] lead.” This translation was thus carried out by Prior Alan on the night before the formal re-entry into the choir: the rest of the monks, who had not assisted at the ceremony, were highly incensed by the prior’s action, for they had intended that the translation of the fathers should have been performed with great and devout solemnity. They even went so far as to cite the prior and the trusty monks who had assisted him before the Archbishop, and it was only by the intervention of the latter, and other men of authority, and “after due apology and repentance,” that harmony was restored in the convent.
The bones of St. Dunstan were long a cause of contention between the churches of Canterbury and Glastonbury. The monks of Glastonbury considered that they had a prior claim on the relics of the sainted archbishop, and stoutly contended that his body had been conveyed to their own sanctuary after the sack of Canterbury by the Danes; and they used to exhibit a coffin as containing Dunstan’s remains. But early in the fourteenth century they went so far as to set up a gorgeous shrine in which they placed, with much pomp and circumstance, the supposed relics. Archbishop Warham, who then ruled at Canterbury, accordingly replied by causing the shrine in our cathedral to be opened, and was able to declare triumphantly that he had found therein the remains of a human body, in the costume of an archbishop, with a plate of lead on his breast, inscribed with the words “Sanctus Dunstanus.” In the course of the subsequent correspondence which passed between the two monasteries, the Abbot of Glastonbury, after trying to argue that perhaps part only of the saint’s relics had been conveyed to his church, at last frankly confesses “the people had believed in the genuineness of their saint for so long, that he is afraid to tell them the truth.” This shrine of St. Dunstan stood on the south of the high altar, and was erected after the manner of a tomb: though the shrine itself perished at the time of the Reformation, there still remains, on the south wall of the choir, between the monuments of Archbishops Stratford and Sudbury, some very fine open diaper-work, in what is known as the Decorated style, which once formed part of the ornamentation of St. Dunstan’s altar. The shrine of St. Elfege, or Alphege, who was archbishop at the time of the sacking of Canterbury by the Danes, and was murdered by them, has been altogether destroyed.
[Pg 64] The Choir Screen, a solid structure of stone we know to be the work of Prior de Estria, i.e., of Eastry in Kent, who was elected in 1285, and died in 1331. According to the Obituary record, he “fairly decorated the choir of the church with most beautiful stone-work cunningly carved.” In his Register there is an entry which evidently refers to the same work: “Anno 1304-5. Reparation of the whole choir with three new doors and a new screen (pulpito).” The three doors referred to are the north and south entrances and the western one. It has already been pointed out that the present western screen is a later addition. Professor Willis, whose great work on the Architectural History of Canterbury Cathedral should be studied by all who wish to examine the details of the building more closely than is allowed by the scope of this work, describes De Estria’s screen as follows: “The lateral portions of this wall of enclosure are in excellent order. In the western part of the choir, namely, between the eastern transepts and the organ-screen, this wall is built so that its inner face nearly ranges with the inner faces of the pillars; but eastward of the transepts it is built between the pillars. The north doorway remains perfect. The present south doorway, which is in a much later style, is manifestly a subsequent insertion. This enclosure consists of a solid wall, seven feet nine inches in height from the pavement of the side-aisles. It has a stone-bench towards the side-aisles, and above that a base, of the age of William of Sens; so that it is clear that the work of De Estria belongs to the upper part only of the enclosure, which consists of delicate and elaborately worked tracery, surmounted by an embattled crest.... The entire work is particularly valuable on account of its well-established date, combined with its great beauty and singularity.”
A portion of the choir-pavement, lying between the two transepts, is interesting as being undoubtedly part of the original flooring of Conrad’s choir, and probably the only fragment of it that was left undisturbed after the great fire which destroyed “that glorious choir which had been so magnificently completed by the care and industry of Prior Conrad.” This part of the pavement consists of large slabs of a peculiar “stone, or veined marble of a delicate brown colour. When parts of this are taken up for repair or alteration, it is usual to find lead which has run between the joints of the slabs and spread on each side below, and which is with great reason [Pg 65]supposed to be the effect of the fire of 1174, which melted the lead of the roof, and caused it to run down between the paving stones in this manner.” It is said that when the choir was filled with pews in 1706, and it was necessary to remove part of the pavement, the men engaged on the work picked up enough of this lead to make two large gluepots.
The original wooden stalls of the choir were described by the writer of a book published in 1640. He relates that there were two rows on each side, an upper and a lower, and that above the stalls on the south side stood the archbishop’s wooden chair, “sometime richly guilt, and otherwise richly set forth, but now nothing specious through age and late neglect.” Perhaps the battered and shabby condition of this part of the cathedral furniture accounts for its having survived the Puritan period; it is at least certain that it remained untouched until 1704, when the refurnishing of the choir was begun by Archbishop Tenison; he himself presented a wainscoted throne with lofty Corinthian canopy adorned with carving by Gibbons, while the altar, the pulpit, and the stalls for the dean and vice-dean were provided with rich fittings by Queen Mary II. The tracery of the screen was hidden by a lining of wainscoting, which was put before it. This arrangement lasted little more than a century. In the time of Archbishop Howley, who held office from 1828 to 1848, the wainscoting which concealed the screen was taken away, and Archbishop Tenison’s throne has made way for a lofty canopy of tabernacle work. Some carved work, which has been ascribed to Gibbons, still remains before the eastern front of the screen, between the choir and the nave.
[Pg 66] The position of the organ has been frequently shifted. In Conrad’s choir it was placed upon the vault of the south transept; afterwards it was set up upon a large corbel of stone, over the arch of St. Michael in the same transept. This corbel has now been removed; subsequently it was placed between two pillars on the north side of the choir, and, later on, it was again transferred to a position over the west door of the choir, the usual place for the organ in cathedral churches; finally it has been “ingeniously deposited out of sight in the triforium of the south aisle of the choir; a low pedestal with its keys stands in the choir itself, so as to place the organist close to the singers, as he ought to be, and the communication between the keys and the organ is effected by trackers passing under the pavement of the side aisles, and conducted up to the triforium, through a trunk let into the south wall.” This arrangement not only secures the retirement from view of the organ, which, with its tedious rows of straight and unsightly pipes, is generally more or less an eyesore in cathedrals, but is said to have caused a great improvement in the effect of its music. The present organ, which was built by Samuel Green, is believed to have been used at the Handel Festival in Westminster Abbey in 1784. It was enlarged by Hill in 1842, and entirely reconstructed in 1886. In this connection we may mention that Archbishop Theodore first introduced the ecclesiastical chant in Canterbury Cathedral.
The tombs in the choir are all occupied by famous archbishops and cardinals. On the south side, hard by the site of the shrine of St. Dunstan, is the tomb of Simon of Sudbury, who was archbishop from 1375 to 1381. He built the west gate of the city, and a great part of the town walls; in consideration of these benefits the mayor and aldermen used at one time to make an annual procession to his resting-place and offer prayers for his soul. Outside Canterbury his acts were not regarded with so much gratitude, for he was the inventor, or reviver, of the poll tax, and was in consequence beheaded on Tower Hill by Wat Tyler and his followers. Stanley relates that “not many years ago, when this tomb was accidentally opened, the body was seen within, wrapped in cere-cloth, a leaden ball occupying the vacant place of the head.” Sudbury is also famous as having spoken against the “superstitious” pilgrimages to St. Thomas’ shrine, and his violent death was[Pg 67] accordingly attributed to the avenging power of the incensed saint. Westward of his monument stands that of Archbishop Stratford (1333-1348), who was Grand Justiciary to Edward III. during his absence in Flanders, and won fame by his struggle with the king. Between this tomb and the archbishop’s throne lies Cardinal Kemp (1452-1454), who was present at Agincourt in the camp of Henry V.; his tomb is surmounted by a remarkable wooden canopy. Opposite, on the north side, is the very interesting monument of Archbishop Henry Chichele (1414-1443). Shakespeare tells us that he was the instigator of Henry V.’s war with France, and it is supposed that out of remorse for this act he built, during his lifetime, the curious tomb which now conceals his bones; it is kept in repair by All Souls’ College, which was founded by the penitent archbishop that its fellows might pray for the souls of all who had perished during the war; the effigy, in full canonicals, with its head supported by angels, and with two monks holding open books, kneeling at its feet, lies on the upper slab; and underneath is a ghastly figure in a winding-sheet, supposed to represent the archbishop after death; the diminutive figures which originally filled the niches were destroyed by the Puritans, but have been to some extent replaced. The gaudy colours of the tomb enable one to form some idea of the appearance of the churches in the Middle Ages, when they were bedizened with painted images, hangings, and frescoes: to judge from this specimen the effect must have been distinctly tawdry. Further east we find the monument of Archbishop Howley; he was chiefly remarkable as having crowned Queen Victoria and married her to the Prince Consort, and his monument is noticeable as being the first erected to an archbishop, in the cathedral, since the Reformation; he himself lies at Addington. Beyond is a fine tomb well worthy of examination, crowned by an elaborate canopy which shows traces of rough usage at the hands of the restoring enthusiasts, who surrounded the choir with classical wainscoting after the Restoration. It is the monument of Archbishop Bourchier, a staunch supporter of the House of York; he was primate for thirty-two years, from 1454 to 1486, and crowned Edward IV., Richard III., and Henry VII. The “Bourchier knot” is among the decorations which enrich the canopy of his tomb.
The South-East Transept.—According to the present[Pg 68] custom of the Canterbury vergers, the visitor is led from the choir to the south-east transept. “In the choir of Ernulf,” says Willis, “the transepts were cut off from the body by the continuity of the pier-arches and the wall above, and each transept was therefore a separate room with a flat ceiling.... But in the new design of William the transepts were opened to the central portion, and the triforium and clerestory of the choir were turned at right angles to their courses, and thus formed the side walls of the transepts.... The entire interior of the eastern transept has been most skilfully converted from Ernulfian architecture to Willelmian (if I may be allowed the phrase for the nonce). It was necessary that the triforium and clerestory of the new design should be carried along the walls of these transepts, which were before the fire probably ornamented by a continuation of those of Ernulf. But the respective level of these essential members were so different in the old and new works that the only parts of them that could be retained were the windows of the old clerestory, which falls just above the new triforium tablet, and accordingly these old windows may still be seen in the triforia of the transepts, surmounted by the new pointed clerestory windows. But the whole of the arcade work and mouldings in the interior of these transepts belongs to William of Sens, with the sole exception of the lower windows. Even the arches which open from the east wall of these transepts to the apses have been changed for pointed arches, the piers of which have a singularly elegant base.”
In the two apses of this transept altars to St. Gregory and St. John once stood, and here were shrines of four Saxon primates. There is a window in the south wall erected to the memory of Dean Alford; below it is the spot on which the tomb of Archbishop Winchelsea (1294-1313) was placed. He was famous for his contest with Edward I. concerning clerical subsidies, and for having secured from the king the confirmation of the charter. He was more practically endeared to the people by the generosity of his almsgiving—it is said that he distributed two thousand loaves among the poor every Sunday and Thursday when corn was dear, and three thousand when it was cheap. His tomb was heaped with offerings like the shrine of a saint, but the Pope refused to confirm the popular enthusiasm by canonizing the archbishop; the fact, however, that it had been so reverenced was enough to qualify it for destruction[Pg 69] in the days of Henry VIII. This transept is used at present as a chapel for the King’s School, a direct continuation of the monastery school, at which Archbishops Winchelsea and Kemp were both educated. It contains the Corinthian throne which was set up in the choir early in the last century.
The South-West Choir Aisle.—At the corner of this aisle we may notice the arcade which shows the combination of the Norman rounded arch and double zigzag ornamentation with the pointed arch and dogtooth tracery of William. Here also are two tombs, which have given rise to a good deal of speculation. The more easterly one used to be regarded as the monument of Hubert Walter, who was chancellor to Richard Cœur de Lion and followed him and Archbishop Baldwin to Palestine, and, on the death of the latter, was made primate in the camp at Acre: it is thought more probable, however, in the light of recent research, that he is buried in the Trinity Chapel. The other tomb used to be the resting place of Archbishop Reynolds, the favourite of Edward II., but it also affords food for discussion, as there is no trace of the “pall”—a Y-shaped strip of lamb’s wool marked with crosses, a special mark of metropolitan dignity which was sent to each primate by the Pope—on the vestments of the effigy. Hence conjecture doubts whether these tombs are tenanted by archbishops at all, and inclines to the theory that they contain the bones of two of the Priors, perhaps of d’Estria. From this point we can notice the ingenious apparatus connected with the organ.
