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why do pilgrims go to canterbury cathedral

The tradition of taking a pilgrimage is not exclusive to any one faith. Believers from many faiths have journeyed to locations that played important roles in shaping their religionБs history and doctrine. One of the Five Pillars of Islam urges believers who can afford to do so to take a pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in their lives. Many Christians, regardless of denomination, journey to the Holy Land, to sites like Bethlehem, Nazareth and Capernaum, and members of the Jewish faith frequently journey to Israel as well. There are other places that have gained particular religious importance, because of the history that occurred there and the effect those events had on church history and doctrine. One such place is Canterbury in the United Kingdom. St. Augustine
In 597, Augustine and 40 monks were sent by Pope Gregory to evangelize the Anglo-Saxons in England. In the territory of Kent, Augustine was received by King Ethelbert, a pagan who was married to a Christian, Bertha. Ethelbert gave Augustine a small church in Canterbury and within a year, the king converted to Christianity. Augustine commissioned the construction of the Canterbury Cathedral, and in 602 he became the first Archbishop of Canterbury.


After a massive fire, the cathedral was rebuilt in 1070. St. Thomas Becket Because of St. Augustine, Canterbury became an archdiocese, but it was more than 500 years later that Canterbury became the site of a massive pilgrimage. In 1170, Thomas Becket, who was the Archbishop in Canterbury at the time, was murdered inside the Cathedral walls. Becket quarreled with King Henry II over the power of the church and the rights of the clergy. The king is said to have cried out in rage, БWho will rid me of this troublesome priest? Б Four knights, taking him at his word, entered the cathedral during vespers, confronted Becket and murdered him at the altar. Three days after his murder, there were accounts of several miracles, which were attributed to his martyrdom, and after Pope Alexander III canonized Becket in 1173, pilgrims flocked to Canterbury to visit BecketБs shrine and make prayers for miracles of their own. About 200 years after the death of Thomas Becket, Geoffrey Chaucer began writing "The Canterbury Tales," the stories of individual pilgrims in a group journeying to St. Thomas BecketБs shrine Pilgrims traveled many roads to reach Canterbury, but perhaps the most famous is the 120 mile trail between Winchester and Canterbury, two-thirds of which is identifiable today.


Many pilgrims journey to Canterbury, either as a destination or as a stop during a pilgrimage to other sites, such as Santiago de Compostella in Spain or the Via Francigena. The Canterbury Cathedral holds 2,000 services annually, and regardless of their own religious affiliation, some literature and history scholars and enthusiasts go to Canterbury as a re-creation of ChaucerБs work. In June of 2012, the Pilgrimage for Justice took place, and event participants spent two weeks walking 62 miles from London to Canterbury. Evoking the ancient pilgrimage Christians took to St. Thomas BecketБs shrine, the Pilgrimage for Justice welcomed modern-day pilgrims to march for social change. Inspired by difficult economic times, Occupy Faith, the organization behind the event, sought to draw upon the tradition of people who took pilgrimages at times of crisis. Soon after the death of, Pope Alexander canonised him and the murdered priest was elevated to sainthood. Becket's shrine at Canterbury now became the most important place in the country for pilgrims to visit.


When Becket was killed, local people apparently managed to obtain pieces of cloth soaked in his blood. Rumours soon spread that, when touched by this cloth, people were cured of blindness, epilepsy and leprosy. It was not long before the monks at Canterbury Priory were selling small glass bottles of Becket's blood to visitors. The keeper of the shrine would also give the pilgrim a metal badge that had been stamped with the symbol of the shrine. The monks were afraid that Becket's body might be stolen. To prevent this from happening, Becket's marble coffin was placed in the crypt of the cathedral. The monks also built a stone wall in front of the tomb. There were two gaps in the wall where pilgrims could insert their heads and kiss the tomb. In 1220, Becket's bones were moved to a new gold-plated and bejewelled shrine behind the high altar. The shrine was placed on a raised platform supported by pillars. Canterbury, because of its religious history, had always seen a large number of pilgrims. However, after the death of Thomas Becket, the number of pilgrims visiting the town grew rapidly.

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