Fire Watchers Memorial
Great West Window
Western Crypt (South Aisle)
Our Lady Undercroft
St Gabriel Chapel
Western Crypt (North Aisle)
Ch. of Holy Innocents
St Nicholas Ch.
St Mary Magdalene Ch.
Altar of the Sword Point
The Deans' 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 Southwest Transept is the Cathedral’s busiest intersection and it can get quite congested here. The large window above the entrance porch is the Great South Window – though it is better viewed from the elevated vantage point of the X Pulpitum steps. To the right of this historic window, in the west wall of the transept, there is another important window that visitors often fail to notice: the striking Arts & Crafts window of Christopher Whall.
On the opposite side of the transept, is St Michael’s Chapel, also known as the Buffs’ Chapel. The chapel contains the triple tomb of Lady Margaret Holland and her two husbands, and the curious tomb of Archbishop Stephen Langton. The chapel also houses a number of Elizabethan and Jacobean era monuments, and regimental flags and memorials connected with the Royal East Kent Regiment – ‘the Buffs’.
The Norman Cathedral, constructed between 1077-1086, consisted of a nave and single transept (where we are now standing) at its eastern end, which led to a small choir with a short crypt underneath. In the following 100 years, the Cathedral was twice extended from this point eastwards, between 1096-1124 and, following the fire of 1174, between 1175-1184. The floor area of the Cathedral more than doubled during this period. The rebuilt Choir, St Thomas’s (Trinity) Chapel and Corona were magnificent examples of a new, transitional Gothic style of architecture known as Early English. The opulence and greater height of the eastern extensions literally put the rest of the building in the shade.
Meanwhile, the evolution of architectural styles and construction techniques continued and, by 1377, the Norman Nave had become so dilapidated that it had to be demolished completely. It was not fully rebuilt until 1405. Once this work was finished, the Southwest Transept was remodelled and increased in height between 1420-1428 in the same Perpendicular Gothic style as the new Nave, with a huge south window and heraldic vault.
The large size and west-facing aspect of the Great South Window means that maintenance is needed from time to time. In the 1790s, when significant structural repairs were needed, the window was rebuilt in Portland Stone, and the opportunity was also taken to move the 12th/13th century Ancestors of Christ stained glass here from elsewhere in the Cathedral. Most recently, an inspection in June 2009 revealed that another major overhaul was needed. The complex restoration project, carried out between 2013-2016, involved sourcing 40 tons of compatible limestone from Lavoux in central France and the painstaking restoration and re-assembly of the medieval stained glass.
Hiding in plain sight in the western wall of the transept, often unnoticed by visitors, is the ‘Arts & Crafts’ window of Christopher Whall (1849-1924).
Christopher Whall was strongly influenced by the pre-Raphaelite artists, such as John Everett Millais and William Morris and was himself a leading light in the Arts & Crafts movement of the later Victorian era and early 20th century. He taught stained glass-making at the famous Central School of Art & Crafts from its inception in 1896.
What’s in the Whall Window
Bottom row The Nativity. The Virgin Mary and the infant Jesus attended by three angels; flanked on either side by St Bartholomew and St James Major.
Middle row The Agony in the Garden. Jesus prays in the Garden of Gethsemane; with watching angel. He is flanked by St John the Baptist and St John the Evangelist
Top row The Resurrection. Christ emerges from the tomb at daybreak; flanked on the left by the much-reproduced image of the Angel Uriel and, on the right, St Michael.
Whall employed a newly-developed type of slab glass, that its inventor, William Prior, called ‘Early English’. The glass has a veined appearance, with streaks of colour running through it. Whall was able to employ a palette of vibrant, transparent colours, quite unlike anything seen previously. His windows have an jewelled, luminescent quality to them.
Whall originally created two windows for Canterbury, though the glass in St Andrew’s Chapel, off the North Choir aisle, was unfortunately shattered by bomb damage during World War II. Whall’s original drawings for the lost window can be seen in the V&A museum in London.
This chapel has a long association with the Royal East Kent Regiment (the ‘Buffs’) and is often referred to as the Buffs’ Chapel or the Warriors’ Chapel. The regimental colours hang from poles on each side of the chapel.
The tomb of Lady Margaret Holland, Duchess of Clarence (c.1380/1439)
Lady Margaret commissioned and paid for the demolition and rebuilding, between 1436-1440, of the Norman (c.1085) St Michael’s Chapel and made it known that she wished to be buried in the chapel, together with her late husbands John Beaufort, Earl of Somerset (d.1410) and Thomas of Lancaster, Duke of Clarence (d.1421). The Duke was the second son of Henry IV, and younger brother of Henry V. The Duchess died only 11 days after the completion of the chapel and the Earl and the Duke, who had been temporarily interred in the Trinity Chapel, were reburied alongside her.
The Purbeck marble tomb, designed by master mason Richard Beke is topped by three alabaster figures. The Duchess lies in the middle, in rich robes, covered by a mantle, a wimpled coronet on her head and with dogs at her feet. On her left, the lesser ranking John, Earl of Somerset, in full armour with a falcon at his feet. On her right, Thomas, Duke of Clarence, also in full armour, with a hound at his feet.
The tomb of Archbishop Stephen Langton (1207-1228)
During the remodelling of the chapel in 1349, several lesser tombs and monuments had to be moved to make way for the tomb of Lady Margaret and her two husbands. Perhaps because of his status, Langton’s tomb was spared, but the new layout of the chapel meant that the Archbishop ended up with his head inside the chapel and his feet projecting out through the east wall. The foot-end of Langton’s tomb can be clearly seen from outside. A rather unseemly memorial for a man of many accomplishments, including dividing the the Bible into its now standard arrangement of chapters, for writing the hymn Veni, Sancte Spiritus (Come, Holy Spirit), which scholars consider one of the great masterpieces of Latin poetry and, most notably of all, for producing the first draft of the Magna Carta.
The life and times of Stephen Langton
Langton and the other exiles returned to England and, for the next three years, Langton became a thorn in King John’s side. In 1215, Langton acted as an intermediary between the King and his rebellious Barons, and is believed to have drafted the first version of Magna Carta.
It seems an irony that ‘bad’ King John is buried in a place of honour in front of the High Altar of Worcester Cathedral, whilst his nemesis, the man who produced the first draft of a document widely regarded as one of the most important in history has been hidden away here for 583 of the last 794 years, with his feet out in the cold!
The east window of St Michael’s Chapel, The Buffs’ Window, installed in 1959, replaced a 19th century Crimean War Memorial window, destroyed in an air raid during World War II. The top of the central panel features the “Sun of Splendour” emblem from the Regiment’s early colours, “1572” – the date the Regiment was raised – and the arms of Queen Elizabeth I. Below that, the Royal Arms of Denmark, representing the Regiment’s Danish link since 1869. Also, the Regimental Dragon, the Royal badge awarded by Queen Anne in 1707, reflecting its Tudor origin.
The remaining coats of arms in the window are those of Colonels of The Buffs from 1665 to 1953, together with royal personages, associated with the Regiment, and the arms of the Cities of London and Canterbury.
Next Stop. Take the short flight of steps (to the left of the Pilgrims’ Tunnel archway) up to the X Pulpitum steps
Alternative itineraries. For X the Martyrdom (the site of the murder of Thomas Becket in 1170), X the Crypt, X the Great Cloister and X Chapter House follow the signposted route to the Martyrdom via the Pilgrims’ Tunnel.
Accessible Itinerary. To exit the cathedral, or to access X the Great Cloister and X Chapter House, return via the Nave, and exit through the Northwest door.
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