Study Abroad in Canterbury - Week 3

October 7, 2019 | 1:30 PM
Brooke Allen '21, Psychology Major

When most people think of Canterbury, England, they think of the famous Canterbury Tales, fish and chips, history, and beautiful architecture. After being here for three weeks, I think each one of us can attest that these are, in fact, fairly accurate representations. However, we are learning, exploring, and digging deeper into this place we are calling home until mid-December to truly discover the events that helped make modern-day Canterbury and England the place it is.

Located in the southeastern part of England, in the county of Kent, Canterbury is currently made up of approximately 50,000 people. Considered a “college town” and one of the safest university cities in England, it is home to three universities: Canterbury Christ Church University (where I promise we are vigilantly studying and have little knowledge on which pubs are closest), Canterbury College, and the University of Kent. While most of us consider this a large town, locals are content with the small-town feeling they get from Canterbury, which is lined with shops and restaurants on cobblestone roads, a friendly atmosphere that is second only to MacMurray, and an abundance of historic sites and museums.

While Canterbury is filled with sites like St. Martin’s Church (the oldest English speaking church still in operation), St. Augustine’s Abbey, the Roman Museum, and the Beaney House of Art and Knowledge (all of which we have visited!), the most famous site lies in the heart of Canterbury. The Canterbury Cathedral is the central most important part of the city, making Canterbury the place it is today and housing thousands of years’ worth of history. The Cathedral, St. Martin’s Church and St. Augustine’s Abbey combine to make Canterbury’s UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The Canterbury Cathedral was founded by England’s first Archbishop, Augustine, along with help from Queen Bertha and King Ethelbert in 597 AD, but completely rebuilt by the Normans in the 12th century. It officially became famous in 1170 when King Henry II named Thomas Becket, the king’s best friend, as Archbishop. During this time, there was a large power struggle between the King and the Archbishop over jurisdiction of who should oversee religious adjudication (as well as other matters), and due to King Henry II’s famous words, “Will no one rid me of this turbulent priest?” being taken seriously, Thomas Becket was murdered in the Canterbury Cathedral by four knights. Immediately following Becket’s death, miracles began to take place and Canterbury Cathedral became a major pilgrimage location for people all over the world seeking healing, deeper life meaning, and a greater understanding of the self through the belief of St. Thomas, God, and Higher Power. These pilgrimages, as depicted in Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, are critical to what created modern-day Canterbury the booming and historic place it now is.

Within the Canterbury Cathedral, thousands of years of history and tradition can be found. With amazing stained glass windows and walkways that are worn down from the copious amount of people who walked on their knees to visit the shrine of St. Thomas, it is still highly functioning today. Services are regularly held in the Cathedral and the Lord’s Prayer is said each hour. Upon entering the Nave of the Cathedral, there are high pillar ceilings and a gathering place that looks toward the Bell Harry Tower, which is adjacent to The Martyrdom and the location of St. Thomas’s murder. Beyond is The Quire and Trinity Chapel which houses tombs and the famous spot of St. Thomas’s shrine before it was destroyed by King Henry VIII. Stained glass throughout the Canterbury Cathedral depicts stories of St. Thomas and the miracles that were performed following his death.

Through being here, all of us in the #MacFam are discovering new truths, testing and questioning the things we have always known, and in a unique way, we’re on our very own pilgrimage. While traveling to this foreign place, we’re gaining a greater understanding of the world and cultures beyond our own. We are expanding our knowledge, exploring who we really are, and making connections that will impact the rest of our lives. Just as the thousands before us did upon taking a pilgrimage to Canterbury, we Highlanders are enjoying this experience of a lifetime! We encourage other Highlanders to consider this amazing experience in the future!

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