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Canterbury

Canterbury, city (1991 pop. 34,046) and district, Kent, SE England, on the Stour River. Tourism, services, and retail are the city's main industries. There is also some light manufacturing. Canterbury is famous as the long-time spiritual center of England. In 597, St. Augustine went to England from Rome to convert the island peoples to Christianity. He founded an abbey at Canterbury and became the first archbishop of Canterbury and primate of all England. The early cathedral was burned and rebuilt several times. After the murder (1170) of Thomas à Becket and the penance of Henry II, Canterbury became famous throughout Europe as the object of pilgrimage, and the Canterbury Tales of Chaucer relate the stories told by a fictional group of pilgrims. The present cathedral was begun under Archbishop Lanfranc, the first Norman archbishop. Constructed from 1070 to 1180 and from 1379 to 1503, it is a magnificent structure, its architecture embodying the styles of several periods and various architects. Noteworthy are the 15th-century tower (235 ft/72 m high); the long transepts; the screen separating the raised choir from the Perpendicular nave; the east chapel (called the Corona or Becket's Crown), which contains the marble chair in which the archbishops are enthroned; Trinity Chapel, which held the shrine of St. Thomas until 1538, when Henry VIII ordered it destroyed and the accumulated wealth confiscated; the chapel in which French Protestants worshiped in the 16th cent. and where services are still held in French; the northwestern transept (where a stone slab commemorates the exact site of Thomas à Becket's murder); and the tombs of Henry IV and Edward the Black Prince. During World War II the cathedral was the object of severe German reprisal raids (June, 1942), which destroyed the library and many other surrounding buildings; the cathedral itself received no direct damage. The city of Canterbury is also of great historical interest, with a 14th-century gate and remains of the old city walls; St. Martin's Church (established before St. Augustine's arrival and known as the Mother Church of England); the old pilgrims' hostel called the Hospital of St. Thomas; and several old inns. Christopher Marlowe was born at Canterbury and educated at King's School there before going to Cambridge. Other schools are the Univ. of Kent at Canterbury, and theological, art, and teacher-training colleges.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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