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The Canterbury Cathedral

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The Canterbury Cathedral essay

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.. der the terms of partnership agreements between the Cathedral, Kent County Council It is both a department of Canterbury Cathedral and an office of the Kent Archives Service of the Arts and Libraries department of KCC.

It houses the records of the Cathedral, Canterbury Diocese, parishes in the Canterbury Archdeaconry, Canterbury City Council and its predecessors, and other organisations, businesses, administrations and individuals in the Canterbury area. These records are all accessible to the public in a searchroom (run jointly with the Cathedral Library) adjacent to the Cathedral. The Water Tower The water supply of the Monastery was established in the 12th century, the supply being piped in (the original pipes are still in place) from springs nearly a mile away. There were several water towers in the Precincts, which acted as storage cisterns from which more pipes distributed the water to where it was needed. It is said that because of its own water supply the monks of Christ Church, Canterbury, escaped many of the usual depredations of plague and infection. The Chapter House Each day the Benedictine monks met in the Chapter House, first to hear a Chapter of the Rule of St Benedict read to them (hence its name), and then to transact the Community’s business.

The Chapter House had previously been extended from its 11th century length in the 13th century. The Prior’s Stall remains and a lovely feature is the roof vault, inserted in 1405 and made of Irish oak. Stained Glass Two events occurring in 1170 and 1174 laid the foundations of what today is regarded as one of the most important stained glass collections of the late 12th century in the world. The murder of Thomas Becket, as despicable as it was, provided the Cathedral with a powerful attraction to pilgrims, who came to Canterbury in enormous numbers to make offerings.

When disaster struck again with the destruction by fire of the Romanesque Quire in September 1174, it was the proceeds from this lucrative pilgrim trade that enabled the monks to build the new Quire and the Trinity Chapel and to fill it with stained glass of outstanding splendour. The fact that, unusually, the Canterbury monks did have a steady income at their disposal resulted in the creation of a building of unprecedented scale and complexity which was completed in a remarkably short period of time. The glazing scheme was conceived in close co-operation between the master builder, glazier and the monks. By 1176, the complete programme was determined and brought to life within 44 years by workshops of English and French craftsmen.

The scheme is thus unusually homogenous in its planning and execution, reflecting also its close integration in the overall concept of the eastern arm of the church which was to serve two distinct categories of worshipper, the monks and the pilgrims. The mediaeval cathedral was part of a priory, and in the body of the Quire the monks observed the daily routine in the monastic office. The windows of this part are therefore of a very different character from those in the Trinity Chapel which served the pilgrims for their devotions at St. Thomas’ shrine. Besides numerous windows in side chapels, the glazing scheme for this reason consists of three major series, one for the Quire and one for the Trinity Chapel respectively, and the third on clerestory level linking both parts of the building together again.

In the Quire aisles, a biblical emphasis prevailed. Here the mediaeval monks could study the twelve windows from both Old and New Testaments, arranged to demonstrate the way in which events of the Old Testament were thought to prefigure events in the New. This typological interpretation is based on one of the most popular mediaeval books, the Biblia Pauperum or ‘Poor Man’s Bible’. The two surviving windows of this series in the north Quire aisle give a striking insight in the mediaeval way of interpreting the world.

For the pilgrims visiting St. Thomas’ shrine, a different subject matter was requested. The twelve windows of the Trinity Chapel therefore illustrated two detailed accounts of Becket’s life and the miracles that had taken place at his tomb between 1171 and 1173. Called the Miracle Windows, the stories chosen show the full gamut of medieval society receiving comfort and aid from St. Thomas’ intercession.

The richly coloured glass would for many pilgrims be the finest thing they would ever see, a fitting prelude to the shrine itself. Finally, in the clerestory, the so-called Genealogical Series depicts paired figures, beginning on the north side with the Creation and Adam and culminating on the south side with the Virgin Mary and Christ. With 86 figures taken from the gospel of Luke, this genealogy of ancestors of Christ is the largest of its kind in art. Only 48 figures, however, have survived, some now relocated in the south west transept and the west window and replaced with nineteenth century copies in their stead. Although the scheme has suffered over the centuries from many forms of destruction, the late 12th century glazing at Canterbury has today established its firm place as the most complete collection of its kind in England. The glazing of the western parts was less fortunate.

The whole scheme of nave windows has been almost completely swept away, with only the two great windows in the west wall and in the north west transept surviving. Both these windows are associated with kings, Richard II and Edward IV, and although in particular the ‘Royal Window’ of 1485 in the north west transept had suffered from the notorious attack by Culmer in the 1640’s, there is a substantial amount of glass left to tell of the superb quality of 14th and 15th century draftmanship and glazing skills. Canterbury’s rich heritage of mediaeval stained glass cannot really be matched by later windows, but there are a number of important twentieth century ones that should be included in any stained glass itinerary of the Cathedral. To name but two, the Christopher Whall window of 1906 in the west wall of the south west transept and the windows of 1957 by Erwin Bossanyi in the south east transept are both regarded as eminent representatives of their respective era.

Although they differ enormously from their mediaeval ancestors, these windows are now an integral part of the glazing of Canterbury Cathedral, contributing to its diversity and its sheer splendour. The stained glass of the Cathedral is thus justifiably recognised as one of its great treasures. Wall Paintings Prior to the Reformation and the Commonwealth in the Seventeenth Century, Canterbury Cathedral was rich in wallpaintings. All that remains to catch the eye of the modern visitor is a number of fine examples of the wallpainters’ art, and a great number of fragments which give a tantalising idea of what must once have been. The condition of every painting and every fragment is checked regularly by the Cathedral’s expert Wallpaintings Advisory Committee. ..

St. Anselm’s Chapel The wallpainting of St. Paul and the Viper dates from circa 1160. It is situated high in the north corner of the Eastern Apse of the chapel, with the decoration continuing on to the string courses above and below the painting and round the north window which is blocked. The painting was discovered behind a buttressing wall in 1888. The centuries spent behind the wall have ensured the survival of this vivid painting.

.. St. Gabriel’s Chapel This chapel contains two extensive Romanesque schemes of painting, plus remains of later, possibly sixteenth century decoration. The earliest scheme in the Apse comprises apocalyptic subjects and scenes of the infancy of John the Baptist and the infancy of Christ. The Romanesque painting in the Nave of this chapel survives mainly in the two west bays.

These date from about 1180. .. Our Lady Undercroft In the chapel of Our Lady Undercroft, one forms the impression of a vivid scheme of decoration now much depleted. The Chapel retains decorative schemes from the twelfth to the sixteenth century; the most evident are the sun and stars depicted on the Eastern Vault.

Both the screens and the vaults are richly decorated with expensive pigments and gilding. See statue and Screen. .. The Chapter House The visitor will notice much decoration in the Chapter House, but little of this is contemporary with the building itself. It seems that the restoration undertaken by Sir Reginald Blomfield in 1896 is the derivation of the most of the extant painting.

.. The Cloisters The vault of the south walk, the earliest to be constructed is decorated with pre-Christian motifs such as ‘Jack in the Green’. The heraldic shields may indicate that their owners contributed to the funding of the later parts of the Cloisters. .. St. Eustace Probably the most attractive to the visitor is the large painting depicting the legend of St.

Eustace. This is a fifteenth century oil based painting illustrating scenes from the life and martyrdom of St. Eustace and is on the north wall of the North Quire Aisle, immediately west of the North East Transept. The scenes fill the blind arch, which is nineteen feet high and nearly nine feet wide. The painting was discovered under lime wash in the nineteenth century and was retouched and covered with a wax varnish early in the twentieth century. Agood deal of what the visitor now sees is relatively modern or an adaptation of the original.

.. St. Andrew’s Chapel The Chapel retains extensive remains of decorated painting from the 12th century onwards: post – 1174 masonry pattern and geometric diaper; 14th century vine scroll and ‘IHS’ monograms within crowns of thorns, and 15th and 16th century Tudor Rose imitation tapestries, fleur – de- lys and ‘IHS’ monograms. European History.

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