Tuesday, May 03, 2005


Last Saturday (April 23) I took the train to Canterbury. Since I slept late that morning, I didn’t arrive in Canterbury until early afternoon. The Canterbury West station is quite near the old city walls. Passing by the gates and into the old town, you feel a sense of what the city must have been like hundreds of years ago. The streets are lined with shops and filled with people. Moving through the streets, I saw signs pointing to the Cathedral. Like a pilgrim of old, I make my way in the directions of the sign. Unlike pilgrims of old, I hadn’t travelled for days or weeks and I hadn’t told too many tales along the way.

I arrived at the Cathedral in time for Evensong. A nice gentleman welcomed me to the ‘Mother Church’. (What St. Peter’s is to the Catholic Church, Canterbury Cathedral is to the Church of England.) It was St. George’s Day so the candles in the quire were lit. (St. George is the patron saint of England - similar to how St. Patrick is the patron saint of Ireland. There’s just less drinking.) Since I was one of the first to arrive for Evensong, I was able to sit in the quire right next to the choir. (Evidently, ‘quire’ refers to the place in a cathedral, and ‘choir’ refers to the people who are singing there. You pronounce them the same, though.) It was very nice. The postlude, however, was slightly unnerving. Never having heard Pomp and Circumstances played at any event other than a graduation, I expected to see people in caps and gowns wandering about at any minute. As a side note, evidently the full version of Pomp and Circumstances goes on halfway to forever and includes one part that sounds rather like a calliope.

After Evensong, I had some time to walk around the Cathedral. I saw the place where the shrine to Thomas Becket used to be – the actual shrine was destroyed during the reformation – a candle burns in its place. Walking further around the Cathedral, I came to the spot where Pope John Paul II and the Archbishop of Canterbury knelt to pray during the Pope’s historic visit. Visitors can also descend into the crypt. I didn’t pay extra for a guided tour or for a recorded guide, but when I go again, I probably will – there’s so much there and there aren’t many descriptions posted.

That’s about all I did in Canterbury. It seems that the town folds up at 5:30 in the evening. So I left.


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