The Project Gutenberg EBook of Canterbury, by Canon Danks This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included with this eBook or online at www.gutenberg.org Title: Canterbury Author: Canon Danks Illustrator: E. W. Haslehust Release Date: February 15, 2011 [EBook #35276] Language: English Character set encoding: ISO-8859-1 *** START OF THIS PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK CANTERBURY *** Produced by Sankar Viswanathan, Juliet Sutherland, and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team at http://www.pgdp.net
|The Canterbury Weavers||Frontispiece|
|St. Nicholas, Harbledown||8|
|Canterbury from the Stour||12|
|The Greyfriars' House||16|
|Canterbury Cathedral from Christ Church Gate||24|
|Christ Church Gate, Entrance to Cathedral Precincts||29|
|St. Martin's Church||37|
|The Gateway, St. Augustine's Abbey||48|
|Gateway of St. John's Hospital||52|
This little essay on a great subject is neither a guidebook nor a history, though it may, for many, be enough, for their purpose, of both. With its illustrations of ancient and famous scenes it is, let us say, a keepsake or memorial for some of the hundred thousand pilgrims who still annually visit Canterbury, and fall under the spell of its enchantments. It may recall to them in distant homes, some of them overseas, the thrill with which they first beheld the mother-city of English Christianity, the great church, inwoven with so much of English history, which in the Middle Ages contained one of the most venerated and far-sought shrines in Europe.
There are certainly not more than one or two cities in the kingdom which rival Canterbury in interest, or bring back to us more vividly "the days that are no more". Here is the work of pre-historic man in the Dane John (variant of Donjon or stronghold) and long earthen rampart which guarded the ford of the Stour. Here are the bastions and parapet of the city wall, with which the soldiers of the Middle Ages faced and fortified the British earthwork. Here is Saxon building with Roman materials, as in the churches of St. Pancras and St. Martin, where Roman bricks abound, and Roman columns, perhaps of some forgotten heathen temple, are not wanting. In the Roman cemeteries outside the walls have been found bracelets, pins, mirrors, horse-bits, coins, even rouge-pots. Hither converged the Roman roads from the military ports of Richborough, Dover, and Lympne (now high and dry). Along these roads for some four hundred years tramped the Roman legionaries under their centurions, entering and leaving the city respectively by the streets now known as Burgate, Watling Street, and Wincheap. Here dwelt, in the sixth century, Queen Bertha, foster-mother of English Christianity, with her heathen husband Ethelbert, King of Kent; and here, in the new era which dated from the arrival of Augustine's monkish procession with its silver cross and painted Christ (as told once for all by Dean Stanley), these three laboured at that "building without hands" of which the Cathedral is an outward type and embodiment. Hither converged in mediæval times the Pilgrims' Ways, still partly traceable on the ordnance map, from London, as in Chaucer's Tales, from Southampton, and from Sandwich.
On July 7, the feast of the Translation of Becket's bones from the Crypt to the Trinity Chapel, and especially at the Great Pardons or Jubilees of the Feast every fifty years, from 1220 to 1520, these ways were crowded with pilgrims, English or foreign, on foot or on horseback, sick or whole, sad or merry, intent on paying homage and receiving a blessing, above all of winning the promised plenary indulgence at the miracle-working shrine. From the offerings of these pilgrims came in great measure the huge sums of money which enabled the monks to extend and exalt their church to its present magnificence. In 1220, the first of the Great Pardons, it has been estimated that 100,000 pilgrims offered £20,000 of our money; and this did not include the stream of worshippers and gifts that flowed on other days of the year. If we add to these "devotions of the people" the splendid generosity of the monks and clergy, we begin to understand how the Cathedral was paid for. Lanfranc gave the whole revenues of the manor of East Peckham, bestowed on him by William the Conqueror; and he was but the first of a series of munificent archbishops.
It is one of the curiosities of history, though by no means without parallel, that these lavish gifts and this energy of costly building continued up to the very edge of doom. The great central tower, the Angel Steeple or Bell Harry, was not finished till 1490; Christ Church Gatehouse not till 1517; Henry VIII himself made offerings at the shrine in 1520. In 1538 he gave orders to plunder the shrine and burn Becket's bones, and in 1540 the monastery was dissolved.
It may be as well here to give some idea of the value of the spoil. "The official return of the actual gold of the shrine was 4994-3/4 oz., the gilt plate weighed 4425 oz., the parcel gilt 840 oz., and the plain silver 5286 oz." But Erasmus, who visited Canterbury in 1513, writes: "The least valuable portion was gold; every part glistened, shone, and sparkled with rare and very large jewels, some of them exceeding the size of a goose's egg.... The principal of them were offerings sent by sovereign princes." As, for instance, the golden cup presented by Louis VII of France in 1179, and the Royal Jewel of France, an immense ruby or carbuncle, given by the same Prince, which afterwards figured in a great ring on Henry's portentous thumb, and (we are rather surprised to learn) in the necklace of his Roman Catholic daughter Mary. There were crucifixes, statuettes, and ornaments of precious metal; there were innumerable gems, so that the last visitor at the shrine, in the very year of its destruction, declared "that if she had not seen it, all the men in the world could never a' made her to believe it".
We are scarcely surprised, therefore, to hear of the two large chests with which seven or eight men staggered out of the church, or of the twenty-six cartloads of vestments, plate, and other Cathedral property which were dispatched to London. The total value of Henry's confiscations from this church and priory is thought to have been not less than three million pounds of our money. For more than three hundred years there had been, outside Rome, no more famous place of pilgrimage, no more wonderful treasury of gifts and relics. One can guess the thoughts of the "sovereign princes" and other devout donors, when their costly offerings and those of their ancestors were poured pell-mell into the gaping coffers of the English king. It is less easy to guess the thoughts of the Canterbury citizens and other English folk who looked on with scarcely a protest. Some probably were cowed, and some sympathetic. Perhaps a dim consciousness was waking in the minds of the people, that monasticism and relic-worship had outlived their day of service, and that a new age was at hand. Even under Queen Mary no attempt was made to replace the shrine or renew the pilgrimages.
Let us, however, be as pilgrims ourselves—Chaucer's if you will—and enter the city along their ancient well-trodden way from the Tabard Inn at Southwark. Only we will start a short mile and a half from Canterbury at the Leper Hospital of Harbledown. It is now a group of modern almshouses, but still has its prior and sub-prior, as in the days when the lepers lived under the shadow of Lanfranc's Church of St. Nicholas, which they were forbidden to enter. This church and the square-timbered entrance by the porter's lodge are shown in our illustration.
An aged bedesman, on the steps to this garden porch, would greet the travellers in the road with a shower of sprinkled holy water, and hold out to be kissed by them a crystal set in the upper leather of the martyred Becket's shoe. The upper leather is gone, perhaps kissed away, but the crystal is still shown in the hospital, set in an old bowl of maple-wood. Erasmus and Colet came here in 1513, and were invited to do as others. They were scholars and thinkers, full of the new learning, and therefore scornful of the sanctity of slippers and bones. They declined—Colet rather crossly; Erasmus (tolerant soul) with a humorous twinkle and a kindly coin for the bedesman's box which is still to be seen within.
A few steps onward up the steep little Harbledown Hill and we have a view of Canterbury Cathedral across the River Stour—a view which has delighted the eye and heart of many pilgrims, whether ancient or modern. Nearly a mile downhill and we come to St. Dunstan's Church in the environs of Canterbury. Here in a vault is the head of a nobler martyr than Becket—of a man with all Becket's constancy and faith, with more than Becket's intellect, and without his haughty spirit and violent temper. All the world knows how the head of Sir Thomas More, one of the best and wisest of Englishmen, was set on London Bridge as the head of a traitor, and how, after fourteen days of this ignominy, it secretly passed into the possession of his daughter, Margaret Roper. It is less generally known that she finally placed it in the Roper vault in St. Dunstan's.
On the opposite side of the road, a little nearer the town, is the old brick archway which was once the approach to Margaret Roper's house, and beneath which father and daughter, who loved each other dearly, must often have passed together.
We have all been with David Copperfield and his aunt to Mr. Wickfield's house in Canterbury—"A very old house bulging out over the road; a house with long, low lattice windows bulging out still farther, and beams with carved heads on the ends bulging out too; so that I fancied that the whole house was leaning forward, trying to see who was passing on the pavement below".
Nowhere in the country will you find so many of these old houses; some of them in part dating back to the fourteenth century; and Dickens felt the charm of them. Many are now hidden behind ugly modern fronts, but many are yet unspoiled. Doubtless some of these in St. Dunstan's Street took in belated pilgrims who arrived after curfew and the shutting of the city gate.
Just outside Westgate is the old Falstaff Inn, with its sign suspended from a remarkable bracket of fifteenth-century ironwork. This reminds us that before the era of coal mining in the north, Kentish men were craftsmen in iron, obtaining unlimited fuel from the forest of the Weald. Doubtless there were Kentish pikes and blades, Kentish helmets and hauberks, at Cressy and Poitiers, at Agincourt, in the Wars of the Roses, and at Flodden. While we are looking at old houses let us pass through Westgate (we will return in a moment) and visit the Canterbury Weavers, shown in our illustration. It rises sheer from the water, and its windows "bulge" over the water, where the river crosses the street near Eastbridge Hospital. It is, in spite of repairs and restorations, a fifteenth-century building, and, as viewed from the bridge, not less picturesque than a nook of Bruges or Ghent.
Eastbridge Hospital, just opposite, belongs to the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, but is not a specimen of domestic architecture. It is a charitable foundation which survived Tudor confiscations through the intercession of Cranmer, and still shelters its aged poor. Somewhat farther, on the same side, is No. 37, a French silk-weaver's house, built in the fifteenth century for one of the refugees from religious persecution. It is almost unchanged: the ground floor is the shop, the first floor is for the family and the loom, and the story above has its door for receiving the bales of silk hauled up from the street.
We must not wander farther without turning to look at Westgate, the last remaining of Canterbury's seven city gates and the best thing of its kind in the kingdom. With its round flanking towers and its massive portal, it takes us back in a moment to the fourteenth century, and makes us wonder and sigh that citizens could have had the heart to destroy its fellows. For even as late as the beginning of the nineteenth century the walls and gates of the ancient town were almost intact. With grim amusement, not unmixed with disgust, we recall the story that once the Town Council was equally divided on the proposition that it should be pulled down to admit the huge caravans of Wombwell's Wild Beast Show. It was saved only by the casting vote of the Mayor, to whose common sense it occurred to make a way round it. And that Mayor, not the least of Canterbury's worthies, is not even yet commemorated by—
There was an earlier Norman gateway here with, oddly as it seems to us, the Church of the Holy Cross on the top of it. In 1380 Archbishop Simon Sudbury built the present structure and found ground space beside it for the church. And thereby hangs a tale. Sudbury was not only a munificent builder, but a man of vigorous mind, wise before his time. He overtook a company of pilgrims nearing this gate, and spoke to them very plainly on the matter of relics and pilgrimages, declaring that no Pope or plenary indulgence could avail without the contrite heart and the changed life. This was, be it remembered, 150 years before the Reformation, and not even from a bishop could such a doctrine be received. The fury of the crowd found voice in the curse flung then and there upon the preacher by one of the Kentish gentry: "My Lord Bishop, for this act of yours, stirring the people to sedition against St. Thomas, I stake the salvation of my soul that you will close your life by a most terrible death". "From the beginning of the world", adds the Chronicler, "it never has been heard that anyone ever injured the Cathedral of Canterbury and was not punished by the Lord." Eleven years later, for his share in the hated Poll-tax, the Archbishop was dragged out of the Tower of London by the rebels under Wat Tyler and beheaded. His body was buried in the choir of the Cathedral, and when uncovered accidentally was found to have a leaden ball in the place of the head, which is still preserved at his native Sudbury.
From Westgate the main street, under as many aliases as a hardened criminal, starting as St. Peter's Street, continuing as High Street, Parade, and St. George's Street, runs the whole length of the city, with quaint and curious dwellings on either hand. If we were real pilgrims, and had walked or ridden all the way from London, we should make at once for "The Chequers of the Hope" mentioned in the supplementary Canterbury Tale. It is only a few hundred yards away, where Mercery Lane turns off to the left, and has, or had, its dormitory of a hundred beds. Alas! it was burned down in 1865, and we shall recognize it only by a modern carving of the Black Prince's crest—the leopard with protruding tongue—on the stone corner of the house where the two streets meet.
As, however, we are but amateur pilgrims, and not very tired, we will loiter about the city. Let us ask Mr. Pierce's permission to trespass in his Franciscan Gardens in Stour Street, near the Post Office. For there we shall find, neglected and decayed, but still beautiful with a sad and ruined beauty, the last monument of the Greyfriars or Franciscans, once the most popular of the monastic orders. It is a little house which occupies no ground, for it is built on arches over a branch of the Stour, and its slender supporting pillars rise from the middle of the river bed. As we consider it, we may remember the story of Elizabeth Barton "The Holy Maid of Kent", the devout, visionary, hysterical girl, promoted from a kitchen to a nunnery, who, amongst other and harmless or edifying revelations, felt bidden to denounce the King's divorce from Katherine, and was taken, or bravely went, to Henry to tell him so.
The poor creature was executed at Tyburn with some six of her teachers, confessors, and abettors, amongst them the warden and one of the brethren of Greyfriars, who must often have gone in and out of this battered doorway. Let us add, to the credit of luckless Anne Boleyn, that she alone of all concerned had the grace to intercede with her royal tiger on the girl's behalf. There is a perhaps more attractive memory clinging to the place. In the seventeenth century here, for a time, lived Richard Lovelace, the handsomest man of his time—the Royalist poet who wrote two of the best songs in the language, the gay cavalier who died in want and despair because his lady-love, on his reported death, married another man. He may have written "Going to the Wars" in this very house—
But "To Althea"—
he wrote while imprisoned by the House of Commons for presenting a Kentish Petition on behalf of King Charles.
