After we came, saw, and (in Nap’s case) conquered Dover, our pilgrimage continued to the main event: Canterbury.
We came just in time for Easter Sunday, which was such a delight. Celebrating Easter in Canterbury was a dream come true. The service was incredibly beautiful, solemn, and worshipful. The Archbishop of Canterbury entered in great ceremony to lead the service and deliver the sermon. It was a very good Easter sermon, in case you wondered.
I know that many people were there as tourists (us included), but we were also there to celebrate the most triumphant moment of the Christian faith: the resurrection. Every song, every word, every prayer centered beautifully around that theme.
Sitting in that great room and listening to the choir, I was overwhelmed. It is a moment I will never forget.
A candle sits on the floor where St Thomas a Becket’s shrine once stood – before everyone’s favorite King Henry VIII destroyed it.
The tomb of Edward, the Black Prince brought me straight back to Henry V and England’s long war to gain France as its own. I impressed a woman standing there giving talks with my knowledge of the Black Prince. She declared, “You know your history!” My response was: “I know my Shakespeare!” We literary folk have reputations to uphold. We, many of us, see the world through stories.
Ever since reading The Canterbury Tales by Chaucer, I have wanted to make my own pilgrimage here. And then I watched the movie A Canterbury Tale, a charming old film about three travelers in England during the second War who experience their own miracles when they find their way to Canterbury. That settled it. I needed to come here.
Canterbury offers river tours. On a sunny day, these tours must be heavenly. On a cloudy day, it was still enjoyable. Joelle and I signed up for a tour, went and had lunch, and then came back for our boat ride up and down the quiet river. Our tour guide gave us lots of great background about the city and the history of the buildings.
We were watched by eery duck sentinels as we passed by…
Canterbury Castle stands along an old Roman wall. The castle is not the first one ever built here – William the Conqueror had an older wooden fortress nearby – but it is still nearly a thousand years old. It wins my respect even if it was not pretty and leaked a bit.
We had a bit of time before dinner and heading back to the hostel, so we decided to investigate one last site that the map recommended: St Martin’s Church. What I didn’t realize (shame on me!) was that this is actually the church that St Augustine founded in 597 AD as the first English church of the Christian faith. Amazing.
The sign explained that King Ethelbert permitted Augustine and his monks to worship in an old building of Roman origins (the remains or which are still part of this church). It is still being used today, which I found particularly astonishing and fabulous. What a legacy!
Yes, I would have preferred the weather to be warm and sunny, but it’s hard to complain about a day that involves so much beauty, history, and literature! And to finish a day off with a sight like this, well, it speaks for itself.
Chaucer’s stories from over five hundred years ago have always ensured that Canterbury would be one of my top destinations and it did not disappoint. Not only did I go on my own pilgrim’s journey to the cathedral, but I encountered the ghosts of Thomas a Becket, St Augustine, the Black Prince, and two millenia’s worth of history.