Canterbury Cathedral

After nearly 1,000 years, murder in the cathedral is still luring visitors to Canterbury.

It was in the Canterbury Cathedral in 1107 that Archbishop Thomas Becket was killed, viciously, by four knights who believed they were doing the bidding of King Henry II. As a result, Becket became a martyr and the cathedral a place of pilgrimage to his shrine.

The homicide was the subject of "Murder in the Cathedral," a verse drama by T.S. Eliot, and was more famously immortalized in Geoffrey Chaucer's 14th century work, "The Canterbury Tales," told in now obsolete Middle English, which focused on one such journey in what had become an annual spring pilgrimage.

As one of the most important pilgrimage sites of medieval Europe, Canterbury’s iconic cathedral is worthy of its UNESCO World Heritage status and remains an important center of Christian worship. Originally founded in 597 by St Augustine, the first Archbishop of Canterbury, Canterbury Cathedral is the oldest church in England still in use and largely regarded as the birthplace of English Christianity. The present day cathedral owes much of its structure to a series of 11th and 12th century reconstructions, with highlights including the 235-foot-high Bell Harry Tower and over 1,200 square meters of early medieval stained glass windows.

The cathedral also hosts the poignant shrine of St Thomas Becket, the one-time Archbishop of Canterbury who was murdered in the cathedral in 1170 at the hands of King Henry II's knights. Immortalized in Geoffrey Chaucer’s 14th-century book, The Canterbury Tales, which tells the story of a group of pilgrims traveling to visit the shrine, Becket’s tomb was later destroyed in 1538 by King Henry VIII and today, a single candle marks the spot where it once stood.

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