While we are thinking of poets, and their not infrequent tendency (in the past) to a bad end, we may as well walk up High Street. Various epochs and ages look down upon us on either side, though too often through modern windows. Near the top, on the right-hand side, we shall find a very old house with a very new front, and the business label of Achille Serre. This is the birthplace of Christopher Marlowe, one of the nest of Elizabethan singing-birds—
who, perhaps, had a hand in Shakespeare's Henry VI. He was born in the same year as Shakespeare, and, in spite of a reckless life and early death, came nearer to him in power than any other dramatist of the day. He was killed in a tavern brawl before he was thirty, but found time to write immortal things, amongst them "The Passionate Pilgrim":
a quite other sort of pilgrim than those who sought Becket's shrine.
It is said that he was an "atheist", and that the tavern dagger was just in time to save him from imminent risk of stake and faggot. This naturally leads us from his birthplace, along St. George's Terrace, which is really the old earthwork faced with mediæval stone, to the spot where atheists, heretics, traitors, and witches used to meet their fate. This is the Dane John already mentioned as a pre-historic mound. Dr. Cox, in his volume on Canterbury in the "Ancient Cities" series, gives the following extract from the city accounts touching the death on the Dane John of one John Stone, an Austin friar, who denied that the Sovereign was Supreme Head of the Church:—
"Paid for half a tonne of tymber to make a payre of Gallaces to hang Fryer Stone. For a Carpenter for making the same Gallaces and the dray. For a labourer who digged the holes. To iiij men who holp set up the Gallaces. For drynk to them. For carriage of tymber from Stablegate to the Dongeon. For ij men that sett the Ketyl and parboyled hym. To ij men that caryed his quarters to the gate and set them up. For a halter to hang hym. For two halfpenny halters. For Sandwich cord. For Strawe. To the woman that scowred the Ketyll. To hym that dyd execucion iiijs viijd."
Friar Stone, it is to be feared, is only one of a long procession of tortured ghosts who might meet us where the children play on the Dane John. But it was not always the place of execution, it came to be a coign of vantage from which the orthodox (for the time being) could comfortably view, not without lunch-baskets, what went on in Martyr's Field, now marked with an obelisk a little to the south-west of the mound. Here were forty, men, women, and children, "brent" or burnt at the stake in the reign of Queen Mary for asserting what Friar Stone denied. Their names are carved in granite on the spot where they died, and the motto on the monument is: "Lest We Forget".
From the Dane John we may return along the earthen rampart by the city wall to St. George's Street, and ask our way to St. Martin's, believed by competent enquirers to be the oldest church not only in England, but in Europe. It certainly existed in the sixth century, when Queen Bertha came to its services through the postern still known as Quenengate. Bede, the father of English history and the most learned man of the seventh century, says that there was a Christian church here during the Roman occupation. As the Romans left in 410, this gives a record of fifteen centuries of worship on this site. Here King Ethelbert was baptized by Augustine, and a representation of this event graven on an ancient seal gives a font much resembling the one still in use.
The walls, of course, have been patched and repaired many times, but are, especially in the chancel, full of Roman bricks and Saxon workmanship. There are indications that some of the courses were actually laid by Roman hands; and, if this be so, imagination may carry us back far earlier than Augustine, to the legend that Joseph of Arimathea brought the Gospel to Britain within a generation of the death of Our Lord.
On our way back to the town, if we step inside the Infirmary grounds, we shall see the ruins of St. Pancras, built, it is said, by Augustine on the foundations of an "Idol-temple" where Ethelbert worshipped before his conversion. Roman bricks abound, Roman pillars are built into the wall, and there are still the remains of an altar in a tiny chapel where probably Augustine officiated.
Now we may return to the "Chequers of the Hope", but not to its dormitory of a hundred beds. There is a fine frankness, far removed from modern municipal ambition, in the names of these old streets. Mercery Lane, Butchery Lane, Wincheap (Wine Market), and Beer-Cart Lane tell their own story. As we look down narrow, crooked Mercery Lane, with its overhanging fronts, struggling to survive "improvements", we not only recognize "the last enchantments of the Middle Age", but we ask what kind of mercery used to stock the stalls under the arcades which once sheltered the sidewalks? Chiefly, no doubt, cheap memorials or "signs" of the accomplished pilgrimage; the little leaden bottles or "ampulles", containing water from the well near Becket's tomb in the crypt, and the infinitesimal tincture therein of the martyr's blood; also leaden brooches representing his mitred head. "These signs", says Dean Stanley, "they fastened on their hats or caps, or hung from their necks, and thus were henceforth distinguished. As the pilgrims from Compostella brought home the scallop-shells which still lie on the seashores of Gallicia—as the 'Palmers' from Palestine brought the palm-branches still given at the Easter Pilgrimage—as the 'roamers' from Rome brought models of St. Peter's keys, or a 'Vernicle'—that is a pattern of Veronica's handkerchief—sewed on their caps—so the Canterbury Pilgrim had his hat thickset with a 'hundred ampulles' or with leaden brooches. Many of these are said to have been found in the beds of the Stour and the Thames, dropped as the vast concourse departed from Canterbury or reached London."
What processions, triumphal or funereal, have passed along Mercery Lane and crossed the little open space before the gateway to the Precincts! Two French kings, and nearly every English sovereign till Queen Anne, have been here. Louis VII of France as a pilgrim, John of France as the captive of the Black Prince, Henry II on his bitter pilgrimage of penance in 1174; Richard Cœur de Lion with his captive, William the Lion of Scotland, in 1189; Henry III with the Magna Carta Archbishop Stephen Langton at the Great Pardon of 1220. Here before the Cathedral gate halted for a moment the weeping cavalcade when they buried the Black Prince, in 1376—
No man bearing weapons was admitted to the Precincts after the murder of Becket; therefore the two emblematic riders who had accompanied the bier from Westgate, "one bearing the Prince's arms of England and France, the other the ostrich feathers—one to represent the Prince in his splendid suite as he rode in war, the other to represent him in black as he rode to tournaments"—had here to fall out of rank. Here were borne to their grave Henry IV and his Queen Joan of Navarre. Dean Stanley remarks that Henry IV as a child of ten was perhaps present as a mourner at the Black Prince's funeral, unknowing that he should overthrow the Prince's son Richard II and finally rest by the famous warrior's side.
The devout but incapable and unfortunate Henry VI was at Canterbury eleven times, and more than once as a pilgrim. As a pilgrim, in humblest guise, he was here after his final defeat at Tewkesbury, his Queen in captivity, his son dead on the field "stabbed by the Yorkist Lords after Edward (the Fourth) had met his cry for mercy with a buffet from his gauntlet". Henry himself went hence to die in the Tower, and so end the hopes of the House of Lancaster.
