and Southeast Transept
MapAs we come down the steps from the Trinity Chapel, notice that they are visibly worn by the passage of thousands of Pilgrims who, in the 318 years between 1220-1538, completed the final few steps of their pilgrimage to the shrine of St Thomas on their knees.
Immediately to our left at the foot of the steps from the Trinity Chapel, is St Anselm’s Chapel and, in the aisle opposite, the tombs of three archbishops – Stratford, Sudbury & Kemp. Beyond this point, the Bossanyi Windows are a major highlight of the Southeast Transept. and, beyond that, the tomb of Prior Henry Eastry and some notable thirteenth century stained glass from the collection of William Randolph Hearst, acquired by the Cathedral in 1956.
St. Anselm’s Chapel (1106)
Originally named the chapel of Saints Peter & Paul the chapel was rededicated to the second Norman archbishop, Anselm (1093-1109) after his canonisation in 1166. The chapel is a survivor of the great fire of 1174, which destroyed the roof and most of the fabric of the ‘glorious’ Romanesque Choir, built during Anselm’s tenure and completed only 68 years earlier, in 1106. Thus, the architectural style in this chapel is predominantly Norman/Romanesque, except for the stonework of the South Window, which dates from 1336 and is a fine example of Decorated Gothic.
The stained glass in St Anselm’s Chapel (1959)
The stonework of the south window, dating from 1336, is a the finest example of the Kent style of Decorated Gothic in the Cathedral. The original medieval stained-glass was destroyed by the Puritans in 1643, and its Victorian replacement was a casualty of German bombing in 1942 – as was much of the glass on the south side of the Cathedral.
The window that we see today was created in 1959 in the York studio of Harry Stammers (1902-69), one of the most renowned British stained glass artists of his time. Stammers’ work is highly distinctive and, some say, has an almost cartoon-like quality. St Anselm is portrayed in the central of the five panels, holding his influential treatise on the Atonement of Christ, “Cur Deus Homo?” (Why God Became Man), completed in 1099.
The panels at either end of the window depict the two kings whose reigns spanned Anselm’s time as Archbishop, and with whom he came into conflict during his time as archbishop: William II (1087-1100) known as William Rufus and, when Rufus was killed under suspicious circumstances in a hunting accident, his successor, his brother, Henry I (1100-1135).
Anselm quarrelled with both kings over the question of whether the monarch or the pope had the primary right to invest an abbot, bishop or archbishop, with the symbols of his office, and was exiled twice for his efforts. The dispute was eventually resolved in 1107 when Henry renounced his claim to the right of investiture, on the condition that the bishop or archbishop-elect paid homage to the crown prior to his consecration.
The wall painting of St Paul and the Viper (1160)
The apse of this chapel, was decorated in c.1160 with medieval wall paintings of Saints Peter and Paul. However, the apse was walled up in c.1200 in an attempt to shore up the tower above, which had become unstable. This shoring-up was ultimately unsuccessful and the tower had to be dismantled in 1335.
The wall painting of St Paul and the Viper was re-discovered when the buttress wall was demolished during restoration work in 1888. The fresco shows Paul, the great Apostle of the Gentiles, barefoot, in a white tunic against a blue ground after being shipwrecked on the shores of the Adriatic island of Melita (now Mljet). The Melitans light a fire to warm the survivors and, as Paul is feeding the fire, a viper emerges from the sticks and fastens to his arm. Paul shakes the viper into the fire and onlookers are amazed that he is unharmed by this encounter with a venomous snake. Note. When uncovered in 1888, the other fresco on the wall opposite, depicting St Peter, unfortunately was found to have been destroyed by centuries of damp penetration.
The altar (2005)
The modern altar in St Anselm’s Chapel was created by Stephen Cox from a block of green Aosta marble and consecrated by Archbishop Rowan Williams in the presence of the Bishop of Aosta in April 2006. The marble is rippled with bands of white quartzite that seem to mirror the alpine skyline of the region where Anselm was born. The altar was a gift of the people of the Italian region of Valle d’Aosta, where their saint is known as Anselmo d’Aosta.
