(d. 1180, Sens)

Interior view

Cathedral, Canterbury, Kent

Archbishop Thomas à Becket (1118-1170) was murdered in the middle of Canterbury Cathedral by Henry II's men in 1170. A pilgrimage to his grave was quickly established and as early as 1173 Becket was canonized by the pope. One year later, in 1174, the cathedral burnt down. The rebuilding of the choir led to one of the most sensational building projects England had seen for a long time. The winner of the architectural competition was a Frenchman, William of Sens. Accepting the conditions of the monks of the cathedral monastery for retaining some parts (e.g. the crypt) of the old building, he created in the choir a French cathedral in the style he knew from his own country.

Although the new choir of Canterbury was built under spacial circumstances, it was nevertheless extremely influential and determined the development of English architecture for at least the next 75 years. All the larger churches tried to promote their own saint and to display their relics as effectively as Canterbury did St. Thomas à Becket. This led to a large number of new choirs which were inspired by the new style of building in Canterbury, choirs which mark the first phase of English Gothic.

The photo shows the choir looking east.

View the ground plan of Canterbury Cathedral.