As I prepared for this morning’s journey to Canterbury I really had no idea what to expect. I kept having flashbacks to that time in high school when my senior literature teacher forced us to read the beginning of the Canterbury Tales and it was an absolute nightmare. At the time I really didn’t understand what Chaucer was trying to say, so I had my fingers crossed that today wouldn’t turn out the same way. The moment we arrived in Canterbury I knew it was going to be another great day. I swear every single town I visit in England is the cutest place I’ve ever seen and Canterbury was no exception. It was another absolutely gorgeous day and the cobblestone streets and various little shops (and Poundland! Woo!), made me want to stay forever. The door leading to the Canterbury Cathedral was gigantic and full of all sorts of different carvings. In the middle of the door was the coat of arms of Henry VIII and a large statue of Jesus Christ. The statue was a new addition though and hadn’t been around anywhere near as long as the rest of the carvings.
Once we walked through the gates there was a bright green lawn that led up to one of the biggest churches I have ever seen. Due to a fire in the eleventh century, the church was rebuilt by a Frenchman (the same man who is responsible for Westminster Abbey). At the time, gothic architecture was becoming wildly popular in France so the Canterbury Cathedral became the first sight of gothic architecture in the entire country. In the twelfth century, King Henry II thought it would be a good idea to hire his friend, Thomas Becket, to be the Archbishop of Canterbury. Unfortunately for him, Becket chose to defend the church against the King and the King was not happy. Consequently, some of his guards went to Canterbury and while Becket was standing in the cathedral, they brutally murdered him. After this, Becket became a famous martyr and people from all over the world made pilgrimages to Canterbury to place offerings before Thomas Becket. Many of these people had mental and physical illnesses and they would climb the stairs to his memorial on their knees to make offerings to Becket in hopes of being healed. When I went to the bottom of the stairs and looked up, I could see the way the stairs were warped and misshapen from people crawling up them all those years ago. It was the kind of sight that will send shivers down your spine. Surrounding the memorial were stained glass windows that depicted several scenes of the people that were cured of their illnesses after visiting Becket’s grave. Henry VIII removed Becket’s body when he broke ties with the church so it is no longer there, but there is still a candle burning on the floor where the site once was.
Once I finally put two and two together and realized that this is where Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales is derived from, I honestly felt a little badly about complaining so much to my literature teacher four years ago. I’ll have to email her and let her know that I understand why she liked the story much now. While visiting Canterbury was a wonderful experience, there was a slight downside to the visit as well. While we were there, Russell informed us that the King or Queen of England becomes the head of the Anglican Church, so that means Prince William, or anyone next in line for the throne, can’t marry a Catholic woman. I’m hoping that since Prince Harry isn’t technically going to be king the same rules won’t apply, otherwise this is going to be an issue. After my friends and I found out this information we decided to drown our sorrows in gelato (and maybe a free starbucks sample too… I mean we were pretty devastated) and engage in some retail therapy before we got back on the bus and headed to Leeds castle!