No one told me that Canterbury in July is a sweltering hot pot with no way to escape the heat; that is unless you head into the depths of the famous Canterbury Cathedral. Melting and ready to lean up against some cool stone crypts, Jim and I almost turned around when the ticket lady told us how much it was to enter–10.50 British Sterling. What? Yes, it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Yes, it some important people have been buried there such as kings, queens, archbishops…But really? 10.50? It seemed a bit steep to me.
It didn’t really matter, though. We had bypassed the cathedral too many times, and this time we planned to stop. We planned it. We don’t often plan stops, but when we do, we like to follow through. Canterbury is a charming, walled city and we were lucky enough to find decent parking. Even though we were a mere ten minutes from the cathedral, and even though the half-timbered buildings, decorative cake shops, ubiquitous pubs, and a few too cute chippies kept us interested, we were more than a bit sweaty as we approached the ticket booth. With four of us looking to enter, the sales clerk was a bit apologetic when she found out we had no way of getting a discount. 42 pounds later, we were now hot, sweaty, and more than a bit grumpy.
We did perk up a little once we opened the ornate double doors and stepped back in time. One thing I wasn’t expecting was the size of the cathedral. It was huge…not to mention, old! Its history dates back to 597 when the very first Archbishop of Canterbury arrived and set up shop. It goes without saying that a place of worship this old and important has had a tumultuous history. Officially closed by King Henry VIII in 1540, the cathedral still was a place of prayer and proudly states it has been for over 1400 years.
We spent about an hour and a half wandering through the various naves and rooms, but to be fair, you could spend at least double that amount of time there. The cathedral has so many stories to share, and there were docents just standing around waiting for someone to ask them a question. From murder to treason and everything in between, much of English history took place within its walls.
I was talking to one lady not far from the grave of the Black Knight, and she told me about how the cathedral had townspeople standing on the roof during the Battle of Britain. When the bombs fell, the people kicked them off the side of the building to protect it. What a sight that would have been.
One little detail that we found was a sign that named all the organists from the beginning of the cathedral, which was a pretty impressive list.