The twitter handle of Canterbury Cathedral is @No1Cathedral. A tad hyperbolic, one might be tempted to say.
Yet far less than it seems at first if you consider the history of this site.
Mother church of the Anglican Community, seat of the Archbishop and World Heritage site, Canterbury Cathedral was founded in 597 when St Augustine first brought Christianity to Great Britain. It saw the first flowering of the Gothic Style of architecture in the British Isles, in the 11th Century, fresh from the Continent.
As a student I loved the feeling of pleasant insignificance it gave me when faced with the sheer breadth of history of the site.
The cathedral is undergoing a large scale conservation project at the moment, all part of their five year ‘The Canterbury Journey’ plan – more can be read about this from the Cathedral website itself here.
Among other things, lead from the roof is being taken away for restoration – the same lead will be returned once it is restored – something that strikes me as symbolically important.
As well as essential renovation, the Cathedral will be gaining a new Welcome Centre and much needed Community Spaces to help link the local community with the wealth of history on its doorstep.
I was lucky enough to tag along on a tour and get a rare look at the particulars of the renovation project, thanks to a friend of mine, who is a part of the communications team. We also went up onto the top of Bell Harry.
The view from the central tower is unrivaled and even now it is easy to imagine how breathtaking this building would have been to a medieval mindset, considering how most medieval buildings were normally one or two stories high.
I had the chance to poke my head inside nooks and crannies that were off the normal cathedral route. I felt like I was becoming an initiate in a special club – especially after finding out about a secret storage space inside the cathedral – used perhaps to hide valuables during times of danger. Very clandestine.
I feel privileged to have had the chance to see a little bit more of this iconic building.
It was good to know, even while the cathedral is now covered in scaffolding, that the life and services of the church were being protected by the safety deck across the ceiling. Being a living, breathing entity is essential to its character.
I wait with interest to see the fruits of the work going on there and I am sure it will be even more breathtaking than before.