CAN'TERBURY, ENGLAND. On a spring morning more than 1,300 years ago, when the fair land of Britain had relapsed into heathenism after its con quest by the Angles and Saxons, King Ethelbert of Kent, looking out from his city of Canterbury, saw approaching a procession of Christian monks. They bore before them a' silver cross that gleamed in the sunlight and a picture of Christ painted on wood.
The holy father Augustine was their leader and they had been sent from Rome by Pope Gregory the Great to carry the message of Christ to the English.
When a young man, so runs the beautiful story, this good pope had seen English boys as slaves in the Roman market. Their blue eyes and golden hair attracted his attention, and he inquired : " Whence come these fair youths?" " From the country of the Angles," he was told. " Truly, they should be called Angels, and not Angles," he replied, "for they have angelic faces." From that day he determined to con vert " Angleland," or England as we now call it, to the Christian faith; and now this little band in the year 597 A.D. after the hardships of their long journey were come to carry out this purpose.
Ethelbert's wife, a Frankish princess, was already a Christian, so the king welcomed the monks and gave them refuge within the city of Canterbury. Before long he was won over to the new faith and baptized.
His example was followed by 10,000 of his subjects.
Augustine was soon made an archbishop by the Pope, and from that time on Canterbury has been the center of English Christianity and the Archbishop of Canter bury has been " primate" of the Church of England.
Beginning of the Great Cathedral About 500 years after the death of St. Augustine, the ancient Roman church in which he had preached was destroyed by fire. The building of a new cathe dral or archbishop's church was begun by Norman architects and builders in the reign of William the Conqueror ; but most of the present structure is later.
It took four centuries to build, and the story of its growth into its present majestic form is the story of how faith triumphs over misfortune—for it was many times pillaged and damaged by fire, but each time rebuilt, enlarged, and made more beautiful.
Canterbury cathedral still towers proudly over the • old-fashioned town "like a hen brooding over her chickens." Busy little shops nestle close to the stone gateway with its quaint ancient sculptures; but when we pass through this into the wide precincts or " close" of the cathedral, the noise of trade and traffic is shut i out, and the peace and quiet of the cloister hold sway.
In this " church city" are the palace of the archbishop and the houses of the other clergy who serve in the : cathedral—the dean and the canons. Here, too, is the old monastic cloister begun in the 11th century.
The chapter-house, or sermon-house as it is now called, [ and the library have been restored and are now in use.
1 All about these gray stone buildings is velvety lawn, green as only English turf is green, and in the midst towers the giant cathedral—rugged, time-worn, weather-beaten, yet gloriously beautiful still. Flank ing the western front are two fine towers; but the eye is carried irresistibly to the center of the structure high above all rises the cathedral's most striking eature—the Angel Tower or " Bell Harry," with its beautiful proportions and delicate carvings, its lancet rindows and soaring pinnacles.
countless worshipers ascended to it on their knees.
Chaucer in his Canterbury Tales' pictures such a band of pilgrims as might have been seen in his day, bent on pleasure as well as religious duty, leisurely enjoying their journey and telling stories along the road (see Chaucer, Geoffrey). We can still visit the old inn, known as Chaucer's Inn, where such a company may have been housed ; and can also see the old city gate, part of a wall that surrounded the town in those medieval days, through which they may have passed.
New life, however, has entered the old city. Along the hurrying River Stour are mills, tanneries, and breweries, and a thriving trade is carried on in grain and hops. But the new has not driven out the old.