Tombs of Archbishops Sudbury, Stratford and Kemp
In the aisle opposite St Anselm’s Chapel there are three tombs of historical and architectural significance.
Tomb of Archbishop Simon Sudbury (d.1381)
Heading west, the first tomb is that of Simon of Sudbury (1375-1381). Archbishop Sudbury is remembered as a generous benefactor of the city and of the Cathedral, and for his brutal murder at the hands of Kentish insurgents during the Peasants’ Revolt of 1381.
His unusually long tomb is surmounted by a stone canopy in Perpendicular style, vaulted like a miniature chantry chapel, and adorned with carvings of animals. An elegant effigy of the Archbishop in copper-gilt (the same material as used in the effigy on the tomb of the Black Prince d.1376) once lay on top of the marble cover of the tomb, until it was removed 170 years later, by order of Edward VI (1547/1553).
This appointment did not end well. As Chancellor, Sudbury was blamed for the third Poll Tax and beheaded, outside the Tower of London by Kentish insurgents during the Peasants’ Revolt of 1381. His headless body was brought back to Canterbury to be buried – a lead cannonball taking the place of his head. While his body rests here, his head has been preserved in the Church of St Gregory, in his native town of Sudbury in Suffolk.
Archbishop Sudbury is remembered as a generous benefactor to both the city and to the Cathedral. He was responsible for the reconstruction of the West Gate and the city walls, and contributed substantial sums towards the cost of the demolition of Lanfranc’s dilapidated Nave in 1377, and to its subsequent rebuilding. His good works are still commemorated during the annual Christmas morning service at the Cathedral when, with the mayor and other dignitaries in attendance, a wreath of roses is laid upon his tomb.
Tomb of Archbishop John Stratford (d.1348)
The next tomb is of that of Archbishop John de Stratford. Stratford briefly held the post of Lord Treasurer in 1326, and in 1330, during the early years of the 50 year reign of Edward III (1327-1377), he became Lord Chancellor. He was appointed Archbishop of Canterbury in 1333.
The tomb is significant because it is the earliest example of Perpendicular architecture in the Cathedral, and an early example of the use of alabaster in a carved effigy. Over the tomb is a vaulted roof, with a tall, pinnacled canopy (unfortunately damaged) with two small carvings of lions’ heads at the eastern end. The tomb was probably designed by one of Edward III’s principal master masons, William Ramsay, shortly before his death in 1349, and completed by his daughter. The design had a strong influence over Henry Yevele the master mason responsible for the rebuilding the Nave – demolished in 1377 and completed, after delays, in 1411.
Tomb of Cardinal Archbishop John Kemp (d.1454)
John Kemp (1380-1454) came from the nearby town of Wye and was archbishop for less than two years from 1452-4. His Purbeck marble tomb has no effigy, but it is topped by a remarkable carved and painted oak canopy with three spires. The canopy has been described as one of the finest surviving examples of medieval woodwork in England. The brass epitaph running around the rim of the tomb is interspersed with wheatsheaves – an emblem from the Cardinal’s coat of arms.
By 1453 Henry had lost all the French lands, except Calais, gained by his celebrated father, the warrior king, Henry V. The series of military disasters in France, the collapse of law and order at home and the king’s increasing mental incapacity, gave rise to a struggle for control of the kingdom between the queen, Margaret of Anjou, and the king’s cousin Richard of York.
Against the backdrop of political turmoil and the ascendency of the Yorkist faction, Kemp was becoming an increasingly unpopular figure, and his sudden death in 1454, aged 73, spared him witnessing the outbreak of civil war – the Wars of the Roses – in 1455, a conflict that lasted on and off for the next 32 years.
The Bossanyi Windows (1956-8)
The dramatic and colourful windows that immediately catch the eye in the Southeast Transept are the work of Hungarian-born Ervin Bossanyi (1891-1975). Though the artistry of the work can be appreciated in its own right, it is also laden with symbols of liberation and freedom, and explores themes that Bossanyi, as a Jewish refugee from Nazi oppression, held close to his heart.
