THE CATHEDRAL CHURCH OF CANTERBURY
A DESCRIPTION OF ITS FABRIC AND A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE ARCHIEPISCOPAL SEE
BY HARTLEY WITHERS, B.A.
LONDON GEORGE BELL & SONS 1897
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 archaeology 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 archaeological 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.
GLEESON WHITE. 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 Mediaeval 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.
* * * * *
PAGE CHAPTER I.—History of the Building 3
CHAPTER II.—Exterior and Precincts: The Angel or Bell Tower 24 The Monastery 32 Christchurch Gate 35 Ruins of the Infirmary 38 The Treasury 38 The Lavatory Tower 40 The Chapter House 42 The Library 44 The Deanery 44 The Green Court 48
CHAPTER III.—Interior: The Nave 52 The Central Tower 55 The Western Screen 56 The Choir 57 The Altar 61 The Choir 64 The Choir Stalls 65 South-East Transept 67 South-West Choir Aisle 69 St. Anselm's Tower and Chapel 69 The Watching Chamber 72 Trinity Chapel 72 Tomb of the Black Prince 75 Becket's Crown 88 St. Andrew's Tower 90 North-East Transept 90 Chapel of the Martyrdom 92 The Dean's Chapel 94 South-West Transept 95 St. Michael's Chapel 95 The Main Crypt 96 The Eastern Crypt 101
CHAPTER IV.—The History of the See 103
PAGE The Cathedral from the South Frontispiece Arms of Canterbury Title The Cathedral from the North 1 Plan of Canterbury Cathedral (Circa 1165) 4 The Cloisters 19 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 The Cloisters 43 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 a Becket" 51 The Shrine of St. Thomas a 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 West Gate 81 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 The Crypt 97 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 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 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 a 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 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 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 a 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 a 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 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 Acrensis. 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, 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:
"Of bishops and abbots, priors and parsons, Of earls, and of barons, and of many knights thereto; Of serjeants, and of squires, and of husbandmen enow, And of simple men eke of the land—so thick thither drew."
The archbishop had given notice two years before, proclaiming the day of the solemnity throughout Europe as well as England: 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 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 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 Cacodaemonibus 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 and foreign. It was in the spring chiefly, as Chaucer tells us, that
"Whanne that April with his showres sote The droughte of March hath perced to the rote, And bathed every veine in swiche licour, Of whiche vertue engendred is the flour; When Zephyrus eke with his sote brethe Enspired hath in every holt and hethe The tendre croppes, and the yonge sonne Hath in the Ram his halfe cours yronne, And smale foules maken melodie That slepen alle night with open eye, So priketh hem nature in hir corages; Than longen folk to gon on pilgrimages And palmeres for to seken strange strondes To serve hauves couthe in sondry londes; And specially from every shires ende Of Englelonde, to Canterbury they wende The holy blissful martyr for to seke, That hem hath holpen when that they were seke."
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 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 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 L4,000, 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, 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 mediaeval 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 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 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 L10,000 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 L500, 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 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 debris, 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 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 aesthetic 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
"A little town Which that yeleped is Bob Up and Down Under the Blee in Canterbury way."
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 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 mediaeval 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 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 Mediaeval 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 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 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 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 praecipuam 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 "mansurae" 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 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 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 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, 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 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.
 Though it is also derived from one Dr. Omerus, who lived on the spot in the thirteenth century.
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, 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 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 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 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 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-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: