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 construction of the Trinity Chapel was completed, under the direction of William the Englishman in 1184, just 9 years following the commencement of the rebuilding of the Choir by the unfortunate William of Sens who was so badly injured when he fell from scaffolding during construction of the Choir that he was unable to continue. The decorations and windows were not fully completed until c.1216-18, following the Prior and monks’ return from exile in France at the end of the protracted dispute between King John and Pope Innocent III over the Pope’s appointment of Archbishop Stephen Langton (1207/1229).
The empty space in the centre of the Trinity Chapel, now marked by a single candle, once contained the magnificent Shrine of Thomas Becket, until swept away on the orders of Henry VIII in 1538 – the 12th century Opus Alexandrinum pavement, inlaid into the floor in front of the shrine was left intact. Further along the aisle, to our right, is the tomb of Henry IV and his queen Joan of Navarre. The six stained glass windows that line the north aisle include the Life of Becket window and four original thirteenth century Miracle Windows. Beyond Henry IV and Joan are the tombs of Dean Wotton (right) and Archbishop Davidson (opposite).
The space in the centre of the Trinity Chapel is occupied by a solitary candle that marks the site of the Shrine of Thomas Becket that stood here for over 300 years between 1220 and 1538. In that time, the shrine attracted hundreds of thousands of pilgrims to Canterbury from all over Europe until it, and all other monuments to Saint Thomas, were destroyed on the orders of Henry VIII.
The shrine was bedecked in gold and More
Video: The Becket Shrine c.1408
There is little evidence of the Shrine’s existence today, other than a shallow groove in the floor, marking the outline of the shrine’s marble base – the imprint of the knees of countless pilgrims, as they knelt in prayer.
Profile: The Life of Thomas Becket
The floor at the western end of the central area of the Trinity Chapel is inlaid with an intricate Italian marble mosaic pavement, known as the Opus Alexandrinum, after the style of mosaic paving associated with the 3rd century Roman Emperor, Alexander Severus.
The pavement is a striking piece of medieval More
The first window we encounter, on the left, at the top of the Pilgrims’ Steps is the Life of Becket Window. It includes a famous portrait of Thomas Becket at the centre of the bottom row.
Many of the ancient stained glass windows in the Cathedral, including this one, were severely damaged by Puritans in the 1620s. This particular window was extensively restored in 1925 by the renowned Cathedral glazier Samuel Caldwell Jr. Caldwell was not only a skilled restorer of ancient glass, but was an accomplished stained glass artist in his own right. He was able to reuse mediaeval glass – the face of Becket is believed to be original – alongside modern glass. He was able to re-create the “look and feel” of ancient glass so convincingly that he even managed to deceive colleagues and the stained glass experts of his time!
Henry IV (1399/1413) is the only monarch to be buried in the Cathedral. He was the first Lancastrian king and, incidentally, the first king to give his coronation speech in English. Here, he lies alongside his second wife Joan of Navarre, who died in 1437, surviving him by 24 years. The tomb was built two years after Joan’s death by the master mason Richard Beke.
The troubled reign of Henry IV
The opening of the tomb in 1832
Opposite the tomb (but not normally open to the public) and constructed at the same time as the tomb, is the chantry chapel endowed by Henry IV in his will and dedicated to the royal saint, Edward the Confessor.
The wooden screen in front of the chapel created an enclosed viewing or waiting area for visiