Sunday, September 02, 2007

We make a pilgrimage

I've always wanted to go to Canterbury Cathedral, ever since I read the Canterbury Tales or heard about the famous Murder in the Cathedral. I'd been to Canterbury once before - but that was to attend a conference on crime and law enforcement* and I didn't get a chance to take in the sights.

So for our brief little vacation, we decided to head to Canterbury as well as to the zoo.

Seaside resort town of Hythe
We stayed in the seaside town of Hythe rather than in Canterbury itself simply because I thought sea side walks might be calming for baby, and it turns out that Hythe is kind of an interesting town in itself. It was one of the Cinque ports (whatever that was) and was also a garrison town for many years. It boasts a military canal running through the middle of town - it was apparently built to thwart a French attack, but apparently now it's used for a biennial floating parade called the Venetian fete, which actually looks pretty fun.

Dem bones
Hythe also boasts England's largest ossuary (there are, apparently, only two). I had visions of visiting the ossuary and taking plenty of creepy photos with Cletus in front of piles of skulls so that in his degenerate teen years he could look back on such a snap and credit us with a smidgeon of cool. But St Leonard's Parish church and its crypt (where the bones are held) close between 12 and 2. We arrived just in time to see the vicar closing up and crossing the road to his house for lunch. As we stopped on our way out of town, I managed a mere glimpse of the skulls through the window.


The Cathedral
So onwards to Canterbury, where it is difficult to park. And it is even harder to park with a screaming baby. But most things are more difficult with a screaming baby as we've discovered. However, even so, it probably wasn't as hard as approaching the cathedral on your knees as many pilgrims did.

But Cletus was good as gold in the cathedral. Given that he is the child of two heatherns, I was amazed that he uttered not a peep when one of the cathedral clergy led worshippers (one or two) and tourists (many, many) in prayer. He was far better behaved than the gaggle of Italian teenagers who marched through proceedings with shrieks and giggles.

The cathedral is pretty fantastic. I can't say it's the most impressive one I've seen (St Mark's in Venice is pretty amazing), but it is absolutely grand in scale. It's imposing and I was certainly aware of its historical significance, but strangely I didn't feel in awe of the atmosphere as one often can in places of pilgrimage.

this cross marks the spot of Thomas Becket's murder
Creepy crosses marking the spot of Thomas Becket's murder in the Cathedral

tomb of the black prince
Tomb of the Black Prince

Interior of the cathedral

*I got the coolest name tag at that conference it said "Vol Abroad: The future of policing" which I kept, of course.


Nicole said...

I have been wanting to go there for ages!

KathyF said...

Me too, I've got it on my list for a visit soon.

Of course, I live in Canterbury. That's the name of our house.