St. Anselm’s Tower and Chapel.—Proceeding eastward, towards the Trinity Chapel, we pause to examine the chapel or tower of St. Anselm, which corresponds to that of St. Andrew on the north side of the cathedral. Both these chapels probably at one time were much more lofty, as they are described as “lofty towers” by Gervase; it was in order to bring them into the church, when it was reconstructed after the fire, that the eastward contraction, which presents such a curious effect as seen from the choir, was found necessary. They are now, as Willis points out, “only of the same height as the clerestory of the Norman Church, to which they formed appendages, and consequently they rose above the side-aisles of that church as much as the clerestory did. The external faces of the inward walls of these towers are now inclosed under the[Pg 70] roof of William’s triforium, and it may be seen that they were once exposed to the weather.” The arches in St. Anselm’s tower were originally set up by Ernulf, but there is reason to believe that they were rebuilt after the great conflagration. “The arch of communication,” says Willis, “is a round arch, at first sight plainly of the Ernulfian period, having plaited-work capitals and mouldings with shallow hollows. A similar arch opens on the eastern side of the tower into its apse. But a close examination will shew that both these arches have undergone alteration.... I am inclined to believe that both these arches were reset and reduced in space after the fire, probably to increase their strength and that of their piers, on account of the loss of abutment, when the circular wall of the choir-apse was removed.” The alterations that were made in these arches were probably not important, and did not extend beyond the re-modelling of the mouldings on the side of the arch towards the choir-aisle; for we may notice that above both the arches we can still trace the notched decoration which is peculiar to Ernulf’s work. This chapel was originally dedicated to St. Peter and St. Paul, and a very interesting relic of this saintly patronage has lately been discovered. Apparently, in order to strengthen the building, two of the three windows in the chapel were blocked up, and a buttress was built across a chord of the apse, in the early part of the thirteenth century. In the course of the restoration of the tower which was recently carried out, this buttress was taken away, and its removal laid bare a fresco painting, representing St. Paul and the viper at Melita. This piece of decoration, as need hardly be said, must have been put in before the construction of the buttress which has concealed and preserved it for nearly seven centuries; it is conjectured, with a good deal of reason, that a similar presentment of was painted at the same time on the opposite wall, but as it had no buttress to protect it, it has been altogether effaced. A copy of the fresco of St. Paul has been placed in the cathedral library. The altar of SS. Peter and Paul stood at the east end, and behind it was the tomb of the celebrated Archbishop Anselm, by whose name the chapel is now commonly called. A very interesting feature of this tower is a large and elaborate five-light window of the Decorated period. It replaced the original south window of the chapel, and was inserted by Prior d’Estria in 1336; it is remarkable as being[Pg 71] one of the few instances of Decorated architecture in the cathedral, and also because of the detailed account that has been preserved of its erection and cost. The passage in the archives runs as follows:—“Memorandum, that in the year 1336, there was made a new window in Christ Church, Canterbury, that is to say, in the chapel of the Apostles St. Peter and St. Paul, upon which there were expended the following sums:
|“Imprimis, for the workmanship, or labour of the|
|Item, for the breaking down of the wall, where the|
|window now is||0||16||9|
|—— for lime and gravel||1||0||0|
|—— for 20 cwt. of iron bought for said window||4||4||0|
|—— for the labour of the smiths||3||5||4|
|—— for Caen stone bought for same||5||0||0|
|—— for glass and the labour of the glaziers||6||13||4|
On the heads of the lights of this window were pendent bosses, like those of the door in the choir-screen, which, as has been said, was also the work of Prior de Estria. These bosses and the stones from which they were suspended, have altogether disappeared, otherwise the internal tracery of the window is in good preservation. “The outside, however, is in a very bad condition for the purpose of the antiquarian; for, apparently on account of the decayed state of its surface, the tracery has undergone the process of splitting, namely, the whole of the outer part has been faced down to the glass, and fresh worked in Portland stone; Portland stone mullions, or monials as they are more properly called, have also been supplied. And as this repair was executed at a period when this class of architecture was ill understood, the mouldings were very badly wrought, which, with the unfortunate colour and surface of the Portland stone, has given the window a most ungenuine air. However, the interior is as good as ever it was, and it is on account of its date, as well as for its beauty, a most valuable example” (Willis).
The insertion of the window in question probably had the effect of weakening the walls of the chapel; at any rate they[Pg 72] show signs of a tendency to settle. Beneath it is the tomb of Archbishop Bradwardine, a great scholar and divine, whose primacy only lasted three months. Opposite to him lies Simon de Mepeham—archbishop from 1328 to 1333—whose tomb forms the screen of the chapel. It is a black marble monument well worthy of examination, with a double arcade and a richly decorated canopy; the ornamentation has been greatly damaged, but the shattered remains show traces of beautiful work. Mepeham’s short primacy was brought to an untimely end by the contumacy of Grandisson, Bishop of Exeter, who refused to allow him to enter Exeter Cathedral, actually guarding the west door with an armed force. The pope sided with the recalcitrant bishop, and Mepeham died, according to Fuller, of a broken heart in consequence of this humiliation.
The Watching Chamber.—Above the Chapel of St. Anselm is a small room, which is reached by a staircase from the north-west corner. A window in it commands a view into the cathedral, and from this circumstance it has been inferred that a watcher was stationed here at night to protect the priceless treasures of St. Thomas’s shrine from pillage by marauders. Some doubt has been thrown on this assumption, since the site of the shrine is not fully seen from the window, but the room is still generally known as the Watching Chamber. Probably the shrine was much more efficiently guarded than by the presence of a solitary monk in a chamber, from which even if he could see thieves he certainly could not arrest them; for we know that “on the occasion of fires the shrine was additionally guarded by a troop of fierce ban-dogs” (Stanley). It is also said that King John of France was imprisoned in this chamber during his stay at Canterbury, but this is most unlikely, seeing that he was treated by the Black Prince more as a sovereign than as a captive.
Trinity Chapel.—Passing further east, we ascend the flight of steps, deeply worn by innumerable pilgrims, and enter the precincts of the Trinity Chapel. All this part of the cathedral, from the choir-screen to the corona, was rebuilt from the ground, specially with a view to its receiving the shrine of St. Thomas. It is still, however, called by the name of the Trinity Chapel, which previously occupied this site, and was burnt down by the fire which destroyed Conrad’s choir. In this chapel Thomas à Becket celebrated his first mass after[Pg 73] his installation as archbishop, and his remains were laid for some time in the crypt below it. This portion of the building was all carried out under the direction of English William. Gervase relates that when William of Sens, after his accident, “perceiving that he derived no benefit from the physicians, returned to his home in France,” his successor, English William “laid the foundation for the enlargement of the church at the eastern part, because a chapel of St. Thomas was to be built there; for this was the place assigned to him; namely the Chapel of the Holy Trinity, where he celebrated his first mass—where he was wont to prostrate himself with tears and prayers, under whose crypt for so many years he was buried, where God for his merits had performed so many miracles, where poor and rich, kings and princes, had worshipped him, and whence the sound of his praises had gone out into all lands.” As to the extent to which the second William was guided by the plans of his predecessor we have no means of judging accurately. Certainly the general outline of this part of the building must have been arranged by William of Sens, for the contraction of the choir, in order to preserve the width of the ancient Trinity Chapel had been carried out up to the clerestory before his retirement. Willis deals with the subject at some length:[Pg 74] “Whether,” he says, “we are to attribute to the French artist the lofty elevation of the pavement of the new chapel, by which also so handsome a crypt is obtained below, must remain doubtful. The bases of his columns, as well as those of the shafts against the wall are hidden and smothered by the platform at the top of these steps and by the side steps that lead to Becket’s chapel. This looks like an evidence of a change of plan, and induces me to believe that the lofty crypt below may be considered as the unfettered composition of the English architect.... The Trinity Chapel of the Englishman is under the influence of the French work of which it is a continuation, and accordingly the same mouldings are employed throughout, and the triforium and clerestory are continued at the same level; but the greater level of the pavement wholly alters the proportion of the piers to their arches, and gives a new and original, and at the same time a very elegant character to this part of the church compared with the work of the Frenchman, of which, at first sight, it seems to be a mere continuation. The triforium also of this Trinity Chapel differs from that of the choir, in that its four pointed arches instead of being, like them, included under two circular ones, are set in the form of an arcade of four arches, of two orders of mouldings each. The mouldings are the same as in the choir, but the effect of their arrangement is richer. Also in the clerestory two windows are placed over each pier-arch, instead of the single window of the choir. The mixture of the two forms of arches is still carried on, for although the semicircular arch is banished from the triforium, it is adopted for the pier-arches.
“However, in the side-aisles of the Trinity chapel, and in the corona, our English William appears to have freed himself almost as completely from the shackles of imitation, as was possible. In the side-aisles the mouldings of the ribs still remain the same, but their management in connection with the side walls, and the combination of their slender shafts with those of the twin lancet windows, here for the first time introduced into the building, is very happy. Slender shafts of marble are employed in profusion by William of Sens, and Gervase expressly includes them in his list of characteristic novelties. But here we find them either detached from the piers, or combined with them in such a manner as to give[Pg 75] a much greater lightness and elegance of effect than in the work of the previous architect. This lightness of style is carried still farther in the corona, where the slender shafts are carried round the walls, and made principal supports to the pier-arches, over which is placed a light triforium and a clerestory; and it must be remarked that all the arches in this part of the building are of a single order of mouldings, instead of two orders as in the pier-arches and triforium of the choir.”
So much for the architectural details of the Trinity Chapel. To the ordinary visitor its interest lies rather in the fact that it contained Becket’s shrine, and that we here see the curious old windows portraying the sainted Archbishop’s miracles, and what is, perhaps, most important of all to many, the tomb of Edward the Black Prince. This monument is the first feature that we notice as we enter by the south-west gate of the chapel; it stands between the two first pillars, and by the side of the site of the shrine. By the Prince’s will he had left directions that he should be buried in the crypt, where he had already founded a chantry, at the time of his marriage with the “Fair Maid of Kent” in 1363. But for some unknown reason, probably in order that the dead hero’s bones might be placed in the most sacred spot possible—he was laid to rest by the side of the martyr, then in the zenith of his sanctity. One of the most romantic figures in English history is that of Edward the Black Prince, who “fought the French” as no Briton, except perhaps Nelson, has fought them since; he was sixteen years old when he commanded the English army in person at the battle of Cressy, and was wounded in the thickest of that most sanguinary fray: ten years later, facing an army of 60,000 men with a mere 8,000 behind him, he inflicted a still more severe defeat on the French at Poitiers, and captured their king, whom he took with him to Canterbury on his triumphant return to London. In all our list of national heroes there is not one who upheld the prowess of the English arms more gallantly than this mighty warrior who was cut off while still in the flower of his years, leaving England to the miseries of sedition and civil war. His tomb is one of the most impressive of such monuments. The gilding and bright colours have almost entirely disappeared, but the striking effect of the effigy is probably only enhanced by the solemn sombreness of its [Pg 76]present appearance. It is a figure clad in full armour, spurred and helmeted, as the Prince had ordained by his will. The head rests on the helmet and the hands are joined in the attitude of prayer. The face, which is undoubtedly a portrait, is stern and masterful. “There you can see his fine face with the Plantagenet features, the flat cheeks, and the well-chiselled nose, to be traced, perhaps, in the effigy of his father in Westminster Abbey, and his grandfather in Gloucester Cathedral.” The tomb itself is worthy to support the figure and guard the ashes of the Black Prince. Carved on its side clearly, that all might read it, is the inscription which he had himself chosen; it is in Norman French, which was still the language spoken by the English Court, and in the same spirit which moved the designer of Archbishop Chichele’s tomb to portray the living man and the mouldering skeleton, this epitaph contrasts the glories of the Prince’s life—his wealth, beauty, and power—with the decay and corruption of the grave. It is distinctly pagan in thought, and reminds one strongly of the laments of the dead Homeric heroes as they wail for the joys of life and strength and lordship. Stanley states that it is “borrowed, with a few variations, from the anonymous French translation of the ‘Clericalis Disciplina’ of Petrus Alphonsus composed between the years 1106 and 1110.” But it is strangely un-Christian in sentiment as a few lines will show—
Below this inscription are ranged coats-of-arms, bearing the ostrich feathers and the motto Ich Diene (“I serve”), which, according to time-honoured but unauthenticated tradition, the prince won from the blind King of Bohemia, who was led into the thick of the fighting at Cressy, and died on the field. Welsh archæologists, however, maintain that these words are Celtic, and mean “behold the man;” their theory suggests that this was the phrase used by Edward I. when he presented[Pg 79] his firstborn son to the Welsh people as their prince, and that the words thus became the motto of the princes of Wales. This is a rather far-fetched piece of reasoning, and one would certainly prefer to accept the more picturesque tradition which connects the phrase with the glories of Cressy. The other word found on these escutcheons—Houmont—is still more puzzling. We know that the Black Prince was wont to sign himself Houmont, Ich Diene. Stanley explains the combination gracefully, but not very convincingly. “If, as seems most likely, they are German words, they exactly express what we have seen so often in his life, the union of ‘Hoch muth,’ that is high spirit, with ‘Ich Dien,’ I serve. They bring before us the very scene itself after the battle of Poitiers, where, after having vanquished the whole French nation, he stood behind the captive king, and served him like an attendant.”
The tomb is surmounted by a canopy on which is painted an interesting representation of the Trinity. The work is a good deal faded, but still worthy of notice; the absence of the figure of the dove is curious, but is not unparalleled in such designs. At the corners are symbols of the four evangelists. The Holy Trinity—on whose feast-day he died—was held in peculiar veneration by the Black Prince. The ordinance of the chantry founded by him in the crypt contains the phrase, Ad honorem Sancte Trinitatis quam peculiari devocione semper colimus. A curious metal badge, preserved in the British Museum, is stamped with the figure of the prince kneeling before the Almighty and our Saviour, whose representation is almost identical with the design on the canopy over the tomb; here also the figure of the dove is absent. Round the canopy and in the pillars we can still see the hooks which upheld the black tapestry, bordered with crimson and embroidered with cygnes avec têtes de dames, which was hung, as ordained by his will, round the prince’s tomb and Becket’s shrine.
Lastly, above the canopy, on a cross-beam between two pillars, are suspended the brazen gauntlets, the helmet, the wooden shield with its moulded leather covering, the velvet coat emblazoned with the arms of England and France, and the empty sheath. The gauntlets were once embellished with little figures of lions on the knuckles; these have been detached by “collectors,” vandals almost as ruthless as Blue Dick and his troopers, and without their excuse of mistaken religious[Pg 80] zeal. The helmet still has its original lining of leather, showing that it was actually worn. The sword which fitted the now empty sheath is said to have been taken away by Oliver Cromwell; it appeared in Manchester at the beginning of this century under circumstances so curious, that we may be excused for quoting the following letter from Canon Wray, given in Stanley’s Appendix on the Black Prince’s will. “The sword, or supposed sword, of the Black Prince, which Oliver Cromwell is said to have carried away, I have seen and many times have had in my hands. There lived in Manchester, when I first came here, a Mr. Thomas Barritt, a saddler by trade; he was a great antiquarian, and had collected together helmets, coats of mail, horns, etc., and many coins. But what he valued most of all was a sword: the blade about two feet long, and on the blade was let in, in letters of gold,[Pg 81] ‘Edwardus Wallie Princeps’.... He was in possession of this sword a.d. 1794. He told me he purchased many of the ancient relics of a pedlar, who travelled through the country selling earthenware, and I think he said he got this sword from this pedlar. When Barritt died, in 1820, his curiosities were sold by his widow at a raffle, but I believe this sword was not amongst the articles so disposed of. It had probably been disposed of beforehand, but to whom I never knew; yet I think it not unlikely that it is still in the neighbourhood. The sword was a little curved, scimitar-like, rather thick, broad blade, and had every appearance of being the Black Prince’s sword.” Truly a most remarkable story. This historic blade, which may have hewn down the French ranks at Poitiers, is disposed of by an itinerant crockery vender to an antiquarian saddler; on his death is, or is not, “sold at a raffle” and—vanishes!
These arms that hang over the prince’s tomb are all that are left of two distinct suits, one for war, and one for use in the joust and the ceremonials of peace, which were, according to directions given in the will, carried in the funeral procession[Pg 82] through the West Gate and along the High Street to the cathedral. The pieces which remain all belong to the suit worn in actual warfare.
