Friday, October 29, 2010


I forgot to mention that I also visited Canterbury, specifically the cathedral, while I was down in Kent. Another huge, impressive piece of architecture.

Canterbury Cathedral

Inside is a wonder of vaults, arches, buttresses, stained glass, etc. Unlike the pretentious (mercenary?) lot at Durham, photography is allowed inside.

Canterbury Cathedral

Canterbury is the spiritual home of the Church of England. The Archbishop of Canterbury is the most senior cleric in the Anglican church. While Durham has the Venerable Bede, Canterbury has Thomas Beckett. Not many archbishops have been murdered and fewer have been murdered in their own cathedral. He may be the only one but I'm not sure of that. It occurred because of a power struggle between Church and State - Henry II, the king of England, frustrated by Beckett's attempts to increase the power of the church, and said some words he probably shouldn't have. The actual words are debatable but the result was that four of his knights took off and, when Beckett refused to go to the king, murdered him at the altar. (1170)
Canterbury, of course, then became a shrine to Beckett and a place of pilgrimage. The shrine in the centre of the cathedral and the altar where the murder happened were both destroyed, sometime in the 1500s, on the orders of Henry VIII during his own power struggles with the church. (That struggle led, of course, to the formation of the Church of England.)
A new, small, altar has been placed at the scene of the crime with a quite dramatic sculpture above it - four swords, to symbolise the killing and Beckett's martyrdom.

Thomas Becket

In place of the shrine there's now just an empty space with one candle perpetually burning.
There's also another perpetually burning candle, in another part of the cathedral, dedicated to prisoners of conscience. The sign says: "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good people do nothing." And also: "as a reminder of prisoners of conscience and all those who suffer unjustly for their beliefs and actions".

All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good people do nothing.

I thought it was good to see a church recognising such injustice. It makes a change from most (all?) religious organisations with their "there's only one way and it's our way" approach.

Anyway...... after the cathedral I tried to get into what I thought was the castle. Haha, got stopped at the barrier by a uniformed bloke telling me I couldn't go in. Turns out it's not a castle but a school. The King's School. One of the most elite in the country apparently. I was there as kids were getting out and being picked up by parents - never seen so many expensive cars in one place. Tory Central. When the revolution comes......

From Canterbury I did a quick jaunt down to Dover to have a look at the White Cliffs.

The White Cliffs of Dover

I could just make out France across the Channel. Might be all I see of France if the strikes and protests don't get sorted out soon. You have to admire the French for standing up to their government but really.... their timing is terrible!


Your sister Clare said...

Agree about the French: the rest of us could take a leaf out of their book of civil unrest: brilliant. But yes, very inconvenient for you.

Again - absolutely stunning photography and an interesting tales.

Thought of the title of your book, yet?

And when are you getting up to East Grinstead to have a beer with Jimmy?


Julie said...

Book - hahahaha! Pfftt!

Your sister Clare said...

Well, you've got a good editor