The little open space between Mercery Lane and the Precincts gatehouse has seen many strange doings which we cannot record. In the thirteenth century Canterbury was requisitioned for a contingent of Edward I's Welsh invasion, and the monks refused to bear their share of the expense. This led to a furious dispute with the citizens, an embittered kind of "Town and Gown". A trench was dug before the gate to prevent ingress and egress of men or victuals, and the brethren appear to have been starved out. In the fifteenth century Edward IV hanged the Mayor and some of his friends here for complicity in treason.
But these "old, unhappy far-off things" were before the existence of the present beautiful Perpendicular gatehouse, depicted in our illustration. Its Norman predecessor was still standing, lower, plainer, grimmer, like most Norman buildings. Prior Goldston did not finish this one till 1517. In 1520, when its carvings were fresh and the stone bright in the sunshine, and the great statue of Our Lord looked down from over the archway, and the octagonal side-turrets, like those of St. Augustine's, were not within three hundred years of being pulled down that bank-clerks might see the Cathedral clock from the other end of Mercery Lane—then there came to the last of the Great Pardons, with trumpetings and gorgeous retinue, two great kings riding under one canopy. One was Henry VIII and the other the mightiest monarch in Christendom, Charles V the Emperor of Germany, Spain, and the Netherlands, President of the Diet which tried to murder Luther, as the Council of Constance had murdered Huss; but a far better man than Henry, and uncle of Henry's Queen, Katherine. Before them rode Cardinal Wolsey, and there were Spanish Grandees, and English Nobles, and Queen Katherine herself. "The streets", says Dr. Cox, "were lined with priests and clerks from all the parishes within twenty miles of the city, with censers, crosses, surplices, and copes of the richest sort. At the great west doors of the church (still opened only for royalties and archbishops) they were met by the Archbishop, and after saying their devotions they proceeded to Wareham's Palace. On one evening of that week Wareham gave a great ball in the hall of the Palace, when the Emperor danced with the then Queen of England, and Henry with the Queen of Aragon, the Emperor's mother."
Henry, as we know, had a taste for cloth of gold, and the affair must have been sufficiently sumptuous. This was perhaps the last of the great pageants.
Charles I came here with his fifteen-year-old bride; Charles II was gracious at considerable expense to the citizens, and brought as his Archbishop the faithful Juxon, who had been chaplain on the fatal day at Whitehall and had received the mystic word "Remember"; Elizabeth in her haughty way was "exceeding magnifical" at the charges of Archbishop Parker, whose wife she declined to call Madam, since clergymen had no business with wives. The little square has also humbler associations. It has been a bull-ring, where the poor beasts were baited "to make them man's meat and fit to be eaten". It has had a beautifully carved Market Cross, which gave place to the doubtful memorial to Marlowe. The massive oaken doors bear Juxon's coat of arms, for he set them up in place of those destroyed by the Puritans. They are open; let us pass to the object of our pilgrimage, the great Cathedral whose builders built better than they knew, and left for all time a history of this land and its faith, written and illuminated in stone.
Once within Christ Church Gate, and in view of the whole southern side of the Cathedral, we may pause for a moment and enjoy the vision. That central tower, surely for dignity and beauty without its peer in the land, took from first to last fifty years in the building, and was christened from its first stone the Angel Steeple, from the figure with which it was to be crowned, though now, the Angel having taken flight, it is usually known as Bell Harry, from the great bell hung in it. Mark in the sunshine (for it is a sunny day) the depth and variety of shadows and lights on its moulded and sculptured surface. Not without pity and indignation do we read that Goldwell, the last of the priors who built the gatehouse and completed the tower, begged in vain, when a palsied old man, at the dissolution of the convent, to be continued in his old home as the first Dean. Nicholas Wotton, a wily monk not of the fraternity, whose stone effigy you will see kneeling in the Trinity Chapel, was appointed in his stead.
After Bell Harry, the next place in our admiration is due to the Norman staircase-turret, somewhat farther east, with arcading so fine and decorative as to remind us of arabesque. This turret, with its fellow on the north side, and the ruined staircase in the Green Court, are Norman work unsurpassed anywhere. The fivelight Decorated window of St. Anselm's Chapel is believed by well-qualified judges to be the most beautiful instance of early fourteenth-century tracery in the country. It is, of course, much later than the chapel, and was inserted, in 1336, by Prior Oxenden, whose account states the cost at £42, or about £650 of our money, all given by himself and his friends.
On our walk to the Norman turret and St. Anselm's Chapel we notice, under the east window of the Warrior's Chapel, a projection like a low buttress. It is the foot of Stephen Langton's tomb. He was originally buried within, when the chapel was built on to the transept; and later laid here, with the altar over his head, and his feet in the open ground.
As we move along the Precincts we are treading on the dust of the Cathedral-builders. For all this southern side was a graveyard—of the laity as far as St. Anselm's, and of the monks and clergy beyond. The two were divided by a wall, in which was set as gateway the gabled Norman arch which is now the entrance to the Bowling Green in front of us. It is a curious reflection that, in those days of primitive transport, these walls and towers were brought stone by stone from the quarries at Caen in Normandy. The barges crossed the Channel and were unloaded at Fordwych, about two miles from Canterbury. Formerly the tides came up the river in considerable volume, and Fordwych was a flourishing port with its Mayor and Corporation; and still has its queer little town hall, its ducking stool for scolds, and its prison, though only a tiny hamlet of one hundred and fifty people. When Louis VII of France made his annual grant of 1600 gallons of wine to Christ Church Priory, a fee was paid to the Mayor of Fordwych for the use of his crane in lifting the barrels from the boats. Not many years ago, at an audit of the Chapter Accounts, a yearly item of forty shillings was identified as this very fee, which has been regularly paid for centuries, after the "Wine of St. Thomas" had been consumed, discontinued, and forgotten. Whether this odd survival will more interest the historic, or shock the financial, sense of our American visitors is a question of psychology.
The nave was not built till the end of the fourteenth century, and is therefore one of the latest parts of the church. Of the two western towers the northern stood, as built by Lanfranc shortly after the Conquest, till 1834. During the excavations preparatory to the present structure it is said that the skeletons of a man and two bullocks were found in an upright position, as they had sunk into the marsh in Norman times. All this side was very marshy, and the crypt of the choir was frequently flooded. The ground-level has risen during the last few centuries, but is still only some 20 or 30 feet above the sea.
Above the outer entrance of the south-west porch is a bas-relief, blackened with age, of the altar which, after Becket's murder in the Martyrdom, was erected at the spot where he fell. It was called the Altar of the Sword's Point; and the fragment of Richard the Breton's sword, which dealt the last fierce blow, and was shivered on the pavement, is seen here at the foot of the altar. Above it is a crucifix with the figures of St. John and the Virgin. The pilgrims used to offer their gifts and prayers at three holy places in succession, at the "Sword's Point", in the Martyrdom; then at the earlier tomb of Becket in the crypt; and lastly at the shrine in the Trinity Chapel.
