Geoffrey C haucer. Canterbury and its Tales. Seat of Power. Augustine, the first Archbishop of Canterbury, arrived as a missionary to England in 597 CE, sent from Rome by Pope Gregory the Great.
Augustine, the first Archbishop of Canterbury, arrived as a missionary to England in 597 CE, sent from Rome by Pope Gregory the Great.
Pope Gregory reportedly had been struck by the beauty of Angle (not Angel) slaves he had seen for sale Rome’s market and dispatched Augustine and some monks to convert them and their beauty to the Christian cause.
The first task, was to establish a place worthy for and of worship within the walls of the Roman out post.
The site on which the cathedral was built is on an ancient church built by the first pagans to convert to Christianity.
The cathedral (cathedra means “seat” or “chair” in Latin) became the center of daily life of medieval populations.
The Gothic Cathedral was built in the shape of a cross. As a worshipper entered, he would be confronted with brightly colored statues and windows. To a largely illiterate audience, these statues and windows told the stories the church wanted its population to remember and revere.
The Gothic spires of the cathedral reflect the sheer magnitude of the technology of the medieval architects. The cathedral was over 300 years in the buildingand provided steady employment for many skilled laborers in the vicinity. In that way, the cathedral’s importance was secured as one tied to the religion and the economy of the society.
The interior of the cathedral was meant to awe and inspire one to a life of piety. One’s gaze was directed Heavenward so that one forgot the toil of this earth, not the importance of the church clergy in helping the sinful gain entrance to the hereafter.
Small glass panes stained in hues of blue, red and green, reflected not only the light, but also the stories of faith and the followers of early Christianity.
One such champion of the church was Thomas a Becket, whose ultimate demise was sounded in King Henry II’s words of frustration, “Will no one rid me of this meddlesome priest?”
Henry and Thomas, once best friends, struggled over the power of the monarchy versus the church, both of which had committed untold excesses in the name of God and privilege.
Some of Henry’s thuggish knights took Henry at his word and brutally slayBecket on his way to vespers, reportedly spilling his brains on the cathedral floor.
Things may have ended badly for Thomas, but the church stood to make money on his name and his fate. After a series of three “miracles,” and because of Becket’s standing with the common people, pilgrims began to flock to the cathedral to pay homage to the martyred priest. Henry, wanting to make amends for the murder of such a popular priest, actually made the pilgrimage himself, paying penance at the Becket’s tomb and claiming he was just kidding! He knights had acted of their own volition.
It is one such pilgrimage which is the setting of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. Chaucer presents a group of men and women, in the year 1387, of various social status and moral standing in their communities, as they embark on a pilgrimage to Canterbury.
To entertain themselves during their sixty-mile journey from London to Canterbury, they devise a contest to see who can tell the most interesting story. The reward will be a feast in honor of the best tale back at their favorite Tabard Inn, upon their return to London.
Pilgrimages were extremely important in medieval times, both as a route to salvation and also as an excuse for travel at a time when most traveling was extremely dangerous.
Pilgrims traveled recognized and relatively safe routes, stopping off at shrines and cathedrals where relics were venerated and saints worshipped, but, most importantly, they had the protection of the church and the church’s soldiers at all times.
“Canter” is a word which refers to the clopping of horses’ hooves on the Roman-paved road which lead the way.
Many pilgrims wore the accepted uniform of broad-brimmed hat and russet-colored gown drawn in above the waist with a belt, rope or rosary. Most pilgrims would also have carried a satchel or ‘scrip’ to hold their holy relics. They would have carried a stout stick or staff. Many would have decorated their hats and clothing with shells of St. James. Although the shell became the symbol for pilgrims, it was also a symbol of fertility from pagan times.
Clerk of Oxford
Sergeant of the law
Wife of Bath