North Choir Aisle

inc. Northeast Transept and Water Tower

Western Nave

Fire Watchers Memorial
Great West Window

North Choir Aisle

Chichele Tomb
Bible Windows
Northeast Transept


Altar of the Sword's Point
Deans' Chapel
Stairs to Crypt

Eastern Nave

Compass Rose

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 Harry
Great South Window

Trinity Chapel North

Opus Alexandrinum
Miracle Windows
Henry IV Tomb
Becket Shrine


Parclose Screen
Archbishop's Throne St Augustine's Chair

Trinity Chapel South

Corona Chapel
Black Prince Miracle Windows

South Choir Aisle

St Anselm's Chapel
Bossanyi Windows Southeast Transept

Southwest Transept

Stairs from Crypt
Pilgrims' Tunnel
South Door exit

Great Cloister

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

Chapter House

Wagon Vault
Archbishop's Throne Historical Stained Glass

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).

Tomb of Archbishop Henry Chichele (1425)

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 restoration in 1897 was carried out under the direction of prolific Victorian ecclesiastical architect, Charles Eamer Kempe. The original figures in the niches around the tomb had been destroyed by Puritan iconoclasts during the English Civil War (1642-1651) and were subsequently replaced with new stone carvings. These stone replacements were in turn moved to the lintel of the Pulpitum screen and replaced by the carved and brightly decorated wooden figures we see today.

Kempe’s carved figures include all the significant Canterbury saints – Dunstan, Alphege and Anselm as well as an Archbishop with a sword through his head – no prizes for guessing that one!

Viewed from the North Aisle, top to bottom – Top left (East):

  • William of Wyckham, Bishop of Winchester
  • King Henry VI
  • Virgin and Child
  • King Henry V.
  • Queen Margaret of Anjou

Bottom left:

  • St Alphege (with bones)
  • Duke of Clarence (brother of Henry V)
  • Archangel Gabriel
  • Mary de Bohun (first wife of Henry IV)
  • St Dunstan

Top right (West)

  • Thomas Becket (sword in head)
  • Gregory
  • Abraham (with Chichele in his bosom)
  • St Augustine of Hippo
  • St Anselm (his book Cur Deus Homo)

Bottom right

  • Edmund Rich
  • Ambrose
  • Archangel Michael (with a dragon)
  • St Jerome
  • Augustine of Canterbury (with banner)

Bible Windows (1180-1220)

The two Bible (Theological or Typological §typology) 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

There are seven rows in this window. The panels from the top row, down to the centre of the fifth-row, date from 1180-1220. The remaining panels are originally from the Northeast Transept. The sequence, starting from the top, is as follows:

Top row

LBalaam’s ass, stopped by the light of an angel, predicts the appearance of the Star. CThe three Kings (Magi) entering Jerusalem, with the Star above. RIsaiah at the gate of Jerusalem, prophesying the appearance of a “great light”.

Second row

LThe Exodus – Moses guided by a pillar of fire. The Red Sea parts. CThe three Kings before Herod. RChrist leads the Gentiles to God, away from heathen idols.

Third row

LThe Queen of Sheba presents gifts to King Solomon. CThe Nativity. The three Kings present gifts to the Holy Child. Shepherds in attendance. RJoseph and his Brethren come to Egypt to buy corn.

Fourth row

LLot’s Wife turns to a pillar of salt when she looks back at Sodom, which is in flames. CAn angel warns the three Kings not to return to Herod or disclose the whereabouts of Christ. RKing Jeroboam slaughtering the lamb, over which is a scroll advising the prophet: “Do not return by the way which you came”.

Fifth row

LHannah presents Samuel to Eli in the Temple. CMary presents Jesus to Simeon in the Temple. RThe sower sowing seeds on stony ground, while the birds of the air hover above. (Originally, Melchizedech offering bread and wine to Abraham – now lost).§

Sixth row

LThe Church and the sons of Noah, Ham, Shem and Japhet, dividing the World between them. CChrist abandoned by the Pharisees. (St John 6, v. 66) RVirginity, Continence and Marriage (the three blameless states of life).

Bottom row

LRich men, representing the seed of the stony ground, represented by two Roman Emperors, Julian the Apostate and Maurice. CThe sower, sowing an abundant crop on the good ground. RDaniel, Job and Noah, the three righteous men, the seed of the good ground.

Who’s Who in the second Bible Window

The four central circular panels Cin this window contain scenes from the New Testament, with related scenes from the Old Testament in the 2 semi-circular panels below them, to the left Land right R. Only the three panels of the top set are in their original positions – the remaining scenes were put together from glass salvaged from the fourth bible window.

1. Jesus and The Scholars

CJesus, as a child of 12 years, among the scholars/ doctors in the Temple, who are amazed at his knowledge and understanding.LMoses being advised by Jethro to appoint trustworthy people to help him and not to do everything on his own. RDaniel sitting in judgment on the wicked Elders

2. The Wedding at Cana

CThe Miracle at The Wedding at Cana. Six water pots become wine. Jesus and his Mother sit at the end of a table. The Bride and Groom sit in the middle. Servants bear pots full of wine; others fill empty pots with water.LSix Ages of the World, represented by six Biblical figures: Adam (with hoe), Noah (with Ark), Abraham (with fire and knife), with David (with crown and harp), Jeconiah (with crown and sceptre) and Christ (with open book of the Gospels). RSix Ages of Man: Infancy, Childhood, (boy with ball and a hockey stick), Adolescence (youth with sceptre), Middle Age (man with wallet and loaf), Maturity and Old Age (man with a crutch).

3. The Miraculous Draught of Fishes

CJesus sits in the boat with St Peter and St Andrew. In another boat are St James and St John. Between the boats is a net full of fish, which the Apostles are bringing in. Designed to be compared with Paul converting the Gentiles (lost) and Peter preaching to the Jews. Some fish are shown escaping the net, i.e. Christ’s message of redemption.LNoah’s Ark. Noah, looking out of the ark, greets the returning dove, carrying the olive branch in its mouth (linked with the lost panel of the Baptism of Christ) RSt Peter, preaching to the Jews, represents the gathering of fish. Two Pharisees walking away, symbolise the breaking of the net.

4. The Calling of Nathaniel

CNathaniel sits under the fig tree, on the right, with St Peter pointing to Jesus in the background. On the left, Jesus and Nathaniel meet with St Peter and St Andrew.LA group of Gentiles giving their attention and agreement. RA group of Pharisees rejecting the word of God.

St Eustace wall painting (c.1480)

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. Although 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.

Northeast Transept (1180)

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

The alabaster monument to Archbishop Archibald Campbell Tait (1868-1883) the first Scot to hold the post, is strictly-speaking a cenotaph, not a tomb, as the Archbishop is buried at Addington, SE London, along with four other archbishops of the 1800s.

The two chapels on the east side of the transept are those of the fourth century St Martin (left), and St Stephen (right) – the first Christian martyr (d. AD36). The ‘medieval’ stained glass in these chapels, depicting scenes from the life of the two saints, mostly dates from the 1950s.

On the left wall of St Martin’s Chapel is a medieval oil painting (c.1486) of the Saxon Queen Ediva (aka Eadgifu), third wife of Edward the Elder (899-925) whose bones are interred beneath. Ediva is described as “mother of the whole English nation”, though “step-mother” might be more accurate. Her step-son Athelstan (by Edward’s first consort, Ecgwynn) is considered to be the first king of all England, having extended his rule to Northumbria in 927. This chapel also contains the bones of three early archbishops – Wulfred (805-832), Lyfing (1013/1020) and Lanfranc (1070-1089).

Stained glass in the transept

The Oculus window (created by William the Englishman) high up in the north wall of the transept is a marvel of 12th century engineering. It is around 6 metres (20 feet) in diameter and has withstood the elements for 844 years, although much of the medieval glass was destroyed by the Puritans in 1642/3. The central images – Moses presenting the Ten Commandments to a woman (representing the synagogue) bounded by four prophets, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Daniel – date from c.1180.

Also high up in the clerestory of the transept are 4 of the original 86 Genealogical Windows, most of which were relocated to the Great West and Great South windows in the 1790s and replaced by copies. These original figures of Shem, Isaac, Cosam (probably) and Phares give some idea of how the clerestory glass must have appeared prior to the mass removal of the “Ancestors of Christ”.

Water Tower Exhibition Space (2021)

This new exhibition space in the former Water Tower of Prior Wilbert (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 Watching (Wax) Chamber (1180)

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