Welcome to Canterbury Cathedral, Mother Church of the Anglican Communion and seat of the Archbishop of Canterbury. The Cathedral is both a holy place and part of a World Heritage Site.
It is the home of a community made up of many different types of people all of whom seek to make the Cathedral a place of welcome, beauty and holiness. We hope you will be inspired to visit Canterbury and the Cathedral and look forward to welcoming you.
The Origins of Canterbury Cathedral
St Augustine, the first Archbishop of Canterbury, arrived on the coast of Kent as a missionary to England in 597 AD. He came from Rome, sent by Pope Gregory the Great. It is said that Gregory had been struck by the beauty of Angle slaves he saw for sale in the city market and despatched Augustine and some monks to convert them to Christianity.
Augustine was given a church at Canterbury (St Martin's, after St Martin of Tours, still standing today) by the local King, Ethelbert whose Queen, Bertha, a French Princess, was already a Christian. This building had been a place of worship during the Roman occupation of Britain and is the oldest church in England still in use.
Augustine had been consecrated a bishop in France and was later made an archbishop by the Pope. He established his seat within the Roman city walls (the Latin word for a seat is cathedra, from which the word cathedral is derived) and built the first cathedral there, becoming the first Archbishop of Canterbury. Since that time, there has been a community around the Cathedral offering daily prayer to God; this community is arguably the oldest organisation in the English speaking world. The present Archbishop, The Most Revd and Right Honourable Dr Rowan Williams, is 104th in the line of succession from Augustine.
Until the 10th century the Cathedral community lived as the household of the Archbishop. During the 10th century, it became a formal community of Benedictine monks, which continued until the monastery was dissolved by King Henry VIII in 1540.
Augustine's original building lies beneath the floor of the nave– it was extensively rebuilt and enlarged by the Saxons, and the Cathedral was rebuilt completely by the Normans in 1070 following a major fire. There have been many additions to the building over the last nine hundred years, but parts of the quire and some of the windows and their stained glass date from the 12th century.
By 1077, Archbishop Lanfranc had rebuilt it as a Norman church, described as "nearly perfect". A staircase and parts of the North Wall - in the area of the North West transept also called the Martyrdom - remain from that building.
More recent times
The work of the Cathedral as a monastery came to an end in 1540, when the monastery was closed on the orders of King Henry VIII. Its role as a place of prayer continued – as it does to this day. Once the monastery had been suppressed, responsibility for the services and upkeep was given to a group of clergy known as the Dean and Chapter. Today, the Cathedral is still governed by the Dean and four Canons, together (in recent years) with four lay people and the Archdeacon of Maidstone.
During the Civil War of the 1640s, the Cathedral suffered damage at the hands of the Puritans; much of the medieval stained glass was smashed and horses were stabled in the nave. After the Restoration in 1660, several years were spent in repairing the building.
In the early 19th Century, the North West tower was found to be dangerous. Although it dated from Lanfranc’s time, it was demolished in the early 1830s and replaced by a copy of the South West tower, thus giving a symmetrical appearance to the west end of the Cathedral.
General information for visitors
During the Second World War, the Precincts were heavily damaged by enemy action and the Cathedral’s Library was destroyed. Thankfully, the Cathedral itself was not seriously harmed, due to the bravery of the team of fire watchers, who patrolled the roofs and dealt with the incendiary bombs dropped by enemy bombers.
Today, the Cathedral stands as a place where prayer to God has been offered daily for over 1,400 years; nearly 2,000 services are held each year, as well as countless private prayers from individuals. The Cathedral offers a warm welcome to all visitors – its aim is to show people Jesus, which we do through the splendour of the building as well as the beauty of the worship.
The Cathedral is very much part of the local community. It is used regularly for local, regional and/or national services and events. Some or all of it may, therefore, at times be closed for general visiting.
Opening times (please check before visiting)
Summer 09.00 - 18.00* hrs
Winter 09.00 - 17.00/18.00* hrs
The Crypt 10.00 - 17.00/18.00* hrs
(throughout the year, including the Crypt) 12.30 - 14.30* hrs; 16.30 - 1730* hrs
* Last entry 1/2 hr prior to closing time
Entry Charge (please check for latest prices)
There is a charge to enter the precincts and the Cathedral unless you are attending a Service. This charge contributes towards the upkeep of the Cathedral and its activities.
Adults £6.50 (pre-booked groups £5.50)
Concessions £6.50 (pre-booked groups £6.00)
Tel: +44 (0) 1227 762862
Canterbury is well served by the Motorway network with both the M20 and M2 providing links to the rest of England. There are several car parks in the centre of Canterbury and a park and ride scheme operates with buses running at 7-8 minute intervals from designated areas on the outskirts of the city right into the city centre.
South Eastern run regular train services from London Victoria and London Charing Cross to both Canterbury East station and Canterbury West station. Upon arrival at either Canterbury station the cathedral is a short walk into the city.
South Eastern Trains offer an all-in great value Canterbury train ticket, which includes train travel as well as entrance to Canterbury Cathedral, The Canterbury Tales Visitor Attraction, St Augustine's Abbey and one of Canterbury's museums.
For visitors travelling by Eurostar to Ashford there is a frequent train service running between Ashford and Canterbury West.
It is also possible to journey to Canterbury from London by steam train for more information visit the Steamdreams website at www.steamdreams.co.uk
Canterbury is served by Stagecoach East Kent buses from Canterbury bus station - a 5 minute walk from the Cathedral Precincts. For timetable enquiries please telephone 08702 433711.
National Express run regular coaches from London Victoria Coach Station (telephone 08705 808080 for more information on timetables).
By Air / Land
Canterbury is within easy reach of London, the Channel ports, Ashford International , Kent International Airport and major London airports.
Disclaimer: The information on this leisure attraction was presented with the best of intentions. Any reported errors will be corrected immediately. People interested in contacting the above leisure attraction should confirm for themselves the accuracy of any data presented.
Last Updated: 28 Apr 2015