North Choir Aisle

inc. Northeast Transept and Water Tower

Abp. William Chichele with Attendant Angel. Poliphilo, CC0, Wikimedia Commons

Western Nave

Fire Watchers Memorial
FontGreat West Window

Eastern Nave

Pulpit Altar
Compass Rose


Altar of the Sword Point
The Deans' Chapel

Western Crypt (North Aisle)

Ch. of Holy Innocents
St Nicholas Ch.
St Mary Magdalene Ch.

Eastern Crypt

Watching Chamber
Jesus Chapel

Western Crypt (South Aisle)

Huguenot Chapel
Our Lady Undercroft
St Gabriel Chapel

Pulpitum Steps

Royal Window Bell HarryGreat South Window


Parclose Screen
Archbishop's Throne
St Augustine's Chair

North Choir Aisle

Chichele Tomb
Bible Windows
Northeast Transept

Trinity Chapel North

Opus Alexandrinum
Miracle Windows
Henry IV Tomb
Becket Shrine

Trinity Chapel South

Corona Chapel
Black Prince
Miracle Windows

South Choir Aisle

St Anselm's Chapel
Bossanyi Windows
Southeast Transept

Southwest Transept

St Michael's Chapel
Whall Window
Crypt access & Exit

Great Cloister

Heraldic shields
South, East, North & West panes
Cloister Garth

Chapter House

Wagon Vault
Victorian stained glass

Hint. View the map ‘landscape’ on small screens.

What's here?

MapThere is much to appreciate here. As we leave the Presbytery, on our immediate right is the elaborate and colourful tomb of Archbishop Henry Chichele. To our left, in the western end of the north aisle, are two important 12th/13th century stained glass Bible Windows and a 15th century wall painting of the legendary St Eustace. High up in the Northeast Transept, we find more fine examples of 12th century stained glass in the Oculus window and four original Genealogical windows.

 While you are here, don’t miss the new Water Tower exhibition space (enter through the Northeast Transept corridor).

By far the most colourful tomb in the Cathedral shows long-serving Archbishop Henry Chichele (1414-1443) in full regalia on top, and as a cadaver underneath.

During his long tenure, Chichele was archbishop for 15 years under Henry V (1413-22) and then for 14 years under Henry VI (1422-61). He was an able lawyer, experienced diplomat and trusted envoy, authorised to conduct treaty negotiations on the king’s behalf. Just before Chichele became Archbishop in 1414, Parliament passed an act designed to stamp out what it regarded as the dangerous anti-establishment, protestant heresy known as Lollardy. During the years that followed, Chichele became a leading figure in the fight against Lollardism and instigated the trials of leading protestant heretics, many of whom were burned at the stake.

Chichele’s tomb, built by master mason Thomas Mapilton in 1425, is a fine example of a transi-tomb that became popular in northern Europe in the early fifteenth century – a transitory tomb in which the worldly achievements of the deceased above are juxtaposed with the deathly decay of the mortal body below.  The Latin inscription underneath reads:

“I was a pauper born, then to primate here raised, now I am cut down and served up for worms…”

For the Archbishop, the tomb was very much a personal memento mori – a reminder of mortality – because the lower part of the tomb was in place 18 years before his death. Archbishop Chichele would have been reminded of his mortality every time he took up his seat on the Archbishop’s Throne only a few metres away! 

Henry Chichele was the founder of All Souls College, Oxford – and the excellent condition of his tomb today is due to the fact that the college funded the restoration of the tomb in 1897-9 and has contributed toward its upkeep ever since.

Identifying the figures in the niches

The two Bible (or Theological) windows here in the western wing of the North Choir aisle are all that remain of a series of twelve stained glass windows, dating from 1180-1220 that were destroyed in 1642-3 during the English Civil War.

These windows are regarded as the best examples of 12th century glass in the Cathedral and equal to any found anywhere in Europe.

The purpose of the windows was instructional – the central New Testament scene in each row of glass, drawn from the life and teachings of Christ, is shown alongside events from the Old Testament, which are said to directly ‘prefigure’ or foreshadow it.  At a time when literacy was the privilege of the educated few, these illustrations would have played a key part in the teaching of Bible stories – and such windows are often referred to as the “Poor Man’s Bible”.

The first Bible window (left) contains some quite beautifully executed visual storytelling. Lot’s wife (fourth row down, left) is turned into a pillar of salt because she has disobeyed God’s warning by turning to look back at Sodom, which is in flames. The central scene shows the Three Kings in bed (they have their crowns on!) being warned in a dream not to return to Herod and reveal the whereabouts of the infant Jesus.