Inside the porch, when Erasmus was here (1513), there were three stone figures of the murderers in full armour, "enjoying", he says, "the same sort of fame as Judas, Pilate, and Caiaphas". In Saxon times the porch served not only as entrance to the church, but also as courthouse and muniment room, where the Kings of Kent did justice and judgment. Of course the present structure is much later, but both porch and nave cover the ground-plan of the ancient church of Lanfranc, which had a short choir, and an apse like that of a Roman basilica.
Let us enter, and, having looked at the great west window, filled with thirteenth-century glass from other parts of the Cathedral, let us face eastward, with the vast piers and lofty arches on either hand. We see the long flight of steps up to the choir, and perhaps get a glimpse, through the door in the screen, of the farther and higher flight up to the Holy Table. This long vista, with its double ascent, is said to have greatly impressed the mediæval pilgrims, as indeed it still impresses us. There is nothing, I think, elsewhere quite like it; and it was doubtless intended to symbolize and accentuate the idea of "going up to" the shrine, which was in the exalted Trinity Chapel as in a throne-room. Incidentally this unusual elevation of the eastern floor of the church made possible one of the finest crypts in existence, which for space and dignity is a church in itself.
As we go forward to the choir steps, and stand below the screen and under the central tower, there is much to observe. Overhead are the carved stone "struts" or crosspieces with which Prior Goldston buttressed his piers, and distributed the strain of the tower's enormous weight. Their date is marked by the rebus of the builder's name T and P (for Thomas, Prior), and between the letters a gilded stone. A similar rebus is in the crypt on Cardinal Morton's monument—a mort or hawk perched on a tun or barrel.
The great window in the south transept, on our right, belongs to the fifteenth century, but is filled with magnificent glass brought from the choir clerestory, and 200 years older than the mullions which frame it. The corresponding north transept window was filled with splendid glass by Edward IV; the ecclesiastical figures in the topmost tracery, some borders, and the panels representing the King with his two sons who perished in the Tower, and his Queen, Elizabeth Woodville, with her daughters, still remain. The eldest girl is Elizabeth of York, who married Henry VII, and so ended the feud of York and Lancaster. The rest of the glass, which illustrated the life of the Virgin, and the miracles of St. Thomas of Canterbury, was smashed by the pike of the Puritan miscreant Culmer, who gloried in having "rattled down Becket's glassy bones". It is strange that he spared three of the unique thirteenth-century Becket windows in the Trinity Chapel. It is said that, as he was at work on his ladder, a townsman below enquired what he was doing. "The work of the Lord," was the reply. "Then if it please the Lord I will help you," and an adroit boulder was flung at his head. This may have cooled his zeal; but, alas! there is room for misgiving that he ducked his head in time. So the happiest hopes of history have sometimes miscarried.
On our right, again, is the entrance from the south transept into St. Michael's, or the Warriors' Chapel, where the honoured grave of Langton, the Magna Charta archbishop, is half inside and half outside, the wall striding over him by an arch so that his head should lie under the altar. This chapel contains, and was probably enlarged to contain, the extremely fine monument of Lady Margaret Holland and her two husbands, which is a perfect study of the armour and dress of the early fifteenth century. The first husband was Earl of Somerset and half-brother of Henry IV, and the second was, curiously, nephew of the first and brother of Henry V. The lady outlived them both and placed their effigies here with her own between them. She was the stepdaughter of the Black Prince.
On our left again, in the north transept, is the far-famed Martyrdom, the spot where Becket died and became St. Thomas. Here is the ground on which the hunted prelate, powerful in body as in mind, caught up Tracy in his full armour and flung him on the pavement. Here is the door from the cloister through which Becket came for sanctuary, and which he refused to bar against his assailants come for murder—"The Church must not be turned into a Castle." Here is the place where the slain Archbishop lay, his head "four feet from the wall", where afterwards was erected to his memory the Altar of the Sword's Point.
From hence he was carried to the tomb in the crypt, where he lay for fifty years until the Translation to the Shrine in Trinity Chapel in 1220. It is not for me in this brief sketch to tell what has been told so dramatically by Stanley in his Memorials, and with such historical insight by Green in his History. It was a duel between the Civil and the Ecclesiastical sovereignties, represented respectively by Henry II and his Archbishop; both of them, for all their genius, too haughty, violent, and headstrong to bring a difficult controversy to a close, or even to a lasting truce.
Before we leave the Martyrdom we must notice the oldest effigy in the Cathedral, that of Peckham, Edward I's Archbishop, who died in 1292, and beside it that of Wareham, the last archbishop before the Reformation, who half yielded to Henry VIII and repented of yielding, and in a few months died, partly perhaps of the sore perplexity and trouble of the time. A comparison of the two canopies will mark for us the advance in decorative art between the thirteenth and the early sixteenth centuries. The door into the cloister has its brighter as well as its dark memory. For here, at the entrance of what was then deemed the most sacred enclosure in the land, was Edward I, that great, stern, tender-hearted King, married to Margaret of Anjou, nine years after he had lost the wife of whom he wrote: "I loved her tenderly in her life; I do not cease to love her now she is dead".
The pilgrims were usually conducted from the altar in the Martyrdom to the "Tumba" or first resting place of the "holy blissful martyr", which was in the crypt. The whole of the crypt was dedicated to the Virgin, and the Chapel of Our Lady of the Undercroft, though now dark and deserted, is still enclosed by the lovely stone tracery placed round it by the Black Prince as a memorial of his marriage. When Erasmus was here he said it was "so loaded with riches" as to be "a more than royal spectacle", and he added: "It is shown but to noblemen and particular friends". Doubtless though the treasures were hidden from the common pilgrim, the altar was always accessible to his devotion. Cardinal Morton desired to be buried near the image of Our Lady of the Undercroft, and his tomb is close by. He may be remembered as the minister of Henry VII and author of Morton's Fork. It was an eminently successful method of finance, which may remind us of a modern Budget. Its principle was that those who spend much can obviously afford to pay, and those who spend little can well afford the taxation of their savings.
Under the south choir transept is another memorial of the Black Prince. It is the double chantry exacted by the Pope as the price of a dispensation to marry his cousin. The Prince came to Canterbury himself, met the prior and the mason, and gave orders for the work, which perhaps included the sculptured face of his beautiful wife in one of the bosses of the roof. The chantry, with its two apses for the mass priests, is now the Chapel of the French Protestants, who have had services here since the royal permission in 1575. After the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes, in 1685, the refugees are said to have numbered three thousand, and to have gained for Canterbury a large trade in silk-weaving and paper-making. Their descendants are now merged into the English population, but their names and the weekly French service still survive.