The centre of the chapel looks curiously blank, being left so by the thoroughness with which all trace of Becket’s shrine was removed by the reforming zeal and insatiable rapacity of Henry VIII. and his minions. The effect of the bare stone pavement presents an impressive contrast to the vanished glories of the shrine blazing with gold and jewels, as we read of it. (For a description of the shrine and its history, see Chapter I.) The exact place on which it stood is plainly shown by the marks worn in the stones by the knees of generations of pilgrims as they knelt before it, while the prior, with his white wand, pointed out the choicest of its treasures. To the west, between the altar-screen—the unhappy effect of which is painfully conspicuous from this point—and the site of the shrine, there is some very interesting mosaic pavement, containing the signs of the zodiac, and emblems of virtue and vice, an example of the Opus Alexandrinum, which appears in the floors of most of the Roman basilicas. A similar piece of mosaic work may be seen round the shrine of Edward the Confessor at Westminster. Above the eastern end of the shrine a gilded crescent was fixed in the roof, which still remains; the origin and meaning of this emblem have been disputed with considerable heat, and many ingenious conjectures have been framed to account for its presence here. One theory regards it as an allusion to the tradition according to which Becket’s mother was a Saracen. But this legend is believed to be comparatively modern, and, as Mr. George Austin points out, “even if the legend of Becket’s mother had obtained credence at that early period, it may be observed that in the painted windows around no reference is made to the subject, though evidently capable of so much pictorial effect.” Another solution would connect the crescent with the worship of the Virgin Mary, who is often pictured as standing on the moon (comp. Rev. xii. I). Supporters of this theory lay stress on the fact that the Trinity Chapel at Canterbury occupies the extreme east end of the church, which is generally the site of the Lady Chapel, and that therefore the presence of this emblem—if it can be connected with the Virgin—would be peculiarly appropriate here. Mr. Austin [Pg 83]propounded the explanation which is now most generally accepted. “When the groined roof,” he says, “was relieved of the long-accumulated coats of whitewash and repaired, the crescent was taken down and regilt. It was found to be made of a foreign wood, somewhat like in grain to the eastern wood known by the name of iron-wood. It had been fastened to the groining by a large nail of very singular shape, with a large square head, apparently of foreign manufacture.” He comes to the conclusion that the crescent is one of a number of trophies which he supposes to have once decorated this part of the cathedral, and he is led to his conclusion by the fact that “more than one fresco painting of encounters with the Eastern infidels formerly ornamented the walls (the last traces of which were removed during the restoration of the cathedral under Dean Percy, afterwards Bishop of Carlisle), and in one of which the green crescent flag of the enemy seems borne away by the English archers. Might not these frescoes have depicted the fights in which these trophies were won?” Also, in the hollows of the groining which radiate from the crescent, there were a number of slight iron staples, which Mr. Austin, having shown that they cannot have supported either hanging lamps or the covering of the shrine, believes to have upheld flags, horsetails, etc., which formed the trophy of which the gilded crescent was the centre. We know that Becket received the title of St. Thomas Acrensis owing to his close connection with the knights of the Hospital of St. John at Acre. But none of these explanations seem very convincing, and the history and significance of the crescent in the roof seem likely to remain a mystery.
Before we turn from Becket and his shrine to the other monuments in the Trinity Chapel, we must call the attention of our readers to the stained windows which depict the miracles of the sainted martyr. The chapel was at one time entirely surrounded with glass of this sort, but only a portion has survived the ravages of the Puritans. “Of these windows,” says Austin, “unfortunately but three remain, but they are sufficient to attest their rare beauty; and for excellence of drawing, harmony of colouring, and purity of design, are justly considered unequalled. The skill with which the minute figures are represented cannot even at this day be surpassed; it is extraordinary to see how every feeling of joy or sorrow, pain and enjoyment,[Pg 84] is expressed both in feature and position. But in nothing is the superiority of these windows shown more than the beautiful scrolls and borders which surmount the windows, and gracefully connect the groups of medallions.” Most of these windows probably contained representations of Becket, and so were doomed to destruction by the decree of Henry VIII., in which “his Grace straitly chargeth and commandeth, that henceforth the said Thomas Becket shall not be esteemed, named, reputed, nor called a saint, but Bishop Becket, and that his images and pictures throughout the whole realm shall be put down and avoided out of all churches and chapels, and other places; and that from henceforth the days used to be festivals in his name shall not be observed, nor the service, office, antiphonies, collects and prayers in his name read, but rased and put out of all books.” This proclamation was rigorously carried out though the stained windows which come within its terms have, in some cases, escaped destruction. For instance there remains a window in the south transept of Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford, representing the martyrdom of Becket, but it is interesting to note that even here the archbishop’s head was removed from the glass. Three of the windows of the Trinity Chapel have survived, and fragments of others are scattered over the glass of the building. They are entirely devoted to depicting the miracles of the martyr, which began immediately after his death and reception—according to a vision of Benedict—in a place between the apostles and the martyrs, above even St. Stephen.
The window towards the east on the north side of the shrine is divided into geometrical figures, each figure composed of a group of fine medallions; every group tells the story of a miracle, or series of miracles, performed by the influence of the saint. The lower group portrays the story of a child who was drowned in the Medway, and afterwards restored to life by the efficacy of the saint’s blood mixed with water. The first medallion shows the boy falling into the stream, while his companions pelt the frogs in the reeds by the river side; the next shows the companions relating the story of the accident to the boy’s parents, and in the third we see the grief-stricken parents watching their son’s corpse being drawn out of the river. “The landscape in these medallions is exceedingly well rendered; the trees are depicted with great grace” (Austin).[Pg 85] Unfortunately the medallions which complete this story have been destroyed. The next group depicts the quaint story of a succession of miracles which were wrought in the family of a knight called Jordan, son of Eisult. His ten year old boy died, and the knight, who had been an intimate friend of Becket in his lifetime, resolved to try to restore his son with water mixed with the saint’s blood. At the third draught, as Benedict tells the story, the dead boy “opened one eye, and said, ‘Why are you weeping, father? Why are you crying, lady? The blessed martyr, Thomas, has restored me to you!’ At evening he sat up, ate, talked, and was restored.” But the father forgot the vow which he made in the first moment of joy at his son’s recovery, namely, that he would offer four silver pieces at the martyr’s shrine before Mid Lent. And once more all the household was stricken with sickness, and the eldest son died. Then the parents, though sore smitten themselves, dragged themselves to Canterbury and performed their vow. The whole of this story with other details for which we have no space may be accurately traced on this unique window. The most striking is the central medallion of the group in which the vengeance of the saint is shown forth. In the middle of a large room we see a bier on which lies the dead son; the father and mother, overcome with despair, stand at the head and feet of the body. Behind the bier are several figures, which, from their “unusually violent attitudes expressive of grief,” Mr. Austin considered to be professional mourners. Above, unseen by the group below, the figure of St. Thomas, clad in full episcopal robes, holding a sword in his right hand, and pointing to the corpse with his left, is seen appearing through the ceiling. “The expression,” says Austin, “of the various figures in the above compartments, both in gesture and feature, is rendered with great skill. In the execution of this story, the points which, doubtless, the artists of the monastery were chiefly anxious to impress upon the minds of the devotees who thronged to the shrine are prominently brought out: the extreme danger of delaying the performance of a vow, under whatever circumstances made, the expiation sternly required by the saint, and the satisfaction with which the martyr viewed money offerings made at the shrine.”
One of the other groups is noteworthy as proving that severe penances were sometimes performed before the shrine. One[Pg 86] medallion shows a woman prostrating herself before a priest at the altar, while two men stand near, holding formidable-looking rods. The next picture represents the two men vigorously flagellating the woman with the rods; while, in the third, one of the men is still beating the woman, who now lies fainting on the ground, while the other is addressing the priest, who sits hard by composedly reading his book. The other two windows contain representations of the healings effected by the saint, which seem to have been of a very varied character, to judge from the catalogue with which Benedict sums them up. “What position,” he asks, “in the Church, what sex or age, what rank or order is there, which could not find something beneficial to itself [aliquid sibi utile] in this treasure-house of ours? Here the light of truth is furnished to schismatics, confidence to timid pastors, health to the sick, and pardon to the deserving penitent [pænitentibus venia ejus meritis, the last two words probably implying an offering]. The blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead rise again, the dumb speak, the poor have the gospel preached to them, the paralytic recover, the dropsical lose their swellings [detumescunt hydropici], the mad are restored to sense, the epileptic are cured, the fever-stricken escape, and, to sum up, omnimoda curatur infirmitas.”
The last of these windows to which we must call the special attention of our readers is one on the north side, representing a vision which Benedict tells us that he saw himself. The martyr is seen coming forth from his shrine in full pontifical robes, and making his way towards the altar as if to celebrate mass. This window is noticeable as containing the only representation that now exists of the shrine itself—for the picture in the Cottonian MSS. evidently shows us, not the shrine, but its outer shell, or covering. “The medallion,” says Austin, “is the more interesting, from being an undoubted work of the thirteenth century; and having been designed for a position immediately opposite to and within a few yards of the shrine itself, and occupying the place of honour in the largest and most important window, without doubt represents the main features of the shrine faithfully.”
On the north side of the Trinity Chapel, immediately opposite the tomb of the Black Prince, is that of King Henry IV., who died in 1413, and his second consort, Joan of Navarre,[Pg 87] who followed him in 1437. This king had made liberal offerings towards the rebuilding of the nave of the cathedral, and it has been conjectured that one of the figures on the organ-screen represents him: his will ordered that he should be laid to rest in the church at Canterbury, and here accordingly he was buried on the Trinity Sunday after his death. The tomb, with its rich canopy, is a beautiful piece of work, and the figures of the king and queen are probably faithful representations. A curious story was circulated by the Yorkists, to the effect that Henry was never buried here, but that his body was thrown into the water between Gravesend and Barking, during the voyage of the funeral cortège to Faversham, and that only an empty coffin was laid in the Trinity Chapel. That this point might be cleared up, the tomb was opened in 1832 in the presence of the Dean, and there the king was found in perfect preservation, and bearing a close resemblance to the effigy on the monument—“the nose elevated, the beard thick and matted, and of a deep russet colour, and the jaws perfect, with all the teeth in them, except one foretooth.”
In the wall of the north aisle, just opposite the king’s tomb, is a small chapel, built according to the directions contained in his will “that ther be a chauntre perpetuall with twey prestis for to sing and prey for my soul.” The roof shows the first piece of fan-vaulting admitted into the cathedral. On the eastern wall an account is scratched of the cost of a reredos which once stood here, but has been entirely destroyed: it tells us that the cost of “ye middil image was xixs 11d.” This chapel was doubtless used at one time as a storehouse of sacred relics. Two recesses in the west wall have lately been chosen to receive certain archiepiscopal vestments which were discovered in a tomb on the south side of Trinity Chapel, which was long believed to be that of Archbishop Theobald.
To the east of Henry IV.’s monument is the tomb of Dean Wotton, adorned with his kneeling figure. He was the first Dean of Canterbury after the reorganization by Henry VIII. Opposite to him is an unsightly brick erection which was once intended as a temporary covering for the remains of Odo Coligny, Cardinal of Chatillon and brother of Admiral Coligny, who was one of the victims of the massacre of St. Bartholomew. The Cardinal fled from France in 1568, on account of his leanings towards the tenets of the Huguenots,[Pg 88] and was welcomed by Queen Elizabeth. It is believed that he died from the effects of a poisoned apple given to him by a servant. It seems curious that the French Huguenots who settled in Canterbury never provided him with a more fitting monument.
Between this tomb and that of the Black Prince is the monument of Archbishop Courtenay, who was primate from 1381 to 1396, and was celebrated for his severity towards Wycliffe and his followers. He was a large contributor to the fund for the re-building of the nave, which perhaps accounts for the distinguished position of his tomb; the fact also that he was executor to the Black Prince may be responsible for his being buried at his feet. It is not, however, certain that his body actually lies here, though the ledger book of the cathedral states that he was buried within the walls of the church. It is known, however, that he died at Maidstone, and that he ordered in his will that his remains should rest there, and a slab in the pavement of All Saints’, Maidstone, shows traces of a brass representing the figure of an archbishop, whence it has been concluded that Courtenay was in fact buried there, and that his monument in Canterbury is only a cenotaph.
Becket’s Crown.—The circular apse at the extreme east end of the church is known as Becket’s Crown. The name has caused a good deal of discussion. The theory once generally received was to the effect that the portion of Becket’s skull which was cut away by Richard le Breton was preserved here as a relic of special sanctity. We know that the Black Prince bequeathed, by his will, tapestry hangings for the High Altar and for three others, viz., “l’autier la ou Mons’r Saint Thomas gist—l’autier la ou la teste est—l’autier la ou la poynte de l’espie est.” The first and last are evidently the altars at the shrine and in the Chapel of the Martyrdom, and it has been contended that the altar “where the head is” was the altar of which traces may still be seen in the pavement of the corona, or Becket’s Crown. Against this notion we must place the authority of Erasmus, whose words plainly show that the martyr’s head was displayed in the crypt: "hinc digressi subimus cryptoporticum: illic primum exhibetur calvaria martyris perforata (the martyr’s pierced tonsure): reliqua tecta sunt argento, summa cranii pars nuda patet osculo.” While Willis considers that the term corona was a common one for an apse at the[Pg 89] end of a church, citing “Ducange’s Glossary,” which defines “Corona Ecclesiæ” as Pars templi choro postica, quod ea pars fere desinat in circulum; “at all events,” he concludes, “it was a general term and not peculiar to Christ Church, Canterbury. The notion that this round chapel was called Becket’s Crown, because part of his skull was preserved here as a relic, appears wholly untenable. There is at least no doubt that a relic of some sort was preserved here, because we know from a record of the offerings—Oblaciones S. Thomæ—during ten years in the first half of the thirteenth century, that the richest gifts were made at the shrine and in the corona. And we know that the spot was one of peculiar sanctity from the fact that the shrines of St. Odo and St. Wilfrid were finally transferred thither. Corpus S. Odonis in feretro, ad coronam versus austrum. Corpus S. Wilfridi in feretro ad coronam versus aquilonem.”
