Fire Watchers Memorial
Great West Window
Altar of the Sword Point
The Deans' Chapel
Western Crypt (North Aisle)
Ch. of Holy Innocents
St Nicholas Ch.
St Mary Magdalene Ch.
Western Crypt (South Aisle)
Our Lady Undercroft
St Gabriel Chapel
Great South Window
St Augustine's Chair
North Choir Aisle
Trinity Chapel North
Henry IV Tomb
Trinity Chapel South
South Choir Aisle
St Anselm's Chapel
St Michael's Chapel
Crypt access & Exit
South, East, North & West panes
Victorian stained glass
Hint. View the map ‘landscape’ on small screens.
MapThe architecture of this part of the Cathedral is strikingly different from that you have seen elsewhere – a transitional gothic style known as early English. The main structure was built between 1175 and 1184. The Parclose Screen on either side of the choir stalls was added in 1304 and the choir stalls themselves date from the 17th and 19th centuries. At the eastern end of the Choir there is an impressive eagle lectern and beyond that, at the top of the steps behind the high altar, is St Augustine’s Chair, the chair used for the enthronement of Archbishops.
Accessible Itinerary. Enter the Choir via the lift from the North Door, at the rear of the Cathedral.
The Choir and Trinity Chapel
- Length 91 meters (300 feet)
- Width at Eastern Transept: 47 metres (155 feet)
- Height 18 metres (59 feet)
Significant dates –
- 1130 Dedication of the first magnificent Choir extravagantly furnished by Prior Conrad (1108-1126).
- 1174 Fire devastates the “Glorious Choir of Conrad”.
- 1175 William of Sens appointed architect for the rebuilding.
- 1178 William of Sens mortally injured in fall from scaffolding.
- 1184 William the Englishman completes the construction work
- 1220 Translation of the body St Thomas Becket to a new shrine in the Trinity Chapel.
- 1538 Destruction of the Becket Shrine by command of Henry VIII.
The 12 choir stalls that back onto the Pulpitum screen are for the use of of the Dean and Chapter and were installed in 1682. The woodwork is in the style of King Charles II’s favoured wood carver Grinling Gibbons, though it is, in fact, the work of Roger Davis, “Citizen and Joiner of London”.
The remaining stalls on either side of the Choir, with misericords along the back row, are Victorian and were installed in 1879 under the direction of Sir George Gilbert Scott (the creator of the Albert Memorial in Hyde Park, London).
Scott had also wanted to replace the Dean and Chapter’s stalls with others to his own design. However, the Dean and Chapter (perhaps with an eye to posterity – or to their posteriors) preferred to retain their 17th Century accommodation!
The Parclose Screen was added during the time of Prior Henry Eastry (1285/1331) and ran all around the Choir. The parclose screen and the window in St Anselm’s Chapel are major examples of the interim, Decorated style of gothic architecture.
The screen provided the monks with some privacy during their services (and a little insulation from icy winter draughts), as pilgrims streamed continuously to and from the Becket Shrine along the South Choir Aisle.
At the eastern end of the Choir stands an impressive brass lectern. The Bible rests on the wings of an ascending eagle, while the claws of the eagle clutch a huge brass ball, supported by a pedestal resting on three sitting lions. The work is by William Burroughes, completed in 1663. It replaced the lectern destroyed by Colonel Sandys’ unruly Parliamentary troops in 1642 during the English Civil War.
Here also, at the eastern end of the Choir opposite the pulpit (1846) is the stone seat of the Archbishop, with its spired Victorian gothic canopy, designed by George Austin Snr. and given by Archbishop Howley in 1844.
The Archbishop’s Throne is used during the “triple enthronement” ceremony of a new Archbishop. A new primate is first enthroned here in the Choir as Bishop of the See of Canterbury, then in the Chapter House as Titular Abbot, and finally in St Augustine’s Chair (see below) as Primate of All England and President of the Anglican Communion.
The area beyond the end of the choir stalls and in front of the High Altar is called the Presbytery. It is at the crossing point between the north and south wings of the East Transept. If you look up, you will notice the Lamb & Flag keystone in the central roof boss. It represents the Lamb of God, carrying the cross, banner or flag, signifying triumph or victory over death and symbol of the Resurrection. It is the work of William of Sens, the architect responsible for the rebuilding the Choir following the devastating fire of 1174. It was from this point that he suffered his tragic fall in 1178.
To the east, behind the High Altar, stands the ancient stone chair, or cathedra, known as St Augustine’s Chair. St Augustine was the first Archbishop of Canterbury between 597-604. According to the Cathedral accounts, the current chair was made between 1201 and 1203 – two earlier chairs of St. Augustine having perished in the devastating fires of 1067 and 1174.
It is made from Petworth marble from Sussex and was probably used for the enthronement of Cardinal Archbishop Stephen Langton (the architect of the Magna Carta) in 1213 and then again for the grand ceremony of the Translation of St Thomas Becket to his Shrine in Trinity Chapel in July 1220.
St Augustine’s Chair is now used only for the enthronement of a new archbishop as Primate of All England, and during the Lambeth Conference, the gathering of bishops from across the Anglican communion held every 10 years. The Archbishop’s Throne in the Choir is used for other occasions in which the archbishop is present.
Ref. Wikipedia – The Chair of St Augustine