There have been two comparatively recent discoveries in the crypt. One is the well which probably supplied the water for the "ampulles" or leaden bottles of the pilgrims, the other is a stone chest containing bones which many believe to be the actual remains of Becket. They are certainly those of a tall man, placed in a receptacle which was not their original coffin, and there is certainly the mark of violence on the skull. It has been cogently argued by Dr. Moore, a canon of this Cathedral, and Principal of St. Edmund's Hall, Oxford, in a lecture which will, I hope, be printed, that as the bones of Dante at Ravenna, and of Cuthbert at Durham, were removed from their shrines to avoid violation, and others substituted to avoid discovery of the removal, so the bones of Becket were removed and hidden by the monks in the interval of suspense before the King's final orders arrived. They remain where they were found, and the slab above them, though it bears no inscription, will be readily pointed out by a guide. Before we bid farewell to the crypt we must call to mind one of the earliest and greatest of all the pilgrims. In 1174, not quite four years after the murder, Henry II, as a barefooted penitent, laid his head on the tomb of Becket between those two slender pillars, and gave his back to the scourge of the monks and clergy. How far this suffering and humiliation, which brought on a serious illness, was dictated by penitence and how far by policy will never be known. But urgent dangers were closing round the King, which were immediately afterwards dissipated in a series of triumphs which he may have thought due to miraculous interposition.
Following the track of the pilgrims, we leave the crypt on the south side, emerge into the transept, and ascend, along the south choir aisle, by steps worn hollow by penitential knees (for it was a kind of scala santa—a sacred stair) to the Trinity Chapel, the sanctuary of the martyr's shrine. Let us try to recall what this was like. It stood in the centre of the now vacant space beneath the crescent in the vaulted roof. Three steps led up to a platform figured with a kind of mosaic. The lowest step, worn by pilgrims' knees, and three of the inlaid "roundles" form part of the present pavement. On the platform three arches sustained the body of the saint in a gilded and richly wrought coffin. Two of these arches, with their columns, were hung with the precious offerings of those who had sought or received benefit by the saint's intercession. Through the third, suppliants were allowed to pass, that by contact with the pillars they might derive some virtue from the relics. The whole was enclosed in an elaborate oaken case, which was let down and drawn up by ropes and pulleys from above. One of the monks had charge of the proceedings—the Mystagogus or Master of the Mysteries, as Erasmus, with a touch of mockery, calls him—and when a sufficient concourse had assembled he drew up the cover and revealed to the wondering throng all the splendour of gold and gems.
Within thirty years of Erasmus's visit every vestige of this magnificence was swept away; and so completely were all memorials of Becket destroyed that only one representation of the shrine survives. This, perhaps, was overlooked, for it is a small panel of stained glass, and may be found in the highest group of the central of the three thirteenth-century windows on the north side of the Trinity Chapel. St. Thomas is mitred and in full canonical vestments, leaning from or coming out of his shrine, above a figure lying on a bed or couch below. It is a pictorial record of a vision of the saint which is related by Benedict, his historian, as having appeared to himself. The inscription is Prodire Feretro, which fails in grammatical construction, but probably is intended to mean Issuing from the Shrine.
It should be noted that the casket or coffin portrayed elsewhere in these windows, is not the great shrine in the Trinity Chapel, but the earlier "tumba" at which Henry II did his penance in the crypt. The determination of Henry VIII to obliterate everything which could minister to the cult was probably due not merely to zeal against superstition, but was part of his policy of stamping out the resistance of the clergy to common law; for in the history of Becket, and in the honour paid to his remains, was the chief support of their claim. This throws light on the extraordinary legal process by which, more than three hundred years after his death, "Thomas Becket, sometime Archbishop of Canterbury", was summoned, tried, and condemned for treason, contumacy, and rebellion.
The summons was solemnly read by the shrine, and when, after thirty days, no voice or presence had issued from it, the case was formally tried at Westminster, sentence pronounced, the bones of the defendant were adjudged to be publicly burned, his treasures confiscated to the Crown, and his name blotted out of every service-book. Strange as the trial of a dead man may seem to us, it was not without precedent. So had the dead Wycliffe been cited, and his bones burned. So did Queen Mary to the dead Bucer. It is pleasanter to think of the Emperor Charles V by the grave of Erasmus. A courtier proposed that he should exhume and burn the great scholar "who laid the egg which Luther hatched"; the Emperor's fine reply was: "I war not with the dead".
Long before these changes and troubles, when the Chapel of the Shrine was the most honoured of the high places in the Cathedral, the Black Prince was laid here as the most honoured of its dead; and it is a testimony to the tenacious affection of the nation for his memory, that no desecrating hand has ever been laid, even in turbulent times, on his grave. The armour of the beautiful effigy has lost the gilding which once made him a golden knight, but it is fresh and clear in its outlines as it was in the fourteenth century. His helm, surcoat, gauntlets, shield, and scabbard still hang above him; round his resting place is the railing with its six tall iron posts for the great candles, which were lit on the anniversaries of his death. What tragedies and tumults would have been arrested by his strong hand, had he lived, we cannot tell; but a more impressive monument to a more beloved memory does not perhaps exist.
A few yards away lies the man who wrested the throne from the Prince's son, Richard II, while Canterbury nave was building. Visitors sometimes recognize in the portrait-statue of Henry IV, as he lies beside his Queen, Joan of Navarre, a curious family likeness to King Edward VII, witnessing to the persistence of Plantagenet blood. When the vault was opened in 1832 its occupant was found to be in a singular state of preservation, with a little simple cross, of two twigs tied together, laid upon his breast. The monument is of rare artistic merit, as is the chantry close by, which he built for "twey preestes" to say masses for his soul.
The next monument eastward of the Black Prince's is Archbishop Courtenay's (1396); and beyond this a mean brick mound without inscription but not without a history. Here lies Odet de Coligny, brother of the great admiral. Though a prince, a cardinal, an inquisitor, and a bishop, his sympathies were with the Huguenots, and he undertook a mission on their behalf to Queen Elizabeth. In the canonical house, formerly known as Master Omer's, at the southeast corner of the Precincts, he was poisoned by his servants, whether or not by foreign instigation is not known. Those were days when the murderer's hand reached far and freely, especially in causes political and religious. He was laid here and rudely bricked over, in expectation of his removal to France; but the French wars of religion left men no leisure to care for their dead. Against the south wall is a tomb without inscription and long unidentified. When opened in 1889 there was found, in full pomp of episcopal vestments, pastoral staff, chalice and paten, wearing a ring graven with strange Egyptian symbols, Hubert Walter, acclaimed archbishop on the field of Acre and afterwards the faithful chancellor who kept the kingdom and raised the ransom for Cœur de Lion. Beside him was a collecting box, perhaps for Peter's Pence, or for the King's ransom. These relics are kept under glass in Henry IV's chantry.