On the north side of the corona is the tomb of Cardinal Pole, the last Archbishop of Canterbury who acknowledged the supremacy of the Pope. He held office from 1556 to 1558, and died the day after Queen Mary. Here stands also the patriarchal chair, made out of three pieces of Purbeck marble. It is called St. Augustine’s chair, and is said to be the throne on which the old kings of Kent were crowned; according to the tradition, Ethelbert, on being converted, gave the chair to Augustine, from whom it has descended to the Archbishops of Canterbury.[Pg 90] It is needless to say that this eminently attractive legend has been attacked and overthrown by modern criticism. It is pointed out that the original archiepiscopal throne was of one piece only, and that Purbeck marble did not come into use until some time after Augustine’s death. From its shape it is conjectured that the chair dates from the end of the twelfth century or the beginning of the thirteenth, and that it may have been constructed for the ceremony of the translation of St. Thomas’ relics. It is in this chair, and not in the archiepiscopal throne in the choir, that the archbishops are still enthroned. From the corona we have a view of the full length of the cathedral, which measures 514 feet, and is one of the longest of English cathedrals. Of the windows in Becket’s Crown, the centre one is ancient, while the rest are modern and afford a most instructive contrast.
St. Andrew’s Tower, or Chapel.—Leaving the Trinity Chapel, and descending the steps, we find on our right the door of St. Andrew’s Chapel which is now used as a vestry. Formerly, it was the sacristy, a place from which the pilgrims of humble rank were excluded, but where those of wealth and high station were allowed to gaze at a great array of silken vestments and golden candlesticks, and also the Martyr’s pearwood pastoral staff with its black horn crook, and his cloak and bloodstained kerchief. Here also was a chest “cased with black leather, and opened with the utmost reverence on bended knees, containing scraps and rags of linen with which (the story must be told throughout) the saint wiped his forehead and blew his nose” (Stanley). Erasmus describes this exhibition with a touch of scorn. “Fragmenta linteorum lacera plerumque macci vestigium servantia. His, ut aiebant, vir pius extergebat sudorem e facie,” etc. The walls of this chapel show many traces of fresco decoration: the pattern seems to have consisted of a clustering vine tree spread over the roof. In the north wall is a Norman chamber which originally served as the Treasury; the door is still secured by three locks, the keys of which were held by different officials. St. Andrew’s Chapel is part of Ernulf’s work, and the peculiar ornamentation which marks his hand may be noticed over the arch of the apse which terminates it.
The North-East Transept.—Passing along the choir aisle, we see the old Bible desk, holding the Bible which was[Pg 91] originally placed there, and was restored to this position by the late Bishop Parry. Next we enter the north-east transept, which in its architectural features is practically a repetition of the south-east transept, with which we have already dealt. The monument to Archbishop Tait, designed by Boehm, is well worthy of its surroundings. Above it, in the north wall, about ten feet from the ground, we may notice three slits in the wall. These are what are called hagioscopes. On the other side of the wall was a recess connected with the Prior’s Chapel. Through these hagioscopes—or “holy spy-holes”—the prior could see mass being celebrated at the high altar and at the altars below in the transept, without entering the cathedral. These transeptal altars are in the Chapels of St. Martin and St. Stephen which occupy two apses in the eastern wall. St. Martin is represented in a medallion of ancient glass preserved in the modern window, as dividing his coat with a beggar. Scratched on the walls are the names “Lanfrancus” and “Ediva Regina;” the bodies of Lanfranc and Queen Ediva were removed to this transept after the fire. Lanfranc originally lay in the old Trinity Chapel, and when this building was levelled to the ground, he was “carried to the vestiarium in his leaden covering, and there deposited until the community should decide what should be done with so great a Father.” Apparently the heavy sheet of lead was removed, for Gervase goes on to say that “Lanfranc having remained untouched for sixty-nine years, his very bones were consumed with rottenness, and nearly all reduced to powder. The length of time, the damp vestments, the natural frigidity of lead, and above all the frailty of the human structure, had conspired to produce this corruption. But the larger bones, with the remaining dust, were collected in a leaden coffer, and deposited at the altar of St. Martin.” Queen Ediva, as we learn from the same authority, “who before the fire reposed under a gilted feretrum in nearly the middle of the south cross, was now deposited at the altar of St. Martin, under the feretrum of Living,” an archbishop who died in 1020. Ediva, the wife of Edward the Elder, and a generous benefactress to the cathedral, died about 960.
From an early list of the subjects represented in the windows of the cathedral, it appears that the north windows of the north-east transept depicted the Parable of the Sower. The ancient glass, however, has been displaced, and a good[Pg 92] deal of it has been moved to the windows of the north choir aisle, between the transept and the Chapel of the Martyrdom, which are of great beauty, and should be examined carefully. In the transept itself are windows in memory of Dean Stanley, Dr. Spry, and Canon Cheshyre.
On the wall of the choir aisle, close to the transept, we can trace the remains of a fresco representing the conversion of St. Hubert. Further on, there hangs a picture, by Cross, which is intended to represent the murder of Becket. As a work of art it is not without merit, but its details are entirely inaccurate.
The North-West Transept, or Chapel of the Martyrdom.—The actual site of the tragedy which rendered Becket and his cathedral famous throughout Christendom was the North-West Transept, or as it was more commonly called the Chapel of the Martyrdom. Hardly any portion, however, of this structure as it stands actually witnessed the murder. In the time of Becket the transept was of two storeys, divided by a vault, which was upheld by a single pillar. The upper partition was dedicated to St. Blaise, and the lower to St. Benedict. In the west wall, as now, was a door which opened into the cloister.
The story of Becket and his quarrel with Henry II. will be dealt with in the next chapter. But before examining the spot on which he was assassinated it is perhaps fitting to recall the events which immediately preceded his death. Henry’s wrathful exclamation, which stirred the four knights to set out on their bloodthirsty mission, is well known. Whatever we may think of the methods employed by these warriors—Fitzurse, de Moreville, de Tracy, and le Bret were their names—we must at least concede that they were gifted with undaunted courage. To slay an anointed archbishop in his own cathedral was to do a deed from which the boldest might well shrink, in the days when excommunication was held to be a living reality, and the Church was believed to hold the power of eternal blessing or damnation in her hand. These men—who were all closely attached to the king’s person, and were sometimes described as his “cubicularii,” or Grooms of the Bedchamber—arrived at the gate of the archbishop’s palace in the afternoon of Tuesday, December 29th, 1170. With a curious want of directness they seem to have left their swords outside, and entered, and had a stormy interview with Becket; enraged by his unyielding[Pg 93] firmness, they went back for their weapons, and in the meantime the archbishop was hurried by the terrified monks through the cloister and into the cathedral, where the vesper service was being held. The knights quickly forced their way after him, and the monks locked and barricaded the cloister door. But Becket, who bore himself heroically through the whole scene, insisted that the door should be thrown open, exclaiming that “the church must not be turned into a castle.” Then all the monks but three fled in terror. Those who stayed urged Becket to hide himself in the crypt or in the Chapel of St. Blaise above. But he would not hear of concealment, but preferred to make his way to the choir that he might die at his post by the high altar. As he went up the steps towards the choir the knights rushed into the transept, calling for “the archbishop, the traitor to the king,” and Becket turned and came down, and confronted them by the pillar of the chapel. Clad in his white rochet, with a cloak and hood over his shoulders, he faced his murderers, who were now girt in mail from head to foot. They tried to seize him and drag him out of the sacred precinct, but he put his back against the pillar and hurled Tracy full-length on the pavement. Then commending his cause and the cause of the Church “to God, to St. Denys, the martyr of France, to St. Alfege, and to the saints of the Church,” he fell under the blows of the knights’ swords. The last stroke was from the hand of le Bret, it severed the crown of the archbishop’s head, and the murderer’s sword was shivered into two pieces. Then the assassins left the church, ransacked the palace, and plundered its treasures, and, lastly, rode off on horses from the stables, in which Becket had to the last taken especial pride.
Such is the brief outline of the events of this remarkable tragedy, for a fuller account of which we must refer our readers to the excellent description in Stanley’s “Memorials of Canterbury.” As we have already said, the present transept has been entirely rebuilt; although not damaged by the fire, it was reconstructed by Prior Chillenden at the time when he erected the present nave. It is even doubtful whether the present pavement is the same as that which was trodden by Becket and his murderers. A small square stone is still shown in the floor of the transept, as marking the exact spot on which the archbishop fell; it is said to have been inserted in place of the[Pg 94] original piece which was taken out and sent to Rome, but there is little or no authority for this statement. On the other hand, we read that Benedict, when he became Abbot of Peterborough, in order to supply his new cathedral with relics, in which it was sadly deficient, came back to Canterbury and carried off the stones which had been sprinkled with St. Thomas’s blood, and made therewith two altars for Peterborough.
In this transept an altar was erected, called the Altar of the Martyrdom, or the Altar of the Sword’s Point (altare ad punctum ensis), from the fact that upon it was laid the broken fragment of le Bret’s sword, which had been left on the pavement. Also, a portion of the martyr’s brains were kept under a piece of rock crystal, and a special official, called the Custos Martyrii, was appointed to guard these relics.
The chief window in this chapel was presented by Edward IV.; in it we can still see the figures of himself and his queen and his two daughters, and the two young princes who were murdered in the Tower. It originally contained representations of “seven glorious appearances” of the Virgin, and Becket himself in the centre, but all this portion was destroyed by Blue Dick, the Puritan zealot. The west window was the gift of the Rev. Robert Moore, sometime Canon of Canterbury; it is an elaborate piece of work depicting Becket’s martyrdom and scenes in his life.
Here also we see the very beautiful and interesting monument to Archbishop Peckham (1279-1292), the oldest Canterbury monument which survives in its entirety; even it has been encroached upon by the commonplace erection adjoining it, which commemorates Warham who was archbishop from 1503 to 1532, and was the friend of Erasmus.
The Dean’s Chapel.—Eastward of the north-west transept is the chapel which was formerly known as the Lady Chapel, but has latterly been named the Dean’s Chapel from the number of deans whose monuments have been placed here. It stands on the site of the Chapel of St. Benedict, and was built by Prior Goldstone, who dedicated it to the Blessed Virgin in 1460. The usual place for the Lady Chapel in cathedrals is, of course, at the extreme east end; but at Canterbury the situation was occupied by the shrine of St. Thomas. The principal altar to the Virgin in our cathedral was that in the crypt, in the “Chapel of Our Lady Undercroft.” The[Pg 95] vault of the Dean’s Chapel is noticeable. It is a fan vault, of the style developed to so great perfection in the Tudor period, as shown in Henry VII.’s Chapel at Westminster, and in the roof of the staircase leading to the dining-hall of Christ Church, Oxford. The architecture of this chapel is Perpendicular in style, and its delicate decoration should be carefully noticed; the screen which separates it from the Martyrdom Transept is also worthy of close attention. The monuments here are interesting rather than beautiful. Dean Fotherby is commemorated by a hideous erection bristling with skulls. Dean Boys is represented as he died, sitting among his books in his library; it is curious that the books are all apparently turned with the backs of the covers towards the wall, and the edges of the leaves outwards. Here also is the monument of Dean Turner, the faithful follower of Charles I.
The South-West Transept.—Crossing the cathedral through the passage under the choir steps, we find ourselves in the south-west transept, which, together with the nave and the north-west transept, was rebuilt by Prior Chillenden. In the pavement we see memorial stones to canons and other departed worthies. Among them is the tombstone of Meric Casaubon, Archbishop Laud’s prebendary, and son of Isaac Casaubon, the famous scholar.
St. Michael’s, or the Warrior’s Chapel.—Eastward of the south-west transept is a small chapel, generally known as that of St. Michael. In position and size it closely corresponds with the Dean’s Chapel on the north side of the church. In general style there is also some resemblance, but the vaulting of the roof is quite different; it is described by Professor Willis as “as a complex lierne vault of an unusual pattern, but resembling that of the north transept of Gloucester Cathedral, which dates from 1367 to 1372.” The exact date and the name of the builder of this chapel are alike uncertain, but it probably replaced the old Chapel of St. Michael at some time towards the end of the fourteenth century, and Willis comes to the conclusion that it is most probable that its erection may be ascribed to Prior Chillenden, and that “it formed part of the general scheme for the transformation of the western part of the church.”
A curious effect is presented by the tomb of Stephen Langton, who was archbishop from 1207 to 1228, and is famous as[Pg 96] having compelled King John to sign the Great Charter, and also as having divided the Bible into chapters. His tomb, shaped like a stone coffin, is half in the chapel and half under the eastern wall, and Professor Willis considers that it was originally outside the wall, in the churchyard; “and thus the new wall, when the chapel was rebuilt and enlarged in the fourteenth century, was made to stride over the coffin by means of an arch.” The reverence in which Langton’s memory was held is attested by the fact that his remains must have lain under the altar of the chapel, a most unusual position except in the case of celebrated saints. In the middle of the chapel is a very beautiful and interesting monument erected by Margaret Holland, who died in 1437, to the memory of her two husbands and herself. The monument is of alabaster and marble, and represents the lady reposing with her first spouse, John Beaufort, Earl of Somerset, and son of John of Gaunt, on her left, and Thomas, Duke of Clarence, her second husband, on her right. The latter was the second son of Henry IV., and, so, nephew of John of Somerset the first husband; he was killed at the battle of Baugé in 1421. Leland thinks that this chapel was built expressly for the reception of this tomb: “This chapel be likelihood was made new for the Honor of Erle John of Somerset,” but it is probably of rather earlier date than would be allowed by this theory. The figures of Margaret and her two lords are very fine and are interesting examples of fifteenth century costume. As such they may be contrasted with the effigy of Lady Thornhurst, who exhibits all the beauty of an Elizabethan ruff. Sir Thomas Thornhurst, whose monument is hard by, was killed in the ill-fated expedition to the Isle of Rhé. In the corner of the chapel is the bust of Sir George Rooke, Vice-Admiral, who led the assault on Gibraltar by which it was first captured. And the title of “Warrior’s” Chapel is further justified by the presence here of tattered standards, memorials of dead comrades, left by the famous Kentish regiment, “the Buffs.”
The Main Crypt.—Returning through the passage under the steps that lead up to the choir, we turn to the right into the crypt which originally supported Conrad’s “glorious choir.” On the wall as we enter we may notice some diaper-work ornamentation, interesting from the fact that a similar decoration may be traced on the wall of the chapter house at Rochester[Pg 97] for Ernulf who built the westward crypt, was afterwards made Bishop of Rochester. Willis tells us that there are five crypts in England under the eastern parts of cathedrals, namely, at Canterbury, Winchester, Gloucester, Rochester, and Worcester, and that they were all founded before 1085. “After this they were discontinued except as a continuation of former ones, as in Canterbury and Rochester.” This crypt of Ernulf’s replaced the earlier one set up by Lanfranc; Willis thinks it not impossible that the whole of the pier-shafts may have been taken[Pg 98] from the earlier crypt. “The capitals of the columns are either plain blocks or sculptured with Norman enrichments. Some of them, however, are in an unfinished state.” He describes minutely one of the capitals on the south-west side. “Of the four sides of the block two are quite plain. One has the ornament roughed out, or “bosted” as the workmen call it, that is, the pattern has been traced upon the block, and the spaces between the figures roughly sunk down with square edges preparatory to the completion. On the fourth side, the pattern is quite finished. This proves that the carving was executed after the stones were set in their places, and probably the whole of these capitals would eventually have been so ornamented had not the fire and its results brought in a new school of carving in the rich foliated capitals, which caused this merely superficial method of decoration to be neglected and abandoned. In the same way some of the shafts are roughly fluted in various fashions. The plain ones would probably have all gradually had the same ornament given to them, had not the same reasons interfered.” The crypt then stands as it was left by Ernulf except that some of the piers were afterwards strengthened and one new pillar was inserted in the aisle by William of Sens, in order to fit in with the new arrangement of the pillars in the choir which he was then rebuilding. It is therefore, of course, the oldest part of the church, and remains a most beautiful and interesting relic of Norman work in spite of the hot water pipe apparatus which now disfigures it, and its general air of unkempt untidiness. There are signs, however, that in this respect there is likely to be some improvement. The floor is being lowered to its original level by the removal of about a foot of accumulated dirt which had been heaping itself up for the last eight hundred years and had at last entirely smothered the bases of the columns, and it is even whispered that the part now cut off and used as the French church, may be opened out and restored to its original position as part of the main crypt.
According to Gervase, the whole of the crypt was dedicated to the Virgin Mary. Here stood the Chapel of Our Lady Undercroft, surrounded by Perpendicular stone-work screens, from which the altar-screen in the choir above was imitated. The shrine of the Virgin was exceedingly rich and was only shown to privileged worshippers: traces of decoration may still[Pg 99] be seen in the vault above. It was at the back of this shrine that Becket was laid between the time of his murder and his translation to the resting-place in the Trinity Chapel.
In the main crypt we may notice the monument of Isabel, Countess of Athol, who died in 1292; she was heiress of Chilham Castle, near Canterbury, and grand-daughter of King John. She was twice married, her second husband being Alexander, brother of John Baliol, King of Scotland. The monument of Lady Mohun of Dunster is in the south screen of the Chapel of Our Lady. She was ancestress of the present Earl of Derby, and founded a perpetual chantry. Lastly, here is the tomb of Cardinal Archbishop Morton, the friend of Sir Thomas More, and the faithful servant of the House of Lancaster; it was he who brought about the union of the Red and White Roses by arranging the marriage of Henry of Richmond with Elizabeth of York. As Henry VII.’s Chancellor he made great exactions under the euphonious title of “Benevolences,” and propounded the famous dilemma known as “Morton’s Fork,” by which he argued that those who lived lavishly must obviously have something to spare for the king’s service, while those who fared soberly must be grown rich on their savings, and so were equally fair game to the royal plunderer. He lies in the south-west corner of the crypt, and his monument, which has suffered considerably at the hands of the Puritans, bears the Tudor portcullis and the archbishop’s rebus, a hawk or mort standing on a tun.
In the south-east corner, under Anselm’s Tower, is a chapel generally known as that of St. John, sometimes as that of St. Gabriel. It has been divided into two compartments by a wall. There are some very interesting paintings on the roof, representing Our Lord in the centre of the angelic host, the Adoration of the Magi, and a figure of St. John; this work is believed to be of the thirteenth century. The central pillar of this chapel, with the curved fluting in the column and the quaintly grotesque devices of the figures carved on the capital, is well worthy of close examination. The grate that we see here was erected by the French Protestants, large numbers of whom fled to England during the persecution which was instituted against their sect in 1561. They were welcomed by Queen Elizabeth, and allowed to settle in Canterbury, where the cathedral crypt was made over to them to use as a weaving[Pg 100] factory. It is possible that the ridges in the floor of St. John’s Chapel are marks left by their looms, but more evident trace of their occupation is afforded by the inscriptions in French painted on the pillars and arches of the main crypt, and again by the custom which still survives of holding a French service in the south aisle of the crypt; this part has been walled off especially as a place of worship for the descendants of the French exiles, and here service is still held in the French tongue. Alterations have been lately made by which the French service is held in the Black Prince’s Chantry, and the part of the crypt formerly walled off has been merged with the rest of the crypt, which is thus completely thrown open. Access to the French church is now obtained from the crypt, and not from outside. This chantry was founded by the Black Prince in 1363 to commemorate his marriage with his cousin Joan, the “Fair Maid of Kent.” Here, according to the prince’s ordinance, two priests were to pray for his soul, in his lifetime and after; the situation of the two altars, at which the priests prayed, can still be traced. On the vaulting we see the[Pg 101] arms of the prince, and of his father, and what seems to be the face of his wife. In return for the permission to institute this chantry, the prince left to the monastery of Canterbury an estate which still belongs to the Chapter, the manor of Fawkes’ Hall. This was a piece of land in South Lambeth, which had been granted by King John to a baron called Fawkes. His name still survives in the word “Vauxhall.”
The Eastern Crypt.—The eastern portion of the crypt, under the Trinity Chapel and the corona, is a good deal more lofty than Ernulf’s building. We noticed the ascent from the choir and presbytery to the Trinity Chapel, and it is, of course, this greater elevation of the cathedral floor at the east end which accounts for the greater height of the eastern crypt. The effect, both above and below, is exceedingly happy. The most striking thing about the interior of the cathedral is the manner in which it rises—“church piled upon church”—from the nave to the corona, and this characteristic enabled William the Englishman to build a crypt below which has none of the cramped squatness which generally mars the effect of such buildings. “The lofty crypt below,” says Willis, “may be[Pg 102] considered the unfettered composition of the English architect. Its style and its details are wholly different from those of William of Sens. The work, from its position and office, is of a massive and bold character, but its unusual loftiness prevents it from assuming the nature of a crypt.... There is one detail of this crypt which differs especially from the work above. The abacus of each of the piers, as well as that of each central shaft, is round; but in the whole of the choir the abacuses are either square, or square with the corners cut off.”
It was in the smaller eastern crypt, which formerly occupied the site of William’s building which we are now examining, that Becket was hastily buried after his assassination, when his murderers were still threatening to come and drag his body out, “hang it on a gibbet, tear it with horses, cut it into pieces, or throw it in some pond to be devoured by swine or birds of prey.” And from that time until the translation of the relics in 1220, this was the most sacred spot in the cathedral, and it was known, down to Reformation times, as “Becket’s tomb.” Hither came the earliest pilgrims in the first rush of enthusiasm for the newly-canonized martyr. And here Henry II. performed that penance, which is one of the most striking examples of the Church’s power presented by history. We are told that he placed his head and shoulder in the tomb, and there received five strokes from each bishop and abbot who was present, and three from each of the eighty monks. After this castigation he spent the night in the crypt, fasting and barefooted. His penitence and piety were rewarded by the victory gained at Richmond, on that very day, by his forces over William the Lion of Scotland, who was taken prisoner, and afterwards, recognizing the power of the saint, founded the abbey of Aberbrothwick to Saint Thomas of Canterbury.
THE HISTORY OF THE SEE.
The history of the See of Canterbury may be said to have begun with the coming of Augustine, for there can be no doubt that it is owing to its being the settling-place of the first messengers of the gospel in Saxon England that Canterbury has been the metropolis of the English Church. Pope Gregory, with his usual thoroughness, sent to Augustine, soon after his arrival here, an elaborate scheme for the division of our island into sees, which were to be gradually developed as Christianity spread. According to his arrangement, there were to be two archbishops, one at London and one at York. But we cannot regret that this scheme was not carried out, as an archiepiscopal see is much more picturesquely framed by the hills which encircle Canterbury than it could have been by the dingy vastness of the political and social capital.
Augustine reached England in 597, and found that his path had been made easy by the fact that Bertha, wife of Ethelbert, King of Kent, was a Christian. He soon effected the conversion of the king himself, and his labours were so rapidly successful that at Christmas, 597, no less than ten thousand Saxons were baptized at the mouth of the Medway. The archiepiscopal pall, and a papal Bull, creating Augustine first English archbishop, were duly sent from Rome, and the royal palace in Canterbury, with an old church—Roman or British—close by, were handed over to him by Ethelbert. The first archbishop died in 605, and was buried, according to the old Roman custom, by the side of the high road which had brought him to Canterbury. A few years later, however, his remains were transferred to the Abbey of SS. Peter and Paul, which had then just been completed.
[Pg 104] Augustine was succeeded by one of the monks who had originally come with him from Rome. The new archbishop’s name was Lawrence; he had been already consecrated by Augustine in his lifetime. This unusual measure was thought to be necessary, as the Church had hardly yet established itself in a strong position. Indeed, so weak was its hold over its rapidly acquired converts, that when Ethelbert’s son, who succeeded his father in 616, backslid into the path of heathendom, the great majority of the people followed the royal example, and Lawrence, together with the Bishops of London and Rochester, prepared to leave England altogether, as a country hopelessly abandoned to paganism. However, the archbishop determined to make one more attempt to maintain his position, and succeeded in terrifying the king, by a pretended miracle, into becoming a Christian. He then recalled the two bishops who had already crossed to France, and on his death, in 619, was succeeded by the Bishop of London, Mellitus. Mellitus only held the Primacy till 624, when his place was filled by Justin, who also had a brief archiepiscopal life, being succeeded in 627 by Honorius. This archbishop held the see for twenty-six years, till 653, and it was not until 655 that his successor was appointed.
So far the archbishops had all been foreigners who had come over either with Augustine or with the second company of missionaries who were despatched by Gregory soon after Ethelbert’s conversion. In 655, however, a native Englishman, named Frithona, was consecrated by the Saxon Bishop of Rochester, and adopted the name of Deus Dedit. He ruled at Canterbury till 664, and after his death the see remained vacant for four years, probably owing to the plague which was then wasting all Europe, and caused the death of Wighard, a Saxon, who had started for Rome to receive his consecration there. But in 668, Theodore, a native of Tarsus in Cecilia, was appointed, and was welcomed by the members of the torn and divided English Church. He devoted all his energy to centralizing and consolidating the power of the archbishop, which had been hitherto largely nominal. He journeyed all over England, correcting the prevalent laxity of discipline and establishing the control of the metropolitan authority. He went so far as to interfere with the Archbishopric of York, and with the help of the king attempted to divide it into three sees.[Pg 105] He was, moreover, an enthusiastic scholar, and first diffused the study of Greek in England. He had brought a copy of Homer with him, and is said to have established a school of Greek in Canterbury. He died in 690, and after his death there was no archbishop for three years. In 693, one Brethwald, an English monk, some time Abbot of Reculver, was appointed to the see. The Saxon Church shows that it had benefited by Theodore’s rigorous discipline, in that it was henceforth able to supply its own archbishops; it had now securely established itself all over the country, and the last home of paganism, which, curiously enough, held its own longest in Sussex, had been finally converted in Theodore’s time. Brethwald ruled till 731, and was followed by Tatwin (731-734) and Nothelm (734-740). In 740 Cuthbert became archbishop. He seems to have been an interesting personage with a good deal of zeal for reform; he is recorded to have assembled a synod at Cliff to discuss measures for the improvement of the lives and behaviour both of clergy and laity. Probably at his instigation the synod ordained that the Lord’s Prayer and the Creed should be taught in the vulgar tongue; he was the first archbishop buried in the cathedral. He was succeeded by Bregwin, who held the see from 759 to 765. He was an exception among the series of English primates, being of German origin. During the rule of the next archbishop, Jaenbert, an attempt was made to transfer the primacy from Canterbury. Offa, the King of Mercia, had established himself in a position of commanding power, and wishing that the seat of the chief ecclesiastical authority should be within his own dominion, obtained a Bull from Pope Adrian I. by which an Archbishop of Lichfield was created, with a larger see than that of Canterbury. Jaenbert seems to have acquiesced, though doubtless most unwillingly, in this arrangement, but in spite of the central situation of Lichfield, the traditional claims of Canterbury were too strong, and Adulf was the first and last Archbishop of Lichfield. Athelard, who succeeded Jaenbert in 790, had the primacy restored to him. The Northmen began their raids on the English coasts at this time, and their ravages probably continued through the days of his successors, Wulfred, Feologild, Ceolnoth, and Ethelred (805-889).
In 889 the learned Plegmund, formerly tutor of Alfred,[Pg 106] was by his quondam pupil’s influence made Archbishop of Canterbury. It was during his time that the sees of Wells for Somerset and Crediton for Devonshire were established.
Odo (942-959), called “the severe,” was born a pagan Dane of East Anglia, but having been received into a noble Saxon family, was duly baptized into the faith. He was appointed to the Wiltshire bishopric by Athelstane, and combined in his person the characters of the warlike Dane and the Christian churchman. Like his successor Dunstan, Odo made his chief objects in life the maintenance of the Church’s supremacy and the reformation of the married clergy. He bore his archbishopric with much pomp and dignity through the reigns of Edmund, Edred, and Edwy. He was responsible for Dunstan’s conduct on the occasion of King Edwy’s coronation, though it is not known how far he sanctioned the cruelties subsequently practised on Elgiva. Odo reconstructed and enlarged the cathedral.
His immediate successor was Elsi, Bishop of Winchester, but this archbishop died while on his way to Rome to receive his pall from the Pope.
Dunstan (960-988), the next archbishop, continued Odo’s crusade against the married clergy, which he conducted relentlessly. In many cases the secular clergy were turned out of their livings to make room for members of the regular monkish orders. Even with these harsh measures and the employment of miracles the archbishop does not seem to have succeeded in enforcing celibacy among the clergy. Dunstan was born in Somersetshire of noble parents, and educated at the Abbey of Glastonbury. He became abbot of that place, and Bishop of Worcester and London. At the coronation of Edwy he intruded himself into the king’s presence, and was afterwards obliged to retire to Ghent. He held the See of Canterbury for twenty-seven years, and on his death was buried in the cathedral, where countless miracles are said to have been worked at his tomb.
Alphege (1005-1012), Prior of Glastonbury, migrated thence[Pg 107] to Bath, where he founded the great abbey, afterwards united to the See of Wells. After holding the See of Winchester for twenty-two years, he was translated to Canterbury. When in 1011 Canterbury was sacked by the Danes, he was carried off a prisoner, and on his refusal to ransom himself, was barbarously murdered by his captors. His body was ransomed by the people of London and buried at St. Paul’s Cathedral, whence it was removed to Canterbury by Canute. Subsequently, in the time of Lanfranc, he was canonized.
