Monday, 27 July 2009

Canterbury! -parts 1 and 2

I have been to Canterbury twice now, once with Hilary and her Family, and more recently with Dave. I am in love with the fact that you get off the train, walk over the bridge, and enter the city (well, the part with the Cathedral anyway- I am fairly sure it has expanded a bit since the Middle Ages) by walking around the old Medieval city wall! Complete with turrets! It is a cute little area, with a tower with an arched doorway in all four sides being the only remaining bit of a small church in the middle of town (complete with slabs marking the places of those buried in the floor). I am also highly amused that next to be large, ornate, Medieval entrance to the Cathedral property, and I mean as close as it can possibly be without being in the Cathedral, is a Starbucks. You know you are a tourist trap when you have a Starbucks sharing a wall with you.

The Cathedral is lovely (obviously) on the outside! In terms of the inside, all I can say is: Well done, rib-vaulting! (or, in the words of my former Monastery and Cathedral Towns lecturer: Well done, rib-waulting!) Stained glass, you do not need to be jealous- I love you too!

I am going to abuse you with pictures now, sadly none of the crypt, as, well, there are no pictures (theoretically) allowed there. I know people are going to do what people are going to do, and tourists even more so! However, if you are going to put up a sign in a tourist trap that says no talking, no cell phones, and no picture taking, you might want to at least have 1 employee down there to say something to the people talking, on their cell phones, while taking pictures with them. On second thought, why can people not get over their tourist-ness for five minutes and respect someone's holy site? arrrrgh. Anyway, the crypt is, well, I do not think I can describe it. There are fewer tombs there, but a lovely Lady Chapel, complete with what looks like completely intact medieval (or at least really well restored medieval style) paint- which makes me curious- how did that bit survive when the rest has either been left to peel away (as in some chapels) or very obviouslly scraped off? Anyway, it was gorgeous. There were also some engravings on the wall- possibly intending to be paintings someday? A lot of the carvings on the pillars were unfinished as well. It was really interesting to see the process. *puts on nerd hat* There were other small vestiges of medieval paint on the ceilings of some of the chapels.

Dave and I went to the second half of an Evensong service. I love boys' choirs. Sadly, because of Evensong, the upper part of the church was closed, but never fear! It was open when I was there with Hilary! (I believe it was Canterbury that finally made my brain finally come to terms with exactly what radiating chapels were.) At the very top (the church seems to go up and up as you go further back) in the center was an open area and a candle representing the location of the long destroyed (thank you King Henry the Codpiece) shrine to St. Thomas Beckett. Also can be seen the tomb of Edward Almost the IV: the Black Prince, and his nephew, Henry IV and Queen Mary de Bohun. Also, Medieval Floor Tiles. I'll throw in some pictures of the Chapter House and Cloister area as well.

Now that I have Abused you with photos, and no, I am not sorry about it, and fully intend to do it again, I want to talk to you about taste. I think we can all agree that the above pictures are quite aesthetically pleasing. Lovely, even. But the past few decades have been sad for church art (I refer particularly to RC churches designed to look like conference rooms at a spa...) First off: Medieval stone Cathedrals do not need rainbows. They really dont mesh. Example A:

Secondly, and pay attention, this is important. St. Thomas Beckett was not, I repeat, NOT a vampire. I promise. So...why would anyone design the shrine for his Martyrdom this way?

That was a bit Terrifying, I suppose, so here is a picture of me looking cute to cheer you up!


willawisp said...

:) I love the copious photos of beautiful cathedrals. For a while I went to a boarding school here:,m9,default,1&m9albumid=4&m9returnid=98&page=98
(some of Harry Potter was filmed in here :) )
And every morning, including Saturdays and Sundays, I had to go in there and even though it was FREEZING in my school tights it was one of the best things ever. Even though the bells woke me up ridiculously early on Sundays too, it's left me with a slight cathedral obsession. I can't help myself!
PS you should so see Notre Dame in Paris...

Whyte Fairy said...

WOW. That is gorgeous! I had always wanted to go to boarding school (I suppose I read too many books about the exciting adventures that take place there). Though, in mostly Protestant America, the idea that Cathedrals could be a part of it never crossed my mind! :-D

I would LOVE to see Notre Dame. I would love to see Paris! Something tells me (and by something I mean my 1/4 written dissertation) that it will not happen anytime soon. :(

willawisp said...

I know that feeling... I have all the evidence down, but am distinctly lacking in a good analytical argument. You should definitely go, it's just the prettiest city and has people singing while riding bikes, vegetables outside newsagent shops, little old women sweeping down their doorsteps every morning, and the brilliant stalls all along the Seine. Sigh...

It was cool. I wish I had gone for longer! And it was just like the books - passing notes down to the boys in the room downstairs on a long chain of paperclips, getting caught half out of windows, living on toast, and sneaking out to go to clubs only to get caught by drunenly ringing the doorbell at 3am, then getting up the next morning to carry icons or swing incense in the cathedral. Those were the days :) I keep wanting to get it all into a book somehow, but must concentrate on this dissertation first... good luck!