East of Trinity Chapel is the circular space called the Corona, or Becket's Crown, either as the head or crown of Becket's church, or, as Dr. Cox thinks, because here by the altar to the Trinity was a silver bust of Becket containing the fragment of his skull cut off by Richard the Breton's sword. The three most famous objects in the Cathedral are the site of the shrine, the Black Prince's monument, and the chair of St. Augustine; and here is the last of the three. In this seat of Purbeck or Bethersden marble have been enthroned from time immemorial the Archbishops of Canterbury. If some critics say that it is no older than the thirteenth century, others say that it was in existence in the sixth century, when Augustine arrived, and that Kentish kings were crowned on it. It has always a place in the triple enthronement of an Archbishop of Canterbury. He is seated on the throne in the choir as Diocesan Bishop, in the chapter house as titular Abbot, and in St. Augustine's chair as Primate of All England.
The pilgrims were conducted from Trinity Chapel back to the nave, along the south choir aisle, where the steps still show the marks of the two iron gates which divided the ascending from the descending stream. We, however, will take the north choir aisle, which was strictly reserved for monks, clerics, and officials, and find our way into the choir. The pavement is still that of Lanfranc or Anselm, for, when any part of it is taken up, bits of lead are found which fell melted from the roof, in the great fire of 1174. Facing east by the archbishop's throne we see the monuments of six archbishops. Nearest on our right is Cardinal Kemp, who was with Henry V at Agincourt; then Stratford, the opponent of Edward III; and lastly Simon Sudbury, who built Westgate and lost his head. Nearest on our left is the gorgeous tomb of Chicheley, who, in old age, was stricken with remorse for having instigated Henry V's French campaigns in order to distract attention from Lollard schemes for confiscating Church property. He founded All Souls College, Oxford, to pray for the souls of those who fell in the wars, and the Warden still renews, when needed, the colour-decoration of his monument. Then Howley, who crowned Queen Victoria, and finally Bourchier, who crowned Edward IV, Richard III, and Henry VII, and, by wedding the latter to Elizabeth of York, terminated the Wars of the Roses.
In Canterbury Cathedral have been buried some fifty archbishops, the Black Prince, Henry IV, two queens, and many others of royalty or distinction. Of the old monuments only about eighteen are left. The great fires of 1067 and 1174, the violence of men, and the ravages of time have all taken their toll.
Of the architectural history of the Cathedral, deeply interesting as it is, little can here be said. It may be summed up as a happy alternation of destructive fires and vigorous priors, aided by munificent archbishops and master masons of genius. There is no history of the first Christian settlement in these islands; but we dimly descry a Roman, and on its foundations a Saxon building which lasted till the Conquest Then came a fire, and with it Lanfranc's opportunity. He had driving power, and in the brief period of seven years (1070-7) built a stone Cathedral over the Roman and Saxon ground plans, adding a short choir and western towers of which one remained till 1834.
Only twenty years after Lanfranc, Anselm, greatly daring, pulled down most of his choir, and with his prior, Ernulf, began a slightly wider and much longer choir, extending about as far as the present Holy Table. This came to be known as "the glorious choir of Conrad", from the name of the prior who completed it. Anselm's or Ernulf's work still remains as part of the present crypt. In 1174, a hundred years later, the year of Henry II's penance at Becket's tomb, the whole church was ruined by the most devastating fire in its annals. How severe was the blow, both to monks and people, we may learn from Gervase, who was an eyewitness and one of the fraternity. The people "tore their hair and beat the walls and pavement of the church with their heads and hands, blaspheming the Lord and his Saints"; the monks "wailed and howled rather than sang their daily and nightly services" in the roofless nave.
French William, the designer of the Cathedral at Sens in Normandy, was chosen for the restoration; and the mark of his handiwork is plainly to be seen in the resemblances between the two churches. Genius transforms hindrances into triumphs. French William's difficulty was that the side chapels of St. Andrew and St. Anselm, built on the arc of the old apse, were too near together to admit of the full width of his new and longer choir. He kept the chapels, contracted the choir at their nearest points and then expanded it into the Trinity Chapel, with the remarkable effect which strikes every observer.
When his work was partly accomplished, and he was on the scaffolding to prepare for the turning of the vault, he fell with a mass of timber and stone from a height of 50 feet, and was disabled for life. He chose for his successor another man of genius, known as English William, one of his staff, "small of body, but in many kinds of workmanship acute and honest", who added to his master's design the great uplift of the floor of the Trinity Chapel and completed that and the Corona or Becket's Crown. Since 1185 no substantial alteration has been made in the eastern half of the Cathedral.
If the reader desires to know the chief sources of our information about the early history of Canterbury Cathedral, the reply is in itself a picture of the times. Eadmer was a boy in the convent school before the Conquest, and singer or precentor in Lanfranc's choir of monks. He also lived through the rule of Anselm.
Gervase was a monk of Christ Church when Becket died in the Martyrdom. He witnessed the fire of 1174, the desolation it left behind, and the immortal achievements of French William and of his English namesake. Eadmer and Gervase have both left us narratives, not umixed with monkish legend, but faithful and full of curious information.
It is not easy for us to understand the veneration paid to relics; yet from that veneration sprang all the glories of the Cathedral. And when we read in these old chronicles, translated from Latin in Willis' Architectural History, of the desperate, almost agonized labours of the monks to save from fire, weather, or dishonour the remains of their buried saints, we shall withhold our scorn for their superstition, and find less surprising the immense sums paid in the Middle Age for the arm or skull of a dead man.
The earlier Saxon archbishops were laid in the ground of St. Augustine's Abbey, which thus accumulated a store of sanctity which roused the sore jealousy of their Christ Church brethren. Accordingly in the eighth century Cuthbert obtained a secret permission from the Pope to be buried in the Cathedral. His death was not divulged until he was safely interred, and when the monks of St. Augustine's came to demand as usual the body of the dead archbishop, they were met with derisive shouts, and the brandishing of the Papal decree. Thus Gervase records that Cuthbert, "being endowed with great wisdom, procured for Christ Church the right of free sepulture".
There is at least one "secret chamber" in the Cathedral for the hiding away of relics or of treasures. This is the Chapel of St. Gabriel in the crypt. The entrance was through a hole which was entirely concealed by an outside altar. This chapel was so successfully hidden that the monk Gervase was evidently ignorant of its existence in the twelfth century; and its roof is covered with very curious painting of that date, which the darkness (for there is no window) has kept in remarkable preservation. There is also a room, over the Treasury, accessible only by a door opening 6 feet above the floor of St. Andrew's Chapel, requiring therefore a ladder as means of approach. But it was never a really secret chamber, and was probably at one time entered by an ordinary stone stairway.
It must be remembered that Canterbury Cathedral was originally the church or chapel of the monastery. The people were admitted to the nave, but only monks and clergy took any official part in the services, or entered the choir, which was the sanctuary of the Brotherhood. Indeed the entire Precincts belonged to them; and though they allowed the ground near the Christ Church Gate to be used as a general churchyard, or "exterior cemetery", entrance to the inner Precincts was only by permission or invitation. The present boundary of this monkish domain on the south and east is the old fortified wall of the city, but formerly the monastery had an interior wall of its own, running parallel to it, and leaving a space or lane about 14 feet wide, for the carrying of munitions and provisions to the defenders of the outer wall, and of materials for its repair.