Living (1013-1020) also suffered much from the Danes, who from this time continued their incursions until the reign of Canute.
Egelnoth (1020-1038) is described as the first dean of the Canterbury canons who seem to have acquired an ascendancy over the monks ever since the massacre of the latter by the Danes in 1011. He restored the cathedral after the damages inflicted by the invaders.
Robert of Jumièges (1051-1052) was one of the many Normans who were brought over into England by King Edward the Confessor; he took an active part in the king’s quarrel with the great Earl Godwin, and in the reaction which followed against the Normans retired to Jumièges, where he remained till his death.
Stigand (1052-1070), Bishop of Winchester, held this see conjointly with that of Canterbury. He was remarkable for his avarice. His espousal of the cause of Edgar the Atheling led the Conqueror to regard him with suspicion. William took the archbishop with him when he returned into Normandy, and eventually dispossessed him, along with some other bishops and abbots, at a synod held at Winchester in the year 1070. Stigand was imprisoned at Winchester, where he eventually died, resisting to the last the attempts made by the king to elicit information as to the whereabouts of the vast treasures which he had accumulated and hidden.
Lanfranc (1070-1089) was the first Norman Archbishop of Canterbury. He was born at Pavia, and educated at the monastery of Bec, in Normandy, then the most remarkable seat of learning existing in Europe. His conspicuous abilities raised him to the position of prior of the monastery. He was subsequently abbot of the new monastery which William of Normandy[Pg 108] founded at Caen, and on the deposition of Stigand was called over by that king to complete the subjection and reform of the Anglo-Saxon Church, which task he undertook with much zeal and not a little high-handed procedure. He assisted the king in the removal of the Saxon bishops and the substitution of Normans in their places, as also in the reformation of the great English monasteries which appear to have fallen into considerable disorder. Lanfranc’s character was remarkable for its firmness, and brought him into frequent collision with the imperious temper of his royal master. On one occasion Lanfranc insisted on the restoration of twenty-five manors which belonged to the archiepiscopal see, and which had been appropriated by Odo, Bishop of Bayeux, William’s half-brother. William, however, continued to honour his able servant, and during the king’s absence in Normandy, Lanfranc held the office of chief justiciary and vice-regent within the realm, and maintained his independent attitude against all the world, refusing to go to Rome at the summons of the pope. Lanfranc crowned William II., and as long as he lived did much to moderate that monarch’s rapacious attacks on the wealth of the Church. He rebuilt the cathedral which had fallen into ruin, and founded the great monastery of Christ Church. He was the author of a celebrated treatise in refutation of the doctrine of Berengarius of Tours, on the subject of the Real Presence, and was present at the council held in Rome by Leo IX., in which Berengarius was condemned. He lies buried in the nave of his cathedral, but the exact spot is not known.
Anselm (1093-1109) was born at Aosta, and studied under Lanfranc at Bec, when he succeeded him as Prior of the Convent, and subsequently became abbot. He visited England on the invitation of Hugh the Fat, Earl of Chester, and while there was called in by the king and made Archbishop of Canterbury. Rufus had kept the see vacant, and appropriated the revenues of this and many other Church properties, and was only induced by the fear of impending death to appoint Anselm to the see. Anselm was with difficulty persuaded to accept the post, but from that hour posed as the firm champion of the rights of the Church, and the opponent and denouncer of the king’s exactions and the general immorality of the times. He refused to receive his pall at the hands of the king, but eventually agreed to take it himself from the high altar of the[Pg 109] cathedral at Canterbury. Though deserted by his bishops he held his own against the king until an accusation of failing in his duty to supply troops for the king’s Welsh expedition drove him into exile and he made his way to Rome, when his learning created much sensation and was enlisted against the errors of the Greek Church on the subject of the procession of the Holy Ghost. On his accession to the throne, Henry I., as part of his reversal of his brother’s ecclesiastical policy recalled Anselm from banishment and filled up the vacant see. But Anselm remained firm on the subject of the rights of the church in the matter of the investiture of the clergy, and refused to consecrate the bishops who had received their investiture from the king, or to do homage or swear fealty to Henry. The king, on his side, was determined to uphold the rights of the crown and the matter was referred to the pope. Anselm had to visit Rome in person, and meeting with but lukewarm support from the pope agreed at last to a compromise, at Bec, in 1106, by which the king surrendered the symbols of the ring and crozier, while retaining his right to the oaths of fealty and homage. Anselm returned to England and spent the last two years of his life in comparative repose: he died at Canterbury, and was buried near Lanfranc, but his remains were afterwards removed to the tower that bears his name. After his death the see was again vacant for five years, and was managed by Ralf, Bishop of Rochester, who was however made archbishop later; he was a disciple of Lanfranc, but as an archbishop was unimportant.
William de Corbeuil (1123-1136) was the first archbishop who received the title of Papal Legate. He crowned King Stephen after solemnly swearing to support the cause of Matilda, and is said to have died of remorse for his conduct in the matter. He completed the restoration of the cathedral and dedicated it with much pomp and display.
Theobald (1139-1161), the next archbishop, had been Abbot of Bec, and was a Benedictine. His importance as archbishop was much overshadowed by Henry of Blois, Bishop of Winchester, and brother of King Stephen. The pope granted him the title of “Legatus natus,” which was retained by his successors until the Reformation. The life of this prelate was one of varying fortunes, and he was twice in exile. He eventually, along with Henry of Blois, took an important part in the final compromise which was effected between the factions of Stephen[Pg 110] and Matilda. On his death the see remained vacant for more than a year.
Thomas Becket (1162-1170) was the son of a London merchant, and was educated among the Augustinian canons of Merton, in Surrey. He came under the patronage of Archbishop Theobald whom he accompanied when the latter visited Rome. While still only a deacon Becket received many ecclesiastical benefices, including the Archdeaconry of Canterbury. About 1155 he was appointed Chancellor, through the influence of Theobald, and thenceforward, until he became archbishop enjoyed the most intimate friendship and confidence of King Henry II. His magnificence and authority during this period of his career exceeded that of the most powerful nobles, and created much sensation in France whither he was dispatched to demand the hand of the Princess Margaret for the king’s infant son. When offered the Archbishopric of Canterbury he is said to have warned the king that his acceptance of the office would entail his devotion to God and his order in preference to the interests of the king. He was however persuaded to accept the primacy, and after being duly ordained priest was consecrated archbishop by Henry of Blois, the Bishop of Winchester.
From this moment onwards the entire character and attitude of Becket was changed. He gave up his old pomp and magnificence and devoted himself to monastic severity and works of charity: he furthermore insisted on resigning his temporal offices, including that of chancellor, and engaged on his lifelong struggle with the king on the subject of the privileges of the clergy.
Since the separation of the bishops from the secular courts by the Conqueror, a gross system of abuse had arisen under which all persons who could read and write could claim exemption from the jurisdiction of the ordinary secular courts, and insist on being tried only before their own ecclesiastical tribunal. The spiritual courts could inflict no corporal punishment, and the result was that many guilty persons escaped punishment at their hands, and the benefit of clergy came to mean a practical licence to commit crimes. This was naturally in radical opposition to the judicial policy of Henry II., and matters were brought to a climax by the scandalous case of Philip Brois, a murderer, whom Becket rescued from the king’s[Pg 111] justice and condemned to a totally inadequate sentence. The king determined to clear the question of all doubt, and to this end drew up the famous constitutions of Clarendon in which the clergy was subjected equally with the laity to the common laws of the land. The archbishop took the oath, but refused to sign the constitution, as he insisted on the immunity of the clergy from all secular jurisdiction. On retiring from the council he sought and obtained absolution from his oath at the hands of the pope—Alexander III.—who, insecure in his own position, and unable to dispense with the friendship of the King of England, maintained a vacillating attitude in the quarrel between Becket and Henry. The king now began a systematic persecution of the archbishop. He was pressed with various charges, and finally was ordered to account for the moneys which he had received from the vacant See of Canterbury and other ecclesiastical properties in his capacity as Chancellor. There seems small reason to doubt that the charge was an unjust one, and was merely employed by the king as an instrument of offence against his political adversary. The archbishop came before the council in all the pomp and panoply of his office, and bearing his own cross, as he had been deserted by most of his bishops. After an exciting scene he escaped before any definite judgment was pronounced, and took refuge in France, where he was hospitably and honourably received by King Louis VII. Here he continued his struggle with the King of England. Henry seized upon the revenues of the See of Canterbury, and banished all Becket’s kinsmen, dependants, and friends. Becket replied by solemnly denouncing the constitution of Clarendon, and excommunicating all who should enforce them. After further contentions and fruitless negotiations Henry issued a proclamation withdrawing his subjects’ obedience to the archbishop, enforced by an oath from all freemen. This oath many of the bishops refused to take. The pope, under temporary pressure from Becket’s enemies, authorized the Archbishop of York to crown the young prince Henry: and the supremacy of the See of Canterbury over all England, being thus called in question, became thenceforward one of the principal subjects of dispute between Becket and the king. The action of the king was unpopular, and Henry, seeing that he had gone too far, consented to enter on some sort of reconciliation with Becket, who ventured to return to England. In[Pg 112] spite of the manifest danger in which he found himself, Becket, on his return to England, continued his high-handed policy, excommunicating the Archbishop of York and others of his enemies. On hearing of this conduct Henry’s fury got the better of him, and his famous exclamation led to the departure of the four knights to Canterbury. They demanded the immediate removal of the excommunication. Becket was hurried into the cathedral by the monks and murdered at the altar.
On his death he was immediately canonized, and many miracles occurred at his tomb. Henry himself was ordered to do penance for his death. The fame of his shrine brought countless pilgrims to Canterbury, which was thus for the first time raised to a position of importance throughout the whole of Europe.
Richard (1174-1184), Prior of Dover, was the next archbishop: he had been present at Becket’s murder and helped to convey his body to the crypt. He was somewhat indifferent to spiritual matters, and was chiefly occupied in supporting the supremacy of the See of Canterbury over that of York, a question which led to at least one scene of unseemly disturbance in which the Archbishop of York nearly lost his life. One result of the quarrel was the conferring of the title of “Primate of England,” and “Primate of all England,” on the Archbishops of York and Canterbury respectively, by the pope.
Baldwin (1185-1190) was the first monk of the Cistercian order who held the See of Canterbury. He came into collision with the Benedictine monks with whom the election to the primacy had always rested, and whom he attempted in vain to deprive of that privilege in favour of a body of canons at Lambeth, which he purchased for the see. He accompanied Richard Cœur de Lion to the Holy Land, and died in camp before Acre.
Reginald Fitz Jocelyn, Bishop of Bath and Wells, was next elected, but died before receiving the pall.
Hubert Walter (1193-1205) was born at West Derham, in Norfolk, and educated by Ranulph de Glanville: he was made Bishop of Salisbury, and accompanied Richard I. to the Holy Land. When archbishop he held the office of Justiciary, but was removed from the latter by a Papal Bull since it compelled him to judge “causes of blood.” He became chancellor, and conducted the duties of his high offices in[Pg 113] an admirable manner. The laws enacted under Richard I. are said to have been drawn up by him, and he completed the house of regular canons at Lambeth. He was buried in his own cathedral where his effigy still remains.
After some disputes on the subject of election, the Pope, Innocent III., was appealed to and decided in favour of
Stephen Langton (1207-1228) who was an Englishman of spotless character and profound theological learning: he was consecrated at Peterborough by Innocent III. The “fury of King John knew no bounds,” he drove the monks of Canterbury to Flanders, and refused to allow Langton to set foot in England. The result of this conduct was the publication of the celebrated Interdict, followed soon after by the personal excommunication of the king and the absolution of his subjects from their oath of allegiance by the pope. Philip of France was ordered to depose the English king, whose crown was declared forfeited. Hard pressed by his enemies, and having alienated his people from his cause, King John was driven to humiliating submission: he promised to receive Langton and to restore the Church property, and finally, formally resigned his crown into the hands of Pandulph, the Papal Legate. Archbishop Langton was received with honour, and King John threw himself at his feet and reconciled himself with the Church. He also ordered a great council to meet at St. Alban’s to settle finally the restitution of the church property. Here, however, he was met by an open declaration of the complaints of all classes. Langton, though elevated to the primacy, entirely through the influence of the pope, proved himself a staunch Englishman, and posed as the champion of national liberty against the claims of both pope and king. It was he who produced to the malcontents the Coronation Charter of Henry I., which the barons accepted as a declaration of the views and demands of their party. He was at the head of the barons in their struggle with the king, and his name appears as that of the first witness to the famous Magna Charta. John at once applied to the pope, and obtained from him the abrogation of the charter and a papal order to Langton to excommunicate the king’s enemies. This he refused to do. John overran the country with foreign mercenaries, and his cruelties eventually resulted in the barons summoning Louis of France to their assistance. Langton was summoned to Rome to attend the[Pg 114] Lateran Council, and was detained there until the deaths of Innocent III. and King John, after which he was permitted to return to his see and passed the remainder of his life in comparative tranquillity, siding strongly with the national party under Hubert de Burgh. He presided at the translation of Becket’s remains from the crypt to Trinity Chapel; he rebuilt much of the archiepiscopal palace at Canterbury and he lies buried in his own cathedral. He was the first who divided the Bible into chapters.
Richard de Wethershed (1229-1231), Chancellor of Lincoln, was next appointed, but died on his way back from Italy. After three more elections by the monks which were all set aside by the pope, Honorius III., the monks consented to accept
Edmund Rich (1234-1240), treasurer of Salisbury: he was the son of a merchant of Abingdon, and was educated at Oxford University. He had a great reputation for learning and piety. He came into disfavour with the king by his opposition to the marriage of his sister Eleanor to Simon de Montfort. His sympathies were all on the side of the national party: he procured the downfall of Des Roches and maintained the struggle against the foreign favourites and papal exactions for which the reign of Henry III. is notorious. At length he retired to the Cistercian Abbey at Pontigny, which had formerly sheltered Becket and Langton, in despair at the condition of England and of her Church. It was during his time that the great movements of the Dominican and Franciscan friars reached England and though the archbishop never actually joined their ranks, he was doubtless much influenced by their teaching and example, and was himself an itinerant preacher after leaving Oxford. He was canonized six years after his death. He was succeeded by
Boniface of Savoy (1241-1270), one of the king’s uncles, whose violence and warlike bearing made him a strange contrast to his predecessor. His term of office was one long history of papal exactions from the English clergy, and of the tyranny of foreigners, creatures of Henry III., over the rights of the nation. The revenues of the See of Canterbury and the enormous sums wrung from the clergy were squandered on foreign wars, and the archbishop himself resided abroad. Boniface took a leading part in the spoliation of the English Church:[Pg 115] he was one of the king’s council at the so-called “Mad Parliament.”
