Obviously when I say a ‘day out’, I’m assuming that you, like me, live in London. If you, like most people, don’t live in London, then this may be more than a simple day out. But if you can ever make it to Canterbury, I do think you should.
And here’s why. The cathedral is jaw droppingly beautiful.
I shall now put this into some context. A very subjective context, but a context nonetheless. I went to a secondary school in London that had affiliations with Westminster Abbey. We had two or three services a year in Westminster Abbey and I used to be aware of the privilege of shuffling down aisles where kings and queens had proudly stomped before me. And yeah, it was quite impressive to be miming along to dirge-full hymns once a term in such an historical building. Additionally, as a state school, we were involved with an all London choir and dance affair at St Pauls where I remember having to change into my leotard in the crypt and then prance (choreographed prancing to be fair) on a makeshift stage to the rousing Carmina Burana – yeah, it was awesome!
So, we can safely say that I have seen some Cathedrals. (Yes, I’ve been to Sagrada Família). I’d heard that Canterbury was impressive. But I stepped inside and I can honestly say that my jaw dropped. It is freakin’ awesome in the true sense of the word.
Now, granted, I visited Canterbury on a weekday in term time so I’m sure it wasn’t as busy as it could have been and I did watch a class of year 4 students kicking their feet and lolling their heads whilst I listened rapt to the guide tell them the story about the dear old Becket and his untimely end. Even the kid in the crown during the enactment looked bored whilst I was thinking how much I’d have liked to be the one wearing the crown shouting ‘who will rid me of this troublesome priest’. His performance was lacklustre at best and he hadn’t even properly learned the line just taught him. Amateurs. (Harsh, I know).
I’m not religious, nor spiritual. I have way too many demons and free floating anxiety for either. But Canterbury Cathedral is, in my view, a jewel of serenity within a cavernous stone shell, a gem of architecture, of history, of sculpture, of craftsmanship, of building something for faith, of structure, acoustics and, quite frankly, of awesome.
Yes, I seem to remember we were charged to enter (which I find anathema in places of worship).
But if you’re like me and want to get your money and time/effort’s worth, do check it all out. And make sure to grab one of the yellow sashed volunteers and test them. Test the fuck out of them. I was told that they have to sit exams and actually study the history of the place, so approach them quietly (church, remember), point at something and say “What’s that?”. They’re AWESOME. Why I had to point out they were yellow sashed I’m not sure as I don’t remember green or red or purple sashed volunteers.
Although, come to think of it, doesn’t the Archbishop wear a purple sash?
And I bet he knows a thing or two about the place.
The town’s really nice too…. go see it.
This is their website if you’re interested: