Gordon Home

by Gordon Home

1911

 

It was on April 24, 1538, that a writ of summons was sent forth in the name of Henry VIII., "To thee, Thomas Becket, some time Archbishop of Canterbury" - who had then been dead for 368 years - "to appear within thirty days to answer to a charge of treason, contumacy, and rebellion against his sovereign lord, King Henry II." But the days passed, and no spirit having stirred the venerated bones of the wonder-working saint, on June 10 judgment was given in favour of Henry, and it was decreed that the Archbishop's bones were to be burnt, and his world-famous shrine overlaid with gold and spark

It would be a mistake to imagine that it solely was due to that bloody deed perpetrated on a certain December afternoon back in Norman times that Canterbury occupies a place of such pre-eminence in English history, for the city was ancient before the days of Thomas of Canterbury; and in this short chapter it is the writer's endeavour to indicate the position of that tragic occurrence in the chronology of the former Kentish capital.

From the swelling green hills that look over Canterbury the distant glimpses of the Cathedral towers gleaming in that opalescent light that is the joy of a summer's morning in Kent, are so hauntingly beautiful that it is hard to believe that no disillusionment need be anticipated when the ancient city is entered and the great church seen at close quarters in the midst of a little city whose busy streets are agog with twentieth-century interests; and yet apprehension is entirely needless. From St. Dunstan's Church, where Henry II.

A walled city generally holds more easily that elusive quality of romance for which the intelligent mind so often hungers than a town that has long ago discarded its old tower-studded girdle. And among the half-dozen or more English towns still possessed of their old mural defences Canterbury holds a high place, because within its walls there are still, in spite of railways and motors and the horrors of twentieth-century advertising, a hundred byways and nooks where the atmosphere of Elizabethan and pre-Reformation England still lurks.

by Gordon Home

1923

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