Robert Kilwardby (1273-1278) was nominated by the pope, after a fruitless election of their subprior by the monks. He was a very learned Dominican, educated at Oxford and Paris.
John Peckam (1279-1292) was, like his predecessor, nominated by the pope after an education at Oxford and Paris; he also was a Franciscan. He was at first a staunch supporter of King Edward I., whom he accompanied to Wales. It is to be regretted that he supported the king in his cruelties to the conquered Welsh and in the expulsion of the Jews. He firmly defended the privileges of his see against first, the Archbishop of York, and secondly, the king. It was in his time (1279) that the famous Statute of Mortmain was passed. The exactions of the papacy had been considerably lessened, and the Church was beginning to recover its wealth and national character. Peckam died at Mortlake, and was buried in the transept of the martyrdom at Canterbury, where his tomb and effigy still remain.
Robert Winchelsea (1292-1313) was next nominated, king and clergy being unanimous on this occasion, and at once proceeded to Rome, where he remained some time before returning to England. Meanwhile, Edward I. had demanded the enormous subsidy of one half their annual revenue from the clergy. Winchelsea is said to have been responsible for the celebrated Bull Clericis laicis issued by Boniface VIII. in defence of the property of the Church. On his return home the archbishop continued to lead the clergy in their opposition to the king’s demands, and paid the penalty in the seizure of his whole estate for the king’s use. He retired with a single chaplain to a country parsonage, discharged the humble duties of a priest, and lived on the alms of his flocks. When the war broke out Edward sought to propitiate the clergy by restoring the archbishop to his barony, and summoning him to a parliament at Westminster, where the clergy abandoned their own ground of ecclesiastical immunity from taxation and took shelter under the liberties of the realm, thus identifying themselves with the popular cause in their opposition to the exactions of the king. On his return from Flanders Edward accused Winchelsea of conspiring against him in his[Pg 116] absence, and the archbishop was again deprived of all his possessions, and, after many privations, escaped to France.
On the accession of Edward II. he was recalled and restored to his honour, but subsequently became again the centre of revolution, and himself excommunicated the king’s favourite, Gaveston. He nevertheless continued undisturbed in the discharge of his office until his death. During his prosperous years Winchelsea was famous for his charities and liberality. After his death he was regarded as a saint, and his shrine in the south-east transept was removed by the commissioners of Henry VIII. at the same time as that of Saint Thomas à Becket.
Walter Reynolds (1313-1327) was appointed by the pope at the request of the king, who had set aside an election of the monks. He was tutor and subsequently Chancellor to Edward II. After Gaveston’s death he became Keeper of the Great Seal. He obtained many bulls of privilege from Rome. In spite of the favour he had received from Edward II. he deserted him in his troubles. His tomb remains in the south aisle of the choir.
Simon Mepeham (1328-1333) was elected by the monks and consecrated at Avignon. He was opposed in his visitation by Grandisson, the powerful Bishop of Exeter, who refused him admission to his cathedral by force. He was unsupported by the pope, and is said to have died of a broken heart in consequence. His tomb forms the screen of St. Anselm’s Chapel.
John Stratford (1333-1348) was appointed by the pope at the request of Edward III. He was educated at Merton College, Oxford, and became Archdeacon of Lincoln and Bishop of Winchester. He was made Lord Treasurer by Edward II., to whose cause he remained faithful during the short-lived triumph of Isabella and the desertion of the archbishop. Edward III. made him Lord Chancellor, in which office he was succeeded by his own brother, Robert. Stratford had endeavoured to dissuade the king from entering on the French war, and the king, hard pressed for money, had the archbishop arraigned for high treason. Stratford fled from Lambeth to Canterbury, where he excommunicated his accusers. He subsequently returned to London and sheltered himself, not under his ecclesiastical immunity, but under his[Pg 117] privileges of parliament as a member of the House of Peers, a significant landmark in the history of the English Church. The quarrel between the king and the archbishop was amicably settled.
Stratford held exalted opinions on the subject of clerical superiority, and his arraignment, without the support of the pope, was a decisive blow against the power of the Church. In his time, also, a layman was for the first time appointed to the office of Chancellor, and Edward III. wrote a letter to the pope protesting against the frequent papal nominations to vacant English sees, which was followed up by the Statute of Provisors in 1350. Stratford died at Mayfield in Sussex, and was buried in his own cathedral, where his monument still remains.
Thomas Bradwardine (1349) was consecrated after election by the monks of Christ Church after the death of John Ufford, the king’s nominee, who died of the Black Death before consecration. Bradwardine had been the king’s confessor. He was educated at Merton College, and was one of the best geometers of his time, besides being the author of an important tract against Pelagianism.
Simon Islip (1349-1366), the king’s secretary, built most of the palace at Mayfield, and completed that at Maidstone. He founded and endowed Canterbury Hall, now forming one of the quadrangles of Christ Church, Oxford, in which he endeavoured to bring together the monastic and secular priests.
Simon Langham (1366-1368) had been Bishop of Ely, Treasurer of England, and Lord Chancellor, and also Prior and Abbot of Westminster. On being appointed a cardinal by the Pope Urban V., he resigned his archbishopric, the temporal powers and revenues of which had been seized by the king, and died at Avignon.
William Whittlesea (1368-1374), a nephew of Islip, was translated from Worcester.
Simon of Sudbury (1375-1381) was Chancellor of Salisbury and Bishop of London, whence he was transferred to Canterbury. As chancellor he proposed the famous poll tax, which supplied the motive for Wat Tyler’s rebellion, and, as archbishop, caused to be imprisoned the priest, John Ball. He was captured in the tower, and beheaded during Wat Tyler’s rebellion; his body was eventually removed to [Pg 118]Canterbury, and buried in the south aisle of the choir. He built the west gate at Canterbury, and a great part of the city walls.
William Courtenay (1381-1396) was, like his predecessor, translated from the See of London. In a synod he condemned twenty-four articles in the writing of Wycliffe, who was unjustly held responsible for the recent rebellion. Much persecution of Wycliffe’s followers ensued. Courtenay succeeded in establishing his right to visit his province, although opposed by the Bishops of Exeter and Salisbury. His monument adjoins that of the Black Prince.
Thomas Arundel (1396-1414) was translated from the See of York. He was involved in the conspiracy for which his brother, the Earl of Arundel, was executed, and was himself exiled. He was restored after Bolingbroke’s success, and received the abdication of Richard II. In 1400 the statute De haeretico comburendo was enacted, and Arundel began to put it in force against the Lollards. He condemned Sawtree, the first English Protestant martyr, to be burnt, and took a prominent part in the attack upon Sir John Oldcastle. In the parliament of 1407 he defended the clergy against the attempts of the Commons to shift the burden of taxation upon the wealth of the Church.
Henry Chichele (1414-1443) was educated at New College, Oxford. He became successively Archdeacon of Dorset and of Salisbury, and Bishop of St. David’s. He supported Henry V. in his unjust claim to the crown of France, and promised large subsidies from the Church for its support. There is no doubt that this was a successful attempt at diverting the popular attention from threatened attempts on the wealth of the Church. He was reproached by the Pope Martin V. with lack of zeal in the interests of the papacy in not procuring the reversal of the statutes of provisors and of præmunire by which, amongst others, the papal power was held in check in England. Among his foundations are the colleges of St. Bernard (afterwards St. John’s), and All Souls, at Oxford, and a library at Canterbury for the monks of Christ Church. In his old age he was stricken with remorse for his sin in instigating the French war, and applied to the pope for permission to resign his see. Before a reply was received the archbishop died, after holding the see for nearly thirty years, [Pg 119]a longer time than any of his predecessors. His tomb, constructed by himself during his lifetime, is in the north aisle of the choir, and is kept in repair by the Fellows of All Souls.
John Stafford (1443-1452), Bishop of Bath and Wells, was nominated by the pope with the king’s consent on the recommendation of Chichele. He also held the office of chancellor for ten years, but was undistinguished in either office. He lies in the south aisle of the choir.
John Kemp (1452-1454), Archbishop of York, succeeded. He was educated at Merton College, and was Archdeacon of Durham and Bishop of Rochester, Chichester, and London. He died at an advanced age, after a very brief primacy, and was buried in the north choir aisle.
Thomas Bourchier (1454-1486), Bishop of Ely, was next elected by the monks. He was a great-grandson of Edward III. He was educated at Oxford, of which university he became chancellor; he subsequently held the sees of Worcester and Ely. His lot fell upon difficult times, and he endeavoured to maintain a position of neutrality in the struggle between the two Roses, and at last effected their union by performing the marriage of Henry VII. with Elizabeth of York. He died soon after, and his tomb remains at Canterbury. He was bishop for fifty-one years, out of which he held the primacy for thirty-two years. He actively encouraged education, and helped to introduce printing into this country.
John Morton (1486-1500) was, like his predecessor, translated from Ely. He was educated at Balliol College. Richard of Gloucester, after making vain overtures to him, removed him from his office and committed him to the Tower, and afterwards to Brecknock Castle, whence he escaped and joined the Earl of Richmond on the Continent. After Bosworth he was recalled, and on Bourchier’s death was made archbishop. In 1493 he obtained a cardinal’s hat. In 1487 he was made Lord Chancellor, and continued for thirteen years, until his death, in this office and in the confidence of the king, whom he assisted in his system for controlling the great feudal barons and in the exaction of “benevolence.” His famous dilemma propounded to the merchants was known as “Morton’s fork.” It was he who prevailed upon the Pope to canonize Archbishop Anselm. His tomb, constructed during his lifetime, may be seen in the crypt of his cathedral.
[Pg 120] Henry Dean (1501-1503) was translated from Salisbury; he held the Great Seal, with the title of Lord Keeper, after the death of Morton.
William Warham (1503-1532) was born of a good Hampshire family, and educated at Winchester and New College. He was sent to Burgundy on a mission to protest against the support of Perkin Warbeck by the Duchess Margaret. He held the offices of Lord Keeper, Lord Chancellor, Master of the Rolls, and Bishop of London. He crowned King Henry VIII., and protested from the first against his marriage with Catherine. He was a great rival of Wolsey, and retired from the court until the fall of the cardinal. In the disputes of the time he embraced the side of the old religion, and gave some countenance to Elizabeth Barton, the Nun of Kent. The last part of his life was devoted to the cares of his diocese and to letters, which he cultivated diligently. He was a personal friend of Erasmus, whom he induced to visit England. His tomb remains in the Transept of the Martyrdom.
Thomas Cranmer (1533-1556) may be considered the first Protestant archbishop. From the first he would only accept the archbishopric as coming from the king without intervention of the pope. He was born of a good family in Nottinghamshire, and was educated at Cambridge, where he became fellow of Jesus. He was first brought to the king’s notice by his suggestion that the question of Catherine’s divorce might be settled without reference to the pope. The king set him to write on the subject, and he was rewarded with the Archdeaconry of Taunton. In 1530 he accompanied the Earl of Wiltshire to the papal court, and was there offered preferment by the pope. He married the niece of Osiander, who had himself written on the subject of the divorce. On Warham’s death he succeeded him in the primacy, and returned to England. As archbishop, Cranmer pronounced the divorce against Catherine and crowned Anne Boleyn, and was sponsor to the Princess Elizabeth, whom he baptized. After Anne Boleyn’s trial he pronounced her marriage void, and acted as her confessor in the Tower. Throughout his primacy Cranmer actively supported the reforming party. In 1539 he was one of the commissioners for inspecting into the matter of religion. In 1545 he was accused of heresy by the opposite[Pg 121] party led by Gardiner, and would have fallen but for the support of the king, who befriended Cranmer throughout his life, and sent for him to attend his death-bed. Great changes had occurred at Canterbury. Becket’s shrine had been destroyed, and a dean and twelve canons were established in place of the old monastery of Christ Church, which was dissolved. Under Henry’s will Cranmer was appointed one of the Regents of the Kingdom and Executors of the Will, and it was he who crowned Edward VI. who, like Elizabeth, was his godchild. Throughout the reign of Edward, Cranmer earnestly supported the cause of the Reformation. The Six Articles were repealed and the first Book of Common Prayer was issued. On the death-bed of Edward, Cranmer signed the king’s will, in which he appointed Lady Jane Grey his successor. On the accession of Queen Mary he was at once ordered to appear before the council and within a month was committed to the Tower. In November, 1553, he was pronounced guilty of high treason, but was pardoned on this count, and it was decided to proceed against him as a heretic. In 1554 he was sent to Oxford, with Latimer and Ridley, where he remained two years in prison and was condemned as a heretic by two successive commissions. After the death of Latimer and Ridley, Cranmer was degraded and deprived. It was after this that, in the hopes of saving his life, he made his famous recantation. He was brought into St. Mary’s, and in his address to the people withdrew his recantation and declared that his right hand which had signed it should be the first to burn. He was hurried to the place of execution opposite Balliol College, and, when the pyre was lighted, held his right hand in the flames till it was consumed, and died, calling on the Lord Jesus to receive his spirit.
Reginald Pole (1556-1558) a near connection of Henry VIII. then succeeded. He was born in Worcestershire and was educated by the Carthusians at Shene and at Magdalen College, Oxford. He was early advanced to the Deanery of Exeter and other preferments. On leaving Oxford he visited the universities of France and Italy and returned to England in 1525. Henry attempted in vain to secure Pole’s support on the divorce question, and on the appearance of his book, “Pro Unitate Ecclesiastica,” he was sent for by the king, and when he refused to come, an act of attainder was passed against him.[Pg 122] In 1537 Pole was induced to accept a cardinal’s hat. It is said that he was most unwilling to do so on the ground that he contemplated marrying the Princess Mary and seating himself on the English throne. He took an active part in promoting the Pilgrimage of Grace and the second rising in 1541. He remained in Italy until the death of Edward VI. On the accession of Mary he returned to England as papal legate after the question of his marriage with Mary had been again discussed and set aside through the influence of the Emperor Charles V. On Cranmer’s execution Pole was consecrated Archbishop of Canterbury. As legate he absolved the Parliament and made a solemn entry into London. For the next three years Pole was in sole management of the ecclesiastical affairs of England, and was consenting to the persecutions which disgraced the reign of Mary. He was at one time deprived of his legatine authority by Pope Paul IV. who had wished for the elevation of Gardiner to the primacy. The archbishop submitted to the pope and was again appointed legate shortly before his death which occurred about the same time as that of Mary. He was buried in the corona at Canterbury, where his tomb yet remains. He was the last Archbishop of Canterbury to be buried in his own cathedral, until the recent interment of Dr. Benson.