The unique remnant of this lane is known as Quenengate or Queeningate Lane, and if we can borrow a canon's key and pass through the Norman archway of the Bowling Green, near the east end of the Cathedral, we may see not only Queeningate Lane but also the postern door in the outer wall through which Queen Bertha, in the sixth century, went to her daily prayer at St. Martin's. Nay, as we open that door we are face to face with the turreted fourteenth-century gateway of St. Augustine's, founded by and named after the great man, and once ranking second only to Subiaco among the Benedictine monasteries of Europe. Time was when St. Augustine's looked down upon Christ Church, as upon a little brother who should not presume. When, at the invitation of Edward I, Archbishop Peckham went to the Abbey to dine, he was refused admission, unless he would lower his cross or crozier on entering. He declined this indignity, and was absent from the royal dinner-party. Ethelbert's Tower, a splendid remnant of the Norman abbey church, stood till 1822, when it was battered down by the Philistines to provide cheap building material and make room for a tea-garden. In Bede's time this church had a tomb inscribed: "Here resteth the Lord Augustine, first Archbishop of Canterbury A.D. 605". To share the sanctity of a spot so consecrated, saints, nobles, and kings were brought hither on their last journey. Cuthbert turned the tide when he so cunningly gained the right of sepulture for Christ Church, and eventually, as we know, Becket's shrine quite eclipsed St. Augustine's. After the dissolution the abbey became for a time a royal lodge, and Queen Elizabeth and the First and Second Charles have occupied the guest-chamber over the gateway.
Returning to the Precincts, we are again reminded that the makers of Canterbury were the pilgrims and the monks. Of the three houses on our right, the first is Master Omer's, the guest-house for pilgrims where Odet de Coligny was murdered; the second incorporates part of the infirmary; the third was its frater and kitchen; while the long arcade of ruins, still reddened with the fire of 700 years ago, and stretching along the north side of the choir to the Dark Entry, was the monks' hospital.
So vast an infirmary as this, with its chapel at one end and cloister at the other, for a community of 100 to 150 monks, seems at first unaccountable. This and some other things we shall understand better when we have walked through the infirmary cloister, and along Lanfranc's vaulted passage to the great or main Cloister of the convent. This was the centre of the whole monastic life, in which the monks spent the greater part of the day, and from which doors gave access to every part of the building, dining hall or frater, dormitories, cellarer's stores and lodging, deportum or recreation room, chapter house for business and discipline, Cathedral choir for worship, infirmary for the sick or weary. Here they read and wrote, here they learned and taught, here were chronicles completed, missals illuminated, and various tasks of hand or head performed under the direction of the superiors.
Yet with all its splendour of traceried arch it is a comfortless place. Not until a few years before the fall of the monastery was it glazed even on one side. In the long summers and hot sunshine of Italy, where the Benedictine order took its rise, it was natural enough to build for coolness and air; hence not only the open alleys of the cloister, but also its situation on the north side of the church. It is possible that at Canterbury there was some difficulty about space on the south side; certainly in a chilly climate open cloisters hidden from the sun by a mountain of masonry must have inflicted much hardship on the monks, and added to the austerities of their ascetic life. They were a delicate and short-lived race, usually failing to attain forty years of age, and compelled by statute to spend three days of each month in the infirmary, independently of occasional recourse thither for ailments and for being bled, which was regarded as periodically necessary. Ordericus Vitalis, a monkish historian living in Normandy, says several times in his chronicle: "The winter has now come, and my fingers are so numbed by the cold that I can write no more till the spring". Visiting members of other convents were not asked to share the full discipline, but were hospitably lodged in the infirmary as the most comfortable quarters. Moreover, epidemics occurred, as in 1348, the year of the Black Death, when Archbishop Bradwardine died of the Plague within a few weeks of his installation, and half the nation perished. So the infirmary was probably not too large after all. It must not be forgotten that silence was strictly enjoined in the Cloister, so that to the agonies of cold hands and feet was added the privation, with which we cannot fail to sympathize, of being unable to talk about the inclemency of the weather.
In the cloister garth are two graves perhaps as well worth visiting as ever Becket's was, though no miracles have yet occurred at them. They are those of Archbishop Temple and Dean Farrar.
If we retrace our way along Lanfranc's gloomy passage to the infirmary cloister, where guests and invalid brethren took the air, and turn to the left along the Dark Entry, by the ruins of the Lord Prior's Lodging and Chequer House or Office, we emerge into the Green Court. Here servants had their quarters, and at the great gate of the convent received guests and pilgrims. Those of distinction they conducted to Master Omer's, those of middle rank to Chillenden Chambers or the vanished New Lodging; the common wayfarers ascended that lovely and unique Norman staircase to the Great North Hall. These had to bring their own bedding and cooking utensils, like the steerage passengers in an emigrant ship; and their hall was kitchen, parlour, and bedroom in one, so that its superb approach was no measure of the quality of its accommodation. The cowl or habit of a monk would rarely be seen in the Green Court. It belonged too much to the outside world and the secular life.
Before we ourselves return to that outside world let us turn southwards for a moment for a view that we shall not easily forget. Below the immense mass and broken outlines of the church, and flanked by ruins of cloister and dormitory, we see across a little breadth of lawn the picturesque octagonal tower called the Baptistery. It was really a monks' lavatory, and the centre of the water supply. For, strange as it may be to our conceited modern ears, the monks had from the twelfth century an elaborate system of waterworks, and probably owed to this their comparatively small mortality during the visitations of plague. There still exists a twelfth-century plan showing the various pipes, tanks, and basins, for drinking, washing, or cooking. So the little octagonal tower, as so often happens, was useful as well as beautiful. And if the chart which indicates the path of every pipe and runnel, and the place of every layer for personal ablution, fails to indicate any laundry for the washing of clothes—why, the monks wore all-wool garments, and did not think fastidiousness a virtue. Let us hope for the best.
So we pass the Convent Gate and cross the Mintyard. This is now a "quad" of the King's School, but archbishops till Cranmer exercised here their right of coinage. From the Mintyard we step back into a rather squalid street of a modern world. But the house just opposite is old enough to have housed pilgrims, and two or three hundred yards along Northgate Street, to our right, is the fifteenth-century timbered archway of St. John's Hospital, shown in our illustration. St. John's was founded before the days of the pilgrims as a nook of safety and peace for the aged poor, and this it still remains. How many wearied souls have bidden here their long farewell to Canterbury! We, too, will bid our farewell, less solemn, and not without hope of return, but still with regret. If these pages and pictures enable you, reader, to revisit in spirit the place of your pilgrimage, they will have accomplished their end.
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