Gateway to the Classics: Tales from Canterbury Cathedral by Mrs. Frewen Lord
Tales from Canterbury Cathedral by  Mrs. Frewen Lord

Stories from Trinity Chapel

We have now come to the last chapter of this book. In the centre of Trinity Chapel the guide will show you where the shrine of Thomas Becket used to stand. Close to the tomb of the Black Prince is that of Archbishop Walter, as great a warrior in his way as was the Black Prince.

This Hubert Walter, before he became archbishop, and while he was Bishop of Salisbury, went with Richard I. on his crusade to the Holy Land. Some one who was there described him as showing "the courage of a soldier, the skill of a general, and the piety of a pastor." Such a man was badly needed at that time, for the Crusaders, though brave soldiers, led in many ways very bad lives, and all sorts of wrong-doing went on in the camps before the bishop arrived. Hardly had he arrived than things changed for the better. Soon the men began to come to the services he held in camp morning and evening. He was admired and looked up to by every one. He went about preaching and teaching, and yet at the same time he it was who led the army when the town of Acre was taken after a long siege. The King was ill, but he was carried out on a mattress, and himself cheered the English as he saw them led to the attack by the Earl of Leicester and the Bishop of Salisbury. No sooner was the town taken, than the bishop was busy repairing the churches that had been injured, and holding in them Christian services. The life of Archbishop Walter is full of stories. All of you who have read Sir Walter Scott's story of "The Talisman" will remember Saladin, the great Saracen sultan and general, against whom we were fighting. He had heard so much of this other soldier—the English Bishop of Salisbury—that he was most anxious to see him. When the bishop made a pilgrimage to the Holy Sepulchre, Saladin ordered every honour to be shown him; he sent him presents, and asked him to come to the palace and see him. Walter went, and they had a long talk; the more they talked, so much the more did the sultan seem to like the bishop, until at last, before he left, he told him to ask what he would, and it should be granted. It was almost like a fairy tale, and the bishop asked leave to think it over until the next day. By that time he had decided.

Up to now service at the tomb of our Lord had only been said in Syrian by Syrian priests. The bishop now asked that there might be two priests and two deacons, who should be paid by the Christians—or "by the offerings of the faithful," as he called them—who should hold a Christian service, not instead of, but as well as, the Syrian service. This request Saladin granted, and before he left the Holy Land the bishop himself ordained the priests and deacons. Soon afterwards he went home. The story of how King Richard was imprisoned on his way to England; of how John his brother, thinking and hoping that he was dead, made himself King; and of how Richard was fought for, ransomed, and at last brought home by his friend the bishop, I must not stop to tell you. But soon after all this happened the Bishop of Salisbury became Archbishop of Canterbury (May 30, 1193). His friend King Richard died on the 6th of April, 1199, and the next year the archbishop crowned John, who now at last became King, in Westminster Abbey. Walter's fighting days were now over, and, in the quaint words of an old historian, he "was exceedingly desirous of excelling in all good works." He founded a monastery; he did much for Canterbury, and was never tired of helping to beautify and enrich the cathedral. He died at a little village near Canterbury, where he was taken ill on his way to Rochester, on the 13th of July, 1205, and his body was brought to the cathedral and there buried with all honour. Next to Archbishop Walter is Archbishop Courtenay and not far from these Englishmen lies a Frenchman, Odo Coligny. He had been a Roman Catholic and a cardinal, but he became a Protestant, and was obliged to escape from France with those other French Protestants who took refuge in England in the reign of Queen Elizabeth and settled in Canterbury. It was well that Odo Coligny escaped when he did, for soon afterwards, on the 24th of August, 1572, King Charles IX. ordered all the Protestants in France to be massacred. That day, the eve before the Festival of St. Bartholomew, was an awful day. Thousands of Protestants were massacred because they refused to become Roman Catholics. Among them was the brother of Odo Coligny—Admiral Coligny. Some day you will read for yourselves this story of the "Massacre of St. Bartholomew," as it is called.

As we walk round Trinity Chapel, we pass the little chapel at the extreme end, called Becket's Crown. Here, in the centre, stands the marble chair which is said to be the very chair on which St. Augustine sat when he was enthroned Archbishop of Canterbury, and on which all archbishops have been enthroned ever since. Close to the chair is the tomb of Cardinal Pole, the last Roman Catholic Archbishop of England, and the last archbishop buried in the cathedral. Queen Mary, who had tried in vain to make England a Roman Catholic country, died, as you know, on the 16th of November, 1558. The very next day her cousin, Reginald Pole, died, too, and Elizabeth the Protestant Queen, and Parker the Protestant archbishop, reigned in their stead.

To the right of the chair is the monument to Archbishop Temple. He was one of the great headmasters of Rugby and he too it was who crowned King Edward VII. in Westminster Abbey on the 9th of August, 1902. The Archbishop died soon after (1902).

Passing the monument to Dean Wootton, we come to the last tomb in Trinity Chapel—that of Henry IV. and his Queen, Joanna of Navarre.

I dare say you all remember the story of how it had been prophesied to Henry IV. that he would die in Jerusalem. This did not come true; but what did happen was, that the King was suddenly taken very ill while he was praying at the shrine of Edward the Confessor in Westminster Abbey. He was carried into the Jerusalem Chamber (close by the Abbey), and there he died. He had specially wished to be buried at Canterbury, so his body was taken there and laid in this tomb; and when, twenty-four years afterwards, the Queen died too, she was buried with him. On the outside of the tomb are the figures of the King and Queen, and that of the King is said by those who have seen him, to be very like what he really was. For, wonderful to say, not so very many years ago, the body of King Henry IV. was seen for a few moments, quite long enough to see just what he was like. The tomb, for some reason, had to be opened, and there, before the astonished eyes of those who were present to see that it was reverently done, lay the body of the Plantagenet King, which had been embalmed and laid in this tomb more than four hundred years before.

Close by is the chantry of Henry IV., as the tiny chapel used to be called. Now it is the Chapel of Edward the Confessor and after not being used for 300 years was opened on 25th July, 1931, the Festival Day of the Friends of Canterbury Cathedral.

We now go down the steps before us, and through the iron gates. As we came into Trinity Chapel through the south aisle of the choir, so now we go out on the other side through the north aisle of the choir. Just as before we went up the other steps, we saw the chapel of St. Anselm, so now we come down these, we see the chapel of St. Andrew. They are exactly the same size; but, as you see, St. Andrew's is bare and empty, while St. Anselm's has been restored, and is made into a beautiful little chapel where service is held.

From the north aisle we now turn into the north transept of the choir. On the right-hand side are the two little chapels of St. Martin and St. Stephen, and at the extreme end is the last monument we have to see—the monument to Archbishop Tait, who was Archbishop before Dr. Benson, and who died in 1882. The story of his life is a most interesting one, but I must not stop to tell it to you, for this book has already grown to be too long. Some day you will read it for yourselves, and then you will see what a brave and good man can do for others, even although his own life is full of sadness.

St. Martin's is a memorial chapel to Lord Milner "who devoted his life to the social and national wellbeing of his country at home and overseas." He was born in 1854 and died in 1925. After his death Lady Milner gave their beautiful house at Sturry for the Preparatory School of the King's School, Canterbury.

But although this is the last monument, you must not forget to see the spot where Archbishop Benson, who died on the 11th of October, 1896, is buried. He lies in a vault just under the north-west tower, in what is now called St. Augustine's Chapel and on his monument is the recumbent figure of the Archbishop. He not only lived the life of a soldier of the Church, but, as it was said at the time, "he died like a soldier." In the midst of his work—work far too hard for the strength of any fighter, however strong—he died quite suddenly one Sunday, while he was listening to the Morning Service being read in the village church at Hawarden. All through the year he had been working without a day's rest, and when the summer came, and most people went away for a holiday, the archbishop went, not for a holiday, but to do more and harder work travelling in Ireland. It was on his way back to Addington that he stopped at Hawarden Castle to spend Sunday with his old friend Mr. Gladstone. There in the village church, while the beautiful prayer for Absolution was being read, the archbishop died. "He had fought the good fight," and, like a true soldier, he died in the midst of it.

During the fourteen years he had been archbishop, he had done an immense amount of work and carried out many plans for the good of the Church. One of the last of these plans he lived to see completed was the Church House (the idea of which was started by him), in Dean's Yard, close to Westminster Abbey. It took six years to build, and was opened by the Duke of York on the 11th of February, 1896, after a great service in the Abbey, to which the archbishop, most of the bishops, and numberless clergymen from all parts of England came. As the procession wound through the cloisters, and across the quiet old-world Dean's Yard to the Church House, no one who saw the tall, soldier-like figure of the arch- bishop in his scarlet robes—his train borne by two clergymen—would have believed that this was a fighter already nearly worn out by the "heat and burden of the day," and by the work he had already done and was still doing for his Church and country. Archbishop Benson had a great and special love for Canterbury and Canterbury Cathedral, and always said he wished to be buried here rather than in the churchyard at Addington.