Matthew Parker (1559-1575) was born of an old Norfolk family and educated at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge. Wolsey invited him to become a fellow of Christ Church, his new foundation at Oxford, but this he declined. After various other offices he was appointed to the Deanery of Lincoln by Edward VI. On the accession of Mary he was deprived of all his offices as a married priest, and lived privately until the accession of Elizabeth, who made him archbishop. He was duly elected by the new Chapter of Canterbury, and held his post during a most difficult time with marvellous tact and judgment. Religious toleration for its own sake was an idea yet unknown, but Parker directed that great caution should be observed in administering the oath of supremacy to those of the clergy who still favoured the old religion. It is much to his credit that he managed to preserve such good relations with the queen in face of Elizabeth’s prejudice against the marriage of the clergy. He was an enlightened patron of learning, and did much to encourage all branches of art.
[Pg 123] Edmund Grindall (1576-1583) was born at St. Bees and educated at Cambridge, where he became Master of Pembroke Hall. He was Chaplain to Edward VI. During the troubles of Mary’s reign he lived in Germany, and on Elizabeth’s accession became the first Protestant Bishop of London. Thence he was removed to York and in 1575 was appointed as archbishop. He was inclined to view the Puritans with more leniency than his predecessor and always refused to forbid the prophesyings, or meetings of the clergy for discussing the meaning of scripture, which Elizabeth disliked so much, and was in consequence deprived of his jurisdiction. He went blind before his death and was buried at Croydon.
John Whitgift (1583-1604) was born at Great Grimsby and educated at Cambridge, where John Bradford was his tutor: he became one of Elizabeth’s chaplains and Master of Pembroke Hall and of Trinity. He wrote an answer to Cartwright’s “Admonition” and was preferred to the Deanery of Lincoln and Bishopric of Worcester. After Grindall’s death he was translated to Canterbury. From this date his severity towards the Puritans increased. He insisted that every minister of the Church should subscribe to three points: the queen’s supremacy, the Common Prayer, and the Thirty-nine Articles, and enforced his principle with much vigour, contrary to the advice of the more enlightened Lord Burleigh. The severity of these measures called into existence the “Martin Marprelate” libels and produced much dissatisfaction and suffering among the more Puritanical clergy, which was by no means lessened by the accession of James, who, on his way to London rejected a petition signed by more than one thousand Puritan ministers. Whitgift was buried at Croydon where he founded a school and hospital.
Richard Bancroft (1604-1610) was born near Manchester and educated at Jesus College, Oxford. He became one of Elizabeth’s chaplains, and Bishop of London, whence he was translated to Canterbury. He was even more severe than his predecessor against the Puritans, and was a most stern champion of conformity. He advocated the king’s absolute power beyond the law and attempted to establish episcopacy in Scotland. He died at Lambeth and was buried in the parish church there.
George Abbot (1610-1633) was born at Guildford and[Pg 124] educated at Balliol College. He assisted in establishing union between the Scotch and English Churches and was rewarded with the Bishopric of Lichfield and Coventry. Thence he was translated to London, and on the death of Bancroft was appointed to the primacy. In contrast to his predecessor he connived at some irregularities of discipline in the Puritanical clergy. At the same time he was a zealous Calvinist and hater of popery, and disapproved of those who preached up the arbitrary power of the king. These latter views rendered him unpopular with the courtiers and the party of Laud. The accidental death of a keeper at the hands of the archbishop was utilized against him by his enemies and he was with difficulty restored to his archiepiscopal functions. On refusing to licence a sermon by Dr. Sibthorpe, asserting the king’s right to tax his subjects without their consent, he was obliged to retire to his palace of Ford, near Canterbury. He assisted at the coronation of Charles I., but never managed to win the favour of that monarch. He died at Croydon, and was buried at Guildford, where his tomb and effigy still remain.
William Laud (1633-1645) was born at Reading, and educated at St. John’s College, Oxford. At the university he soon became conspicuous for his hatred of the Puritans and his devotion to High Church doctrines. He became President of St. John’s in spite of the opposition of Archbishop Abbot. He became successively one of the royal chaplains, Dean of Gloucester, Bishop of St. David’s, Bath and Wells, and London. He acted as Dean of Westminster at Charles I.’s coronation. He was made Dean of the Chapel Royal, Chancellor of Oxford, and a Privy Councillor of Scotland. On Abbot’s death he was elevated to the primacy, and is said to have refused the offer of a cardinal’s hat. As archbishop he was responsible for the general Church persecution which produced his own unpopularity and downfall, and was one of the main causes of the Civil War. Prosecutions for non-conformity were enforced with the utmost severity. The courts of Star Chamber and High Commission were brought to bear on the Puritans, and Laud became universally detested. The superiority of the king over the law was openly preached, and the Irish and Scotch Puritans were alienated by the severity of the measures taken against them. On the common idea of popular government, the Puritans were driven into coalition and identification with the[Pg 125] national party, while the king, court, bishops, and judges represented the High Church movement and the doctrine of the king’s absolute authority. In 1639 the palace at Lambeth was attacked, but the archbishop was removed to Whitehall and escaped for the time. In 1640, however, he was impeached for high treason, and confined in the Tower. Various charges were brought against him and fines inflicted, and his property was seized and sold or destroyed for the use of the commonwealth. The charge of high treason could not be legally established, and a bill of attainder was passed against him in 1645. He was eventually beheaded on Tower Hill, at the age of seventy-one years; his remains were interred at Barking, but subsequently removed to the chapel of St. John’s College at Oxford. His conduct has been differently judged by his friends and enemies. He built the greater part of the inner quadrangle of St. John’s, and presented a large collection of important manuscripts to the university. In his time the archiepiscopal palace at Canterbury was ruined by the Puritans, and on the Restoration an Act was passed dispensing the archbishops from restoring it. From this time they have had no official residence in Canterbury.
William Juxon (1660-1663) was born at Chichester, and educated, like his predecessor, at St. John’s College, Oxford, where he attracted the attention of Laud. He became successively President of St. John’s, Dean of Worcester, Bishop of Hereford, and Bishop of London. He also became Lord Treasurer, a post which had been held by no churchman since the days of Henry VII., and was the last instance of any of the great offices of State being filled by an ecclesiastic. He attended Charles I. on the occasion of his execution. On the Restoration he became Archbishop of Canterbury, and died three years afterwards. He lies in the chapel of St. John’s College.
Gilbert Sheldon (1663-1677) was educated at Oxford, and became Fellow and Warden of All Souls’ College. He was a strong supporter of the king during the Civil War. He was deprived of his wardenship and imprisoned by the Parliamentarian commissioners when they visited Oxford. He retired to Derbyshire until the Restoration, when he was restored to his wardenship; he was made Dean of the Chapel Royal, and succeeded Juxon in the See of London. In 1661 he assisted at the discussion of the liturgy between the Presbyterian and Episcopal[Pg 126] divines known as the Savoy Conference. In 1663 he succeeded Juxon in the primacy, and in 1667 was elected Chancellor of Oxford. He built the Sheldonian Theatre at Oxford, which building is an early work of Sir Christopher Wren’s. He offended the court party by his open disapproval of the king’s morals, and retired in 1669 to his palace at Croydon, where he spent most of the remainder of his life. He was buried at the parish church at Croydon, where his tomb and effigy still remain.
William Sancroft (1678-1691) was born at Fresingfield, in Suffolk, and educated at St. Edmundsbury and at Cambridge, where he became Fellow of Emmanuel College. He was deprived of his fellowship in 1649, and retired to the Continent, where he remained until the restoration of Charles II. He then returned to England, and subsequently became Master of Emmanuel College, and Dean of York, and of St. Paul’s, and Archdeacon of Canterbury, and was raised to the primacy by Charles II., whose death-bed he attended. In the reign of James he was at the head of the seven bishops who presented the famous petition against the Declaration of Indulgence, for which they were committed to the Tower, tried, and acquitted amidst immense popular excitement. After James’s flight, Sancroft acted as the head of the council of peers who took upon themselves the administration of the government of the country. His plan was to retain James nominally on the throne, while placing the reins of government in the hands of a regent. He refused to take the oath of allegiance to William and Mary, considering himself bound by his former oath to James II. He was accordingly suspended and deprived, and when ejected by law from Lambeth he retired to his small ancestral property at Fresingfield, where he died and was buried.
John Tillotson (1691-1694) was born of Puritan parents at Sowerby, in Yorkshire, and was educated at Cambridge. During the Protectorate he had followed the teachings of the Presbyterians, but on the Restoration he submitted to the Act of Uniformity. He held among other posts those of Preacher at Lincoln’s Inn and Dean of Canterbury, and enjoyed the intimate confidence of William and Mary. On the deprivation of Sancroft he was reluctantly induced to accept the primacy, which he was destined to hold only for some three years. He[Pg 127] died at Lambeth after this short term of office, and was buried in the Church of St. Lawrence, Jewry. As a theologian Tillotson was remarkable for his latitudinarianism, and he was one of the finest preachers who have ever lived.
Thomas Tenison was born at Cottenham, in Cambridgeshire, and educated at Cambridge. His fame as a preacher procured him the Archdeaconry of London and the Bishopric of Lincoln, in which diocese he did admirable work. He died at Lambeth, and lies buried in the parish church there.
William Wake (1716-1737) was educated at Christ Church, Oxford, and became Dean of Exeter and Bishop of Lincoln. He was gifted with great learning, and took an active part in the controversy with Atterbury on the subject of the rights of convocation.
John Potter (1737-1747) was the son of a linendraper at Wakefield, in Yorkshire, and was educated at University College, Oxford, becoming Fellow of Lincoln and afterwards Bishop of Oxford. He was a learned divine and writer. Like his predecessor he was buried in the parish church at Croydon.
Thomas Herring (1747-1757) and
Matthew Hutton (1757-1758) were both translated to Canterbury from York.
Thomas Secker (1758-1768) was born of dissenting parents near Newark. At the instance of Butler, afterwards the famous Bishop of Durham, he joined the Church of England and abandoned the study of medicine, and took holy orders. He held many posts in succession, including the Bishoprics of Bristol and Oxford. He died and was buried at Lambeth, where his portrait, by Sir Joshua Reynolds, still remains.
Frederick Cornwallis (1768-1783) was the seventh son of Charles, 4th Lord Cornwallis. He was consecrated Bishop of Lichfield and Coventry in 1750, and in 1766 became Dean of St. Paul’s. On October 6th, 1768, he was enthroned Archbishop of Canterbury. In Hasted’s “Kent” we find him commended highly for having abolished that “disagreeable distinction of his chaplains dining at a separate table.” More renowned for his affability and courteous behaviour than for learning, he entertained at times with semi-regal state; but once fell into some disfavour because “his lady was in the habit of holding routs on Sundays.”
[Pg 128] John Moore (1783-1805) became Dean of Canterbury in 1771. He was consecrated Bishop of Bangor in 1775, and thence translated to the archiepiscopal see in 1783. Although a promoter of Sunday-schools and foreign missions, he did not escape reproach for paying undue regard to the interests of his family. It has been well said that during his tenure of office and that of his immediate successor, the sinecures and pluralities held by the highest clergy were worthy of the mediæval period.
Charles Manners-Sutton (1805-1828) was grandson of John, 3rd Duke of Rutland. In 1791 he was made Dean of Peterborough, and Bishop of Norwich in 1792. In 1794 he was appointed Dean of Windsor, and became Archbishop of Canterbury in 1805 owing to Court influence, which outweighed the hostility of Pitt, who wished to appoint his own nominee. As a prelate he was distinguished for many virtues and qualities befitting his office. He was president at the foundation of the National Society, and worked strenuously to advance the cause of education which it represents. While he held the primacy a fund which had been accumulated from the sale of Croydon Palace was applied to the purchase of Addington, where he lies buried.
William Howley (1828-1848) was tutor to the Prince of Orange (afterwards William II. of Holland) then successively Regius Professor of Divinity of Oxford, Bishop of London, 1813, and archbishop, 1823. He played a prominent part in politics and state ceremonials and marked the transition between the new régime, and the old princely days of the archbishoprics.
John Bird Sumner (1848-1862) was brother of Dr. C. Sumner, Bishop of Winchester. In 1823 he was appointed Bishop of Chester, and in 1848 was promoted to the See of Canterbury. He published a large number of works, and by his activity and simplicity of life is “remembered everywhere as realizing that ideal of the Apostolic ministry which he had traced in his earliest and most popular work.”
Charles Thomas Longley (1862-1868) was the son of a Recorder of Rochester. In 1836 he was consecrated the first bishop of the newly founded See of Ripon, translated to Durham[Pg 129] in 1856, became Archbishop of York in 1860, and in 1862 was transferred to Canterbury. Perhaps the most memorable incidents in a memorable career are the Pan-Anglican Synod held at Lambeth in 1867, and his establishment of the Diocesan Society for Church Building.
Archibald Campbell Tait (1868-1882) was son of Craufurd Tait, Esq., a Scots attorney. He succeeded Arnold as Master of Rugby in 1842, and became Dean of Carlisle in 1850. He presided over the Pan-Anglican Synod in 1867, and in 1868 succeeded to the archbishopric. “Memorials of Catherine and Craufurd Tait” is a book so well known that even the barest sketch of his career here would be superfluous.
Edward White Benson (1882-1896), son of Edward White Benson, Esq., of Birmingham Heath, was a master of Rugby. He was Head Master of Wellington from 1858 to 1872, Prebendary and Chancellor of Lincoln in 1872, was consecrated the first bishop of the newly created See of Truro in 1877, and translated to Canterbury in 1883. He was buried in the Cathedral on October 16th, 1896, in a secluded corner of the north aisle, immediately under the north-west tower, the first archbishop who was interred in the cathedral of the metropolitan see since Reginald Pole in 1558.
Frederick Temple (1896- ), the present archbishop, is son of the late Major Octavius Temple. He was Head Master of Rugby, 1858 to 1869, consecrated the sixty-first Bishop of Exeter in 1869, translated to London in 1885, and to Canterbury in 1896. His share in the famous “Essays and Reviews,” and the many active works he has instituted, are too well known to need comment.
 Though it is also derived from one Dr. Omerus, who lived on the spot in the thirteenth century.
 The above paintings are illustrated in Dart’s “History of Canterbury,” 1726, and in “Archæologia Cantiana,” vol. xviii.
 Diocesan Histories: “Canterbury,” by R.C. Jenkins, M.A. 1880.