(This Post was written by Susannah Jayes, Picture Editor and writer from London and contributor to my blog. Susannah has also written the piece, Patient´s Olympic experience.)
If you are in the UK this summer, you might like to consider a visit to the ancient city of Canterbury in Kent, just an hour or so by train from London.
With more than 1500 years of history, Canterbury is famed for its cathedral, which was established in 597AD as the birthplace of English Christianity by St Augustine. The cathedral was also the scene of the murder of the archbishop, Thomas à Becket in 1170AD (immortalised in TS Eliot’s play, Murder in the Cathedral), and became a place of pilgrimage thereafter. The pilgrimage provided the backdrop to Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. Today the cathedral is a UNESCO World Heritage site and the present Cathedral (rebuilt in Gothic style after a fire in 1174) is awe-inspiring, with its high-vaulted ceilings, large but intimate crypt, huge stone pillars and beautiful stained glass windows. There is so much to see that you could happily spend a day inside and also an afternoon wandering around the Cathedral precincts, staring up at the amazing 72m-high main tower and marveling at the skill and dedication of the early stonemasons and craftsmen and women who built it.
Over a weekend in June, my husband and I explored Canterbury for the first time and we really enjoyed wandering the winding, narrow streets that grew up around the cathedral, which contain many beautiful examples of early medieval architecture. If you are a keen photographer (or even if you are not), you will find many striking buildings and secret alleyways to intrigue and delight you. Canterbury today – just like in medieval and Chaucerian times – remains a lively and bustling place to visit. There is an abundance of restaurants, cafes and historic pubs to enjoy, and the buskers and market stalls offer a lively street life. There are also many museums that will fascinate. We visited the The Beaney Art Museum and Library, which houses the exotic collection of Dr James George Beaney who travelled the world in the 18th century, and sent back artifacts to his home city. Particularly interesting was the Cabinet of Curiosities, which contains all manner of items Beaney collected from far and wide – everything from stuffed parrots to Ancient Egyptian pottery!
We also visited the Eastbridge Hospital of St. Thomas the Martyr in the main street. It is a hospital in the old sense of the word – a place of hospitality – and was built more than 800 years ago to provide shelter for poorer pilgrims who needed a place to stay, and the hospital carries on this tradition of hospitality today, with 8 flats providing accommodation for some of the elderly people of Canterbury. The hospital has a wonderful vaulted undercroft, a medieval refectory and a peaceful and beautiful chapel that is still in use today.
If you might be thinking of visiting Canterbury, you could consider staying at the Cathedral Lodge Hotel like we did, which is set within the precincts of the cathedral itself – we really enjoyed our stay there. The hotel raises money for the upkeep of the cathedral and so contributes to keeping this amazing building going in the 21st century, so many hundreds of years after it was first built.
© Susannah Jayes/Mayflower Media Ltd 2013