The two lower larger windows, along with the two smaller windows in the gallery above, are replacements for Victorian glass shattered in the Baedeker air raid of June 1942. Viewed from left to right, bottom to top, they are –
Lower left Salvation was installed in 1958. It shows an imprisoned man being freed by an angel to be reunited with his wife and daughter, while others wait for salvation. Note the tiny symbolic swastika in the keyhole of a padlock to the left-hand prison door.
Lower right Peace was installed in 1956. The figure of Christ, incorporating some of the features of God the Father, stands, with children of the World at his feet, enjoying the blessings of peace poured forth by an angel.
Top left Faith shows Christ walking in a storm over the waves to his disciples, who are cowering in their boat in fear of the storm.
Top right Strength shows St Christopher, “the gentle giant”, and patron saint of travellers, carrying Christ on his shoulders.
There is an excellent description of the symbolism in the Bossanyi windows on the Canterbury Historical and Archaeological Society web site:
The Southeast Transept (1178)
The lower walls of the Southeast Transept were completed in 1107 during Archbishop Anselm’s time, and survived the great fire of September 1174 – they still bear signs of scorching. William of Sens who was responsible for rebuilding after the fire, raised the height of the Transept to match the increased height of his rebuilt Choir in 1178.
Chapel of St John the Evangelist
The Chapel of St John the Evangelist (first on the left) contains an oval altar, designed by Stephen Dykes Bower, and dedicated in 1951 as a memorial to Archbishop William Temple (1942-1944). The early 17th century painting hanging behind the altar, also acquired in 1951, is the Adoration of the Shepherds by Bartolomeo Schedoni (1570/1615), a painter of Parma school and pupil of Correggio.
The Amnesty Candle first lit in 2010, is wrapped in barbed wire and burns as a sign of hope for prisoners of conscience throughout the world.
The east window of this Chapel was made by George Austin Jnr. in 1854. It was the forerunner of Austin’s larger Jesse Tree, installed by him in the Corona in 1861.
Chapel of St Gregory the Great
The Chapel of St Gregory the Great, in the southeast corner of the Transept, contains a memorial to the post-war archbishop, Geoffrey Francis Fisher (1945-1961) who officiated at the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953.
The icon of St Gregory and St Augustine of Canterbury was presented by a visiting group of Benedictine monks from the Abbey of Chevtogne, Belgium in 1984.
The east window of the Chapel contains copies of four 13th century roundels made by George Austin Jnr. c.1852, comprising scenes from the life of Christ. The original roundels and other medieval glass that Austin had removed from the Corona were sold off in 1906, at at time when the attitude towards conservation was not what it is today. Two of the roundels found their way to the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, USA. The other two are presumed lost.
The South Oculus window (c.1178)
High up in the south wall of the transept is the remarkable oculus (‘eye’) window, designed by William the Englishman in 1180.
This large window, 4.5m in diameter, was built at the same time the North Oculus window and complements that window’s Old Testament themes, by showing events based upon the life and teachings of Christ from the New Testament. The central images of the window depict Christ and the Church, alongside the four symbols of the Christian virtues of Faith, Hope, Charity and Humility. These are flanked by the four evangelists, Matthew, Mark Luke and John and then, in the outer ring, the twelve apostles.
In 1852 the damaged central panels were skilfully re-made by the Cathedral’s master glazier George Austin Jnr. and most recently, in 2013/14, after a further 160 years of exposure to wind and rain, the South Oculus window was subject to painstaking remediation and conservation work by the Cathedral Studio Workshop. After 850 years of service, and careful conservation work, the iron frame was pronounced fit to face the elements for the next 850!
Windows & Monuments in the South Aisle
As we leave the Southeast Transept there is, in the aisle just to the left, an unusual and puzzling feature set into the wall just below the monument to the brothers Nevil. It is thought to be a stonemason’s illustration of an arch in the “new” Gothic style, dating from around 1175.
The lower portion of the external walls of this aisle formed part of the original Romanesque Cathedral of 1107 that survived the great fire of 1174. During the reconstruction that followed, it seems that a mason carved a pointed arch with the “dog tooth” moulding into the Romanesque arcade, possibly as an example of the new Gothic style. Nobody knows the reason for sure, but it is certainly an early example the new style of pointed ornamentation that appeared from the late 12th century onwards.