Notable scenes in the second Bible window are – The Wedding at Cana and The Miraculous Draught of Fishes (round panels, 2rd and 3rd down) and Noah in Ark with Dove (semi-circular panel, 3rd down on left).

Who’s Who in the first Bible Window

Who’s Who in the second Bible Window

This 15th century wall painting tells the story of the legend of St Eustace, the Christian convert and martyr – speculatively, the Roman General Placidus – and patron saint of hunters, who is thought to have lived in the 2nd century AD. 

The story should be read from bottom to top. Following his conversion on seeing a vision of Christ in the antlers of a stag, St Eustace’s faith is tested many times, as the painting shows. He renounces all worldly possessions and is cast out of Rome. His wife is carried off by pirates, and his sons carried off (and eaten, according to one interpretation of the legend) by a wolf and a lion. Though his wife and perhaps even his sons are restored to him and he becomes a successful Roman general, it doesn’t end well for Eustace – he and his remaining family are roasted alive inside a bull for their refusal, as Christians, to celebrate the Emperor’s victories by offering incense to false gods. 

The painting occupies a “blind arch”, intended as a window when built c.1130, and filled in by William of Sens in 1177 during the rebuilding of the Choir after the fire of 1174. At one time, many of the Cathedral’s walls and vaults were highly decorated like this – and at some stage during the 16th or 17th centuries the St Eustace painting was lime-washed over. It was only rediscovered in 1830 when the wall was cleaned.

Note. For closer scrutiny, there is a reproduction of the painting hanging on the wall opposite.

The lower walls of this transept (built c.1106) are survivors of the serious fire of 1174 that destroyed the roof and most of the fabric of the Choir and Trinity Chapel. It was rebuilt by William of Sens, who raised the height of the roof and walls, between 1175-1178 and completed by William the Englishman in 1180.

Chapels and Monuments

Stained glass in the transept

This new exhibition space in the former Water Tower (built c.1156) and the corridor leading to it, contains a small collection of chalices, goblets, communion cups and other church plate from parish churches across Kent and from the Cathedral’s collection. The objects have been chosen to illustrate changes in fashion and liturgical practice since the Reformation.

Within the Water Tower itself, the two small items displayed here symbolise different aspects of the monastic life that was led at Canterbury until the adjoining Priory was dissolved by Henry VIII in 1540. 

The first item, representing “Prayer and Devotion”, is a small Anglo-Saxon pocket sundial in silver and gold with embedded gemstones, thought to date from the 10th century. The monks’ long day was organised around the celebration of mass and the observance of eight ‘offices’ – the first at 2 a.m. and the last at 7 p.m. – which involved prayer, bible reading and the singing of psalms. Timekeeping was of the essence. The sundial was found in 1938 buried beneath the cloister and was made specifically for use at the Canterbury latitude (50°N). There are two sides of the instrument –  one side calibrated for the altitude of the sun during the spring/summer months, and the other for the autumn/winter months. The gold gnomon pin (that casts the shadow) is placed in one of three holes corresponding to the pairs of months on either side of the equinox. The time can then be read off by reference to the length of the shadow cast. In practice, the sundial was only as useful as the English weather is reliable, and it seems likely therefore, that the sundial was treated as a valuable and beautifully crafted status object.

The second object – a medieval bronze stylus – exemplifies the “Learning and Knowledge” aspects of the monastic life. Along with their other responsibilities, some of the monks would have worked as scribes in the scriptorium – it was a valued and sought-after skill. The stylus is thought to be 13th or 14th century, possibly earlier, and was discovered in the 1860s during the renovation of St Andrew’s Chapel. The stylus may have been used for writing on a wax tablet – or for scoring guide lines across manuscripts.

The door immediately to the right the foot of the steps to the Trinity Chapel, is the door to the Wax Chamber, now an office, formerly the Watching Chamber. From here, between 1180 and 1220, the two monks William and Benedict watched and recorded over 700 miracles that were said to have occurred at the first tomb of St Thomas in the Eastern Crypt below.

Information Point.   At the foot of the steps leading up to the Trinity Chapel, there is a touch-screen guide to the Trinity Chapel and Corona for the benefit of visitors who are unable to manage the steps beyond this point.

Where next?

 Follow the indicated route and take the steps up to the X Trinity Chapel.

Accessible Itinerary. Follow the Accessible Route through the Choir into the X South Choir Aisle