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Canterbury Cathedral
Canterbury, Kent
Canterbury Cathedral
associated engineer
date  1070 onwards
UK era  Medieval  |  category  Cathedral  |  reference  TR150580
photo  Trevor Page
Canterbury Cathedral began as a Norman church and was modified and enlarged until its completion in Tudor times. It replaced a series of Anglo-Saxon structures started by St Augustine around 597AD. Augustine became the first Archbishop of Canterbury and Dr Rowan Williams ó the present incumbent ó is the 104th.
The cathedral is constructed mainly from Caen stone.
Fire destroyed the cathedral's predecessor in 1067, and rebuilding in the Romanesque style was carried out between 1070 and October 1077 for Archbishop Lanfranc. This version had a squat square main tower topped by a steeple supporting a golden angel.
The eastern end of the cathedral was demolished during the next rebuilding for Archbishop Anselm, between 1096 and 1130. The quire (choir) was rebuilt in 1126, over a new (western) crypt. Another pair of transepts and two chapels were added to the eastern end of the building.
On 5th September 1174, fire gutted the quire and destroyed part of the cathedralís eastern end. The quire was rebuilt 1175-78 in the English Gothic style pioneered by William of Sens. Work on Trinity chapel, the apse (Corona) chapel and the eastern crypt was completed in 1184.
Rebuilding work then began on the western end of the building. The nave was demolished in 1377 and rebuilt in Perpendicular (late English) Gothic style between 1387 and 1405, by Thomas Chillenden. Including the cloister vaulting, it is some 24m high.
The south west tower and porch were rebuilt 1413-25. The porch was refurbished in 1455-59, and embellished with statues of notable archbishops in 1862. The south west transept was reconstructed in the 1430s, followed by the north west transept in the 1480s. Lanfrancís square tower was demolished in the 1430s and strengthening works to the nave and transepts carried out to support a heavier central tower. A sculpted quire screen (pulpitum) was made in 1455. The new 90m high Bell Harry tower was constructed between 1490 and 1498. The cathedral was completed circa 1510 with the addition of Christ Church gate.
In the late C16th, a stone beam was installed above the altar ito support the central tower. Refurbishment works were carried out between 1660 and 1704, which repaired the damage done during the English Civil War.
In 1834, Lanfrancís unsafe north west tower was demolished and replaced by a copy of the Medieval south west tower. During World War II (1939-45) the cathedral suffered damage to the library, which was rebuilt in 1954.
The famous stained glass windows were begun circa 1175 and completed around 1220. Extensive refurbishment was carried out in the C19th. They were removed for safekeeping during World War II, but later replaced.
The most notorious event in the cathedral ó the murder of Archbishop Thomas Becket ó occurred on 29th December 1170, ordered by King Henry II. Becket was canonised in 1173, and in 1220 his body was moved from the crypt to a shrine in Trinity chapel. This was destroyed by order of King Henry VIII in 1538, followed by the dissolution of the monastery at Canterbury in 1540. The Dean and Chapter, which still govern the cathedral, were established in 1541.
Canterbury Cathedral is part of a World Heritage Site, and holds some 2,000 services of worship annually.
Contractor (nave, 1387-1405): Henry Yeveley
Contractor (south west porch, 1424-25)
Contractor (south west porch and pulpitum, 1455-59): Richard Beke
Research: ECPK

Canterbury Cathedral