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Canterbury Cathedral and Grounds (Self Guided), Canterbury

Canterbury Cathedral is one of the oldest regional Christian churches that played a major role in English Christianity. The Cathedral stands within its own walled area, surrounded by Medieval buildings and ruins. This walking tour offers sightseeing and visits to all historically significant, magnificent structures within the precinct. It’s an amazing trip back to the Middle Ages.
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Canterbury Cathedral and Grounds Map

Guide Name: Canterbury Cathedral and Grounds
Guide Location: England » Canterbury (See other walking tours in Canterbury)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 10
Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.0 Km or 0.6 Miles
Author: Sandra
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Christ Church Gate
  • Old Palace
  • The Cloisters
  • Chapter House
  • Canterbury Cathedral
  • Kent War Memorial Garden & Queningate
  • The Water Tower
  • Healing Garden
  • King's School
  • Norman Staircase & Memorial court
Christ Church Gate

1) Christ Church Gate (must see)

Located at the west side of the cathedral precinct, the gate serves as the main visitor entry. Christ Church Gate was built at the beginning of the 16th century by the order of Prior Goldstone. Elaborately carved and decorated heraldic symbols and angels adorn the surface of the gate. There is a dominant image of Christ above the entry arch. This brass sculpture replaced the Medieval one. The original Tudor turrets were restored in the 1930s. This gorgeous structure, like the Cathedral, combines the features of Gothic and Renaissance styles.
Old Palace

2) Old Palace

The Old Palace belongs to the precincts of the Canterbury Cathedral. It dates from the 11th century. The palace served as residence for many archbishops and it still remains. The building once housed The Parliament, since 1647, during the English Civil War. Then it got the previous status of the Bishop’s Palace and was rebuilt at the end of the 19th century. Archbishop's Palace underwent many alterations and adjustments in the course of time. It was reopened again in 2006 after a two-year process of much needed refurbishment.
The Cloisters

3) The Cloisters (must see)

The Cloisters are situated on the north side of the Canterbury Cathedral. It is a covered colonnade that encloses small square courtyards attached to the side of the Cathedral. The structure dates from the 14th century; it was planned and built in around 1400 by a Kentish Man, Stephen Lote. The highlight of the cloisters is the grandiose domed roof decorated with many painted shields and figures. The walkway served as a place for contemplation as well as for reading and writing. On the ceiling of the Cloisters are knobs that bear the arms of persons who have contributed money to the building and decoration of the Cathedral.
Chapter House

4) Chapter House (must see)

The Chapter House and the Cloisters are situated on the north side of the Canterbury Cathedral. This magnificent chamber inside a separate building is the largest chapter house in England. The Chapter House was built in the late 14th century. The central zone of the chapter house is an open space. The Chamber House interior features the wonderful Medieval stained glass, lofty timber roof, and stone seats ring the walls under arched stone niches and Prior’s noble seat. It was the meeting place for monks and priests who represented the council and prayed. Later, sermons were preached here. It's worth trying to get inside.
Canterbury Cathedral

5) Canterbury Cathedral (must see)

The cathedral precinct comprised the core of the Medieval town of Canterbury. It’s one of England's largest cathedrals and the centre of the Church of England. It was founded in 600 AD by St. Augustine, dedicated to Christ the Saviour, and is the seat of the Archbishop of Canterbury. The original structures were burnt down. The present cathedral core was built in 1174. There have been many alterations in the cathedral structure for the past 900 years, but the choir music and some of the windows and their stained glass date from the 12th century.

The Cathedral exterior immediately impresses by its size. Its structure has a Latin-cross plan and Romanesque and Gothic features for the exterior/interior. There are invaluable treasures like Norman crypt, with intriguing carvings atop the columns, murals of the 12th century, the site of Archbishop Beckett that attracted thousands of pilgrims, the 'Bell Harry' Tower and many more. It provides local state and national services and events.

Why You Should Visit:

Canterbury Castle is one of the three World Heritage sites in Canterbury and arguably the most famous one. The other two are St Augustine's Abbey and St. Martin's Church.
Kent War Memorial Garden & Queningate

6) Kent War Memorial Garden & Queningate

Kent War Memorial Garden is a square green area at the east side of the cathedral precinct. It has the centered War Memorial, an octagonal shaft on the base topped with the cross, and the Queningate. The garden is arranged in memory of those who died during World Wars I and II. The QueninGate leads through the City wall towards St. Augustine Abbey. The gate was named in honour of the Catholic Queen Bertha, spouse of King Ethelbert of Kent (r.561-617). The Memorial Garden provides fine views of Canterbury Cathedral from the east.
The Water Tower

7) The Water Tower (must see)

The Water Tower is an octagonal tower adjacent to to the Cathedral building on the north side, behind the cloisters. This Romanesque tower is supported by a series of interwoven arches that look quite artistic. It was crafted by the order of Prior Wilbert to get a clean water supply to the priory buildings. The Water Tower dates back to the 12th century or earlier. Part of its piping survives and is functioning today. There is a large basin and a fountain in the center of the tower for washing.
Healing Garden

8) Healing Garden (must see)

This is a new planted garden, also named Herbarium, on the site of the Medieval monk's dormitory adjacent to the original Monastic Herbarium. Healing Garden is part of the Cathedral Gardens and comprises a large Deanery garden, small orchard, rare Medlar tree and a herbaceous and vegetable garden. Enclosed on three sides, Healing Garden is planted with herbs that have been used for thousands of years and had been used by the first Monks for healing purposes. Most of these herbs are used by modern day herbalists.
King's School

9) King's School (must see)

The King's School is a British co-educational independent school for both day and boarding pupils in the historic English cathedral city of Canterbury in Kent. It is a member of the Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference and the Eton Group.

The school originated as a medieval cathedral school, and it is often claimed to have been founded in AD 597 by St. Augustine, therefore making it the world's oldest extant school. This is based on the fact that St. Augustine founded an abbey (within the current school's grounds) where it is known that teaching took place. When the dissolution of the monasteries occurred in the reign of Henry VIII, the school was refounded as The King's School, Canterbury.
Sight description based on wikipedia
Norman Staircase & Memorial court

10) Norman Staircase & Memorial court (must see)

At the north corner of the Green Court is the oldest structure in the Cathedral precinct. It is a covered staircase from 1100 built by the Normans along with the vast rebuilding of the buildings in the Cathedral close. The staircase is the part of the Poor Pilgrim's Hall that served as a shelter for pilgrims. The entrance and parts of the North Wall remained from that building. Today it’s part of the King's School. Near the Norman Staircase is The Memorial Court with an octagonal shaft on the base topped with the cross. It was erected after World War I. Now it serves as a memorial of those who died during the World Wars.

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