The plan was to drive to Canterbury to see Canterbury Cathedral, the Abbey of St. Augustine, where King Aethelberht and St. Augustine were buried, and St. Martin’s Church, where King Aethelberht was baptized.
The old town of Canterbury probably does not look much different than it did 1,000 years ago with its narrow streets meandering through a rows of quaint stores and restaurants.Our first stop after lunch was the Canterbury Cathedral. The Cathedral is enormous. The cathedral is in the midst of a five-year renovation and much of the front of the cathedral and ceiling is obscured with scaffolding, but once inside we began to appreciate the size. The nave alone is larger than most European cathedrals. The pic above is only from the part of the cathedral known as the choir.
The audio tour of the cathedral was excellent, although every time the narrator mentioned the Puritans he did so with obvious disgust. You see the Puritan “vandals” and “rebels” had broken some of the stained glass and other things in the cathedral the people were idolizing as part of the cult following that developed as a result of Thomas Becket’s murder. Curiously, the Puritans thought people should worship God rather than a dead man’s bones. Go figure.
If you are familiar with British history or have seen Becket, you know the story. King Henry II made Becket the Archbishop of Canterbury believing Becket would support Henry without question, but Becket took his position seriously and acted in the best interest of the church. Henry got so frustrated, some of those near him interpreted his frustration as a command to kill Becket, leading to some knights to murder Becket in the cathedral. I took the pic to the left of the spot marked on the floor where Becket was murdered. The Anglican Church and John Foxe consider Becket a martyr, and I do not disagree. Like John the Baptist, he spoke Truth to power and paid for it with his life.
After visiting the cathedral we walked down the street to the abbey. To our great surprise, we found the abbey exists only in ruins, and while Aethelberht and Augustine were once buried there, their remains have now been scattered to the winds. While this was a disappointment, we still had St. Martins, the oldest church in the English speaking world, where King Aethelberht was baptized.
So, we walked down the street to St. Martins only to find when we arrived that it was closed on Wednesdays. The Wife tossed out the idea of breaking in, but cooler heads prevailed. Instead we walked around the church marveled at the part of the walls believed to have been from the 3rd century construction but left a little disappointed.
Before driving back to Oxford we found a nice pub and ordered dinner. Three of us ordered hamburgers, and they were very good, a step up from the English food we had been eating for the last three days.
The abbey and St. Martins were obvious failures on the part of the research division of the GSB team. Fortunately Dr. H and Mrs. H. took it in stride. They showed us the grace Henry II failed to show Thomas Becket; and perhaps that is the takeaway from today’s tour…or maybe it is that broken glass is better than broken worship….or maybe that an average American hamburger is better than good English food. GS