Our city guide to Canterbury
Canterbury is known as the ecclesiastical capital of England. Dominated by its impressive medieval cathedral, Canterbury is an ancient town of rank.
Situated on a prehistoric route linking London with the southeast coast, Canterbury was the end point of the Pilgrim’s Way, an ancient pilgrimage to the cathedral. This pilgrimage was made famous by Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales.
The Roman garrison known as Durovernum was first established at Canterbury in AD 43 and was later renamed Cantwarabyrig, meaning ‘the stronghold of the Men of Kent’ by Anglo-Saxon settlers in the 5th century. In AD 597 St Augustine converted the men of Kent and Canterbury became the main religious centre for England and Augustine. Augustine also built the first cathedral at Canterbury, which was rebuilt in 1067. When, in 1170, archbishop Thomas Becket was gruesomely murdered in Canterbury Cathedral by King Henry II’s knights, Canterbury became one of Christendom’s most important pilgrimage sites.
Today Canterbury Cathedral has been given World Heritage status; it continues to draw pilgrims and tourists in huge numbers for its impressive gothic towers and historic artefacts not to mention its expansive stained glass windows, some of the finest in Britain.
The town of Canterbury itself is an architectural mix of Elizabethen timber fronted buildings in the historic centre surrounding the Cathedral and more modern structures, built following extensive bombing in the Second World War.
Highlights of Canterbury include the ruins of St Augustine’s sixth century Abbey, originally created as a burial place for the Anglo-Saxon kings of Kent; The Canterbury Tales attraction and of course, Canterbury cathedral itself.