As I told you earlier in the book, Reginald Pole was the last archbishop buried here, and now, more than three hundred and thirty-eight years afterwards, another archbishop was laid to sleep in his own cathedral. The great church was filled from end to end for the service on the 16th of October, 1896; and how different must have been the feelings of the hundreds who came to the burial of Archbishop Benson to the feelings of those who had been at the burial of that last archbishop!

People thanked God for the death of Archbishop Pole; but they thanked Him for the life of Archbishop Benson. In St. Augustine's Chapel as it is now called you will see his monument and you will also see the names of ninety-seven archbishops recorded: the first one being St. Augustine. On the other side, close to the door by which we came in, are the names of all the priors and deans.

There are few things that make us feel more proud of being English men, or women, or children, than a walk round one of our great cathedrals, such as Westminster Abbey or Canterbury. There we see everywhere the monuments and tombs of those who fought and worked, and perhaps died, to make England what she is—the foremost country in the world. We are everywhere reminded of great and good and brave deeds done in all parts of the world by our fellow-countrymen.

Here in Canterbury Cathedral we are specially reminded of soldiers—soldiers of the Church and soldiers of the King. We cannot all be soldiers of the King, but there is one sense in which we can all—men and women, boys and girls—be soldiers of the Church. The Duke of Wellington once said that England would never have been the country that she is, had it not been for the Church. We are taught in the Prayer-book not only "to fear God and honour the King," but to lead good and true and brave lives—to fight against all that is wrong, and to fight for all that is good, just as soldiers fight against the enemies of their King and country.

As an army is made up, not only of officers, but of private soldiers, who fight and die for their country as bravely as those who are their leaders, so the Church of England is made up, not only of archbishops and bishops, of whom we have heard so much here, but of all men and women and children who try to lead brave and good lives, who fight against the many difficulties there are to meet even in everyday life, and who try to follow in the steps of their leaders, some of whose stories I have just told you.

And just as every private soldier who serves his country loyally and bravely may feel that he is as worthy to be called a soldier of the King, as are the officers whom he obeys, so every one of us who tries to "do his duty in that state of life in which it has pleased God to call him" may hope to be, one day, worthy to be called a "soldier of the Church."

And now we leave the cathedral and just take a peep into the cloisters on our way to see one of the most beautiful of all the war memorials. Here in the cloisters is another memorial to the 9th Lancers. Above the Tablet are two lances which were carried in Lord Roberts' great march to Candahar. And here too in the quiet cloister green are buried Archbishop Davidson, Archbishop Temple, Dean Farrar and Dean Wace. Suddenly the beautiful cathedral bells peal out and remind us that two new ones were added in memory of the Kent Association Change Ringers who were killed in the Great War. And now passing along the east end of the cathedral we come to a fine old Norman archway. Inside is one of the most beautiful gardens possible. Some words from St. John's Gospel must surely have been in the mind of those who planned the Kent War Memorial, "In the place where the Lord was crucified was a garden." And so a garden commemorates those who suffered pain and death and gave their lives "for us men and for our salvation." In the middle of the garden is a cross on which are these words, "To the Glory of God and in honour of the men and women of Kent belonging to His Majesty's Service who gave their lives in the War, 1914 to 1918." And then going up a few steps in the wall we find ourselves in the Shrine. In front of us are the Flags and these words written on the wall, "Where prayer is wont to be made." On the Stone of Remembrance is a sword and round are written our Lord's words, "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." Here too we are reminded that "This Garth was given to the county by the Dean and Chapter of Canterbury for the purpose of a War Memorial—the cross was erected—this Bastion was restored. The walls of the Garth were repaired and the grounds were laid out from moneys contributed by the people of the county." There are five little windows in the Bastion. No. 1, The Arms of Jerusalem and the Symbol of Mesopotamia; 2, Symbol of Sea Warfare (a naval crown) and of the Air Force (an Eagle); 3, Symbols of Gallipoli and Balkan campaigns; 4, The Lily of France; 5, The Arms of Ypres and Belgium. And lastly on the front of the Stone of Sacrifice we read, "Remember those who died for Freedom and Honour, and see ye to it that they shall not have died in vain." Nothing can better help us to "Remember" than a walk round Canterbury or any of our great cathedrals. We are reminded everywhere that we can and we must all of us do our "bit," in however small a way to uphold "the safety, honour and welfare of our Sovereign and his Dominions," as we say in the Prayer Book, and above all to "follow the Christ the King."

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