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We select this Cathedral for the commencement of our Series, as being that of the Primate of all England. In the short illustrative description which we shall give of each Cathedral, with which we shall adorn our pages, but little novelty can be expected; for the subject having been long ago exhausted, all that can be required is a condensation of materials.
Until the arrival of Augustine in this country, Canterbury did not boast a Cathedral; but after the grant of the city and its dependencies to him by Ethelbert, the fifth king of Kent, it was provided with one, and the see became the first seat of episcopal power in Britain. The Cathedral, however, which is dedicated to Christ, was not finished at the time of Augustine's death, whose body was consequently buried in the church-yard of a monastery bearing his name; but after the consecration of the Cathedral, it was removed, and deposited within the northern porch, and in the year 1091 finally placed in the Church.
Honorius, the fifth Archbishop of Canterbury, is affirmed to have divided, anno 636, his province into parishes, and his successor Trithona to have been the first English Archbishop of this sce. The Cathedral itself presents a curious history of calamities. It suffered greatly by the Danish invasion, and was repaired by the Archbishop Odo in 938; in 1011 it was burned with the exception of the outward walls by the
Danes, and was not restored before Canute's accession to the throne in 1017. Until the Reformation, this monarch's golden crown was preserved there. About 1067, the building was again injured by fire; and at the command of Lanfranc, Archbishop of Canterbury under William the Conqueror, the greater part of it was pulled down, and its re-erection with arches, bolder in the sweep and columns, and more elegant in their proportions, was commenced. These improvements were continued under Anselm, Lanfranc's successor; and in 1114 the Church was dedicated to Jesus Christ, by Archbishop Randulfus. After the murder of Archbishop Becket, on the 28th Dec. 1170, no divine service was performed in it for one year; the hangings and pictures were taken away, the pavement was turned up, the bells were secured from the power of ringing them, and filth was permitted to congregate in the interior. But the re-consecration of the Church after, this desecration, was attended with pomp and most munificent benefactions. On the 5th of Sept. 1174, the choir and other parts were destroyed by fire; and between 1175 and 1180 the whole of the east end was rebuilt under the direction of William of Sens, and another architect called William, who was an Englishman.
The animosity between the King and the Convent of Christ's Church having become more furious after the death of Archbishop Hubert Walter, and the Pope taking advantage of it to infringe the royal prerogative, the monarch expelled the monks, and the monks of St. Augustine possessed themselves of the Convent and the Church. The boisterous acts which followed these events, prevented improvements in the Cathedral: but the erection of Trinity Chapel, and of the contiguous circular tower for the reception of Becket's remains, was an object of solicitude even at this time. The remains of the canonized St. Thomas of Canterbury were removed on the 7th of July, 1220, to a costly shrine in the centre of Trinity Chapel in the presence of Henry III., the Pope's legate, and many prelates: the upper part of the skull which the murderers had severed, was separately preserved on an highly ornamental altar in the tower, now called Becket's Crown.
An embattled wall attributed to Archbishop Lanfranc, within which the whole precincts of the Church were enclosed, anciently surrounded the Cathedral; this boundary comprised three courts, that of the Church-that of the Convent-and that of the Archbishop. Of these walls, which extended three quarters of a mile, a part, as well as two gate-houses, remain, viz., Christ Church-gate, re-erected in 1517; and that of the Priory, Porta Curia, in which the architecture is Anglo-Norman.
Whilst Archbishop Peckham held the see, many additions were made to the Cathedral: the choir-screen, of which the sculpture is very beautiful, is stated to have been erected by him. The repairs of the choir and its ornamental carvings are also assigned to him. He was prior of Christ Church from 1285 to 1331, and between 1313 and 1375 several of the offices near the Cathedral were either built or enlarged. The re-construction of the western transept was begun in 1376, and Archbishop Sudbury caused the nave of the Church to be
pulled down, for the purpose of re-erecting it in the prevalent pointed style of architecture. The work was continued under his successors.
About the year 1430, Prior Molash gave a large bell, called Dunstan, which was hung in the newly-erected tower called Dunstan's tower, at the south-western angle; on the north-western tower, afterwards styled Arundel's steeple, Archbishop Arundel had previously added a spire, and placed five bells within the tower. It was taken down about the year 1704, and has been lately rebuilt. In Prior Goldstone's time, who was raised to his dignity in 1449, the Virgin's Chapel, now called the Dean's Chapel, was erected: the south-western tower, begun by Archbishop Chicheley, he also finished. The building was greatly embellished by Prior Selling, created in 1472, who glazed the southern walk of the cloisters: the grand central tower named the Angel-steeple, subsequently Bell Harry tower, he likewise undertook, but his successor completed.
Prior Thomas Goldstone, the second of the name, during the interval between 1494 and 1517, enriched the Virgin's Chapel in the crypt, gave the design for the splendid gate at the principal entrance to the choir, and ornamented the choir with costly hangings. At this time richly embroidered tapestry, especially on high festivals, seems to have adorned the choir and all the eastern end: the description which Erasmus has given of Becket's shrine, in which gold was the meanest thing, assures us of the immense riches of the Cathedral. This magnificent shrine was destroyed by Henry VIII., and its treasures were appropriated to the royal purposes. The monastery of Christ Church was finally dissolved on the 30th of March, 1539; but provision was intended for most of its members, as a Collegiate Church, consisting of a Dean and twelve Canons, with inferior Officers, and privileges like those enjoyed at the Convent. With the exception of the Cellarer's hall and lodgings westward of the cloister, reserved by the King to himself, the Cathedral with its buildings and gardens was granted to them. Queen Mary presented an altar-screen to the chapter, which was erected in front of Trinity Chapel, and in the time of Elizabeth the crypt was lent to the refugee Flemish Protestants, for the performance of divine worship in their own language.
In 1643, that fanatic, Richard Culmer, commonly styled Blue Dick, armed with Parliamentary authority, and accompanied by a band of enthusiastic ruffians, commenced the work of destruction on the building: most of the beautiful paintings in the windows he demolished, hardly sparing those of Edward IV. and his family. The splendidly sculptured font given by Warner, Bishop of Rochester, was broken to fragments; curious ornaments were wrenched from the tombs, and the nave was converted into a barrack. But when Charles II. was restored, the Cathedral was repaired and fitted for worship. In 1729 a Corinthian altar-screen was substituted for that of Queen Mary's, and the chancel was paved with black and white marble. Becket's crown, which, through various circumstances, had remained in an unfinished state till 1748, with respect to the alterations by which it was intended to make it correspond with the other improvements, through the munificence