Christ Church, Canterbury: The Spiritual Landscape of Pilgrimage

Christ Church, Canterbury: The Spiritual Landscape of Pilgrimage

Robertson Hamer, Eileen

Essays in Medieval Studies, vol. 7 (1990)


Canterbury Cathedral began as the mission church of Saint Augustine in the early seventh century and reached its full medieval expression as the pilgrimage church of Saint Thomas Becket six hundred years later in the thirteenth century. Saint Augustine had recovered an ancient Romano-British church and remodeled it in imitation of Saint Peter’s Basilica in Rome. This ‘Roman’ church became the Anglo-Saxon cathedral, was destroyed by fire in 1067, rebuilt by the Norman Archbishop Lanfranc, and enlarged by his successor, Anselm. Another great fire in 1174 destroyed much of Anselm’s Norman church, and William of Sens and his successor, William the Englishman, designed the great Gothic choir which still stands today. These successive structures have had their respective physical topographies thoroughly mapped and exhaustively discussed, but the spiritual topography enclosed and protected by these physical structures remains largely unexplored.

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