Canterbury: Facts and Information

Here are some facts about Canterbury.

  • Canterbury is a city in the county of Kent, about 85 km from London. It is famous for its cathedral, and for being a place of pilgrimage during the Middle Ages.
  • Canterbury Cathedral is one of the oldest in England, parts of it dating from the 6th century. A 17th century bell is still rung every day to open and close the cathedral.

  • St. Martin’s Church is the oldest in England still in use. The Renaissance Mass is still performed in the church in the same way it was performed during the 14th and 15th centuries.
  • Canterbury became a popular place of pilgrimage after the murder of the Archbishop, Thomas Becket (Thomas a Becket). He was killed in the cathedral on the orders of King Henry II in 1170.
  • One of the most famous English books is the Canterbury Tales, about pilgrims journeying to the city. There is no evidence that the author, Geoffrey Chaucer, ever visited Canterbury.
  • In Dane John Gardens in Canterbury there is a large and mysterious conical mound. Although nobody knows for certain what it is, it may be a Roman burial mound, or a Medieval defensive system.
  • The word canter, meaning to trot or run, comes from the city’s name. Many pilgrims rode their horse faster to reach the city before the curfew, leading to the Canterbury trot, or canter.
  • In 1348, the Black Death killed thousands of people in the city. Monks at the cathedral had to have a bath before every service, and this helped protect them from the plague.
  • The city gave its name to a musical genre, the Canterbury Scene, a type of progressive rock music, in the early 1970s. Today, the popular Canterbury Festival is held annually.
  • The city’s King’s School was established in the 6th century and is one of the oldest in the world. Former pupils include Field Marshall Montgomery and the writer Christopher Marlowe.