Stained glass in the South aisle: The “Hearst” Windows
The stained glass in the lower gallery at the western end of the south Choir aisle, and the smaller windows in the gallery above, was shattered in the air raid of June 1942. The lower windows were themselves replacements, by Cathedral glazier Samuel Caldwell Snr. (1862-1906), of a pair of early thirteenth century Bible windows destroyed in 1643, in the early part of the English Civil War.
In 1956 the Cathedral acquired a substantial quantity of French 13th century glass from the collection of William Randolph Hearst at St Donat’s Castle, Glamorgan, South Wales. Much, if not all, of the glass in this gallery came from that source and was installed by Cathedral glazier, George Easton between 1958 and 1962.
Top left The first window shows scenes from the life of the Virgin Mary: falling asleep in the presence of the apostles; being carried into Heaven by the angels; being crowned by Jesus amid censing angels.
Top centre The second window depicts the Crucifixion, the Resurrection and the Ascension of Christ.
Top right The window on the right contains three panels: The Nativity with Mary, Joseph and the Child, the ox and ass, and a shepherd worshipping; the adoration of the Magi; and the presentation of Christ in the Temple.
The larger lower gallery also contains French 13th century glass, set in modern glass surrounds in 13th century style:
Bottom left The roundels in the smaller window on the left show scenes from the apocryphal life of St Andrew the Apostle: the Saint riding round his diocese of Patras on a white horse; his arrest by armed men; and then, stripped for execution, he is laid “saltire-wise” on a tree cross.
Bottom centre The larger window in the centre contains 10 unconnected scenes, including the conversion of St Paul on his way to Damascus, the martyrdom of a bishop by armed men with swords, possibly St Thomas Becket, and also the Annunciation.
Bottom right The roundels in the smaller window on the right show the flight of the Holy Family from Egypt; the attempt to boil St John the Divine in oil before the Latin Gate at Rome; and a Doom or Last Judgement with demons carrying off the souls of the damned to hell.
Memorials to Dean Nevil, Prior Eastry and Archbishop Reynolds
Memorial to Dean Thomas Nevil (d.1615)
Leaving the transept, the first monument to our left, is a curious memorial to Dean Thomas Nevil (1597-1615). It was moved here from a former chapel in the Nave, perhaps following the Great Nave Clearance of 1787. The Dean is shown on the left in choir habit, with Cambridge Doctor of Divinity hood, with his brother, Alexander Nevil, in armour behind, both kneeling at prayer. The Latin inscription above the tomb, “Ne Vile Velis” translates to, “Do not desire evil” or, if you read it as, “Nevile Velis” – a pun on the name, Nevil – it becomes “No evil to Nevil” or “Wish Nevil well”.
Tomb of Prior Henry Eastry (d.1331)
The position of the next tomb, in a space more usually reserved for archbishops, is a mark of the greatness of Prior Henry Eastry (1285-1331), who died, aged 92, whilst celebrating mass, having ruled his community for 46 years. During his long tenure, the Cathedral and Priory flourished, its finances were greatly improved, new farming methods were introduced and significant building work undertaken. His effigy shows him, as an old man, in his mass vestments, lying on a handsome tomb – the cost of which was £21 three shillings and fourpence, according to the accounts of the Priory.
Tomb of Archbishop Walter Reynolds (d.1328)
The last tomb before we leave the south aisle is believed to be that of Archbishop Walter Reynolds (1313-1328), tutor to King Edward II (1307-1327). However, the mitred effigy is too short for the tomb and does not appear to belong. It has its head on a cushion and two dogs at its feet. It carries no cross and wears no archbishop’s pallium over the chasuble and, for this reason, Dr. Francis Woodman has suggested that effigy might be that of Prior Richard Oxenden,(1331-38) whose memorial is known to have been removed from St Michael’s Chapel in the Southeast Transept during its reconstruction in 1438. Its final resting place may well have been on top of Archbishop Reynolds’ tomb.
Follow the steps down to the X Southwest Transept
Accessible Itinerary. Return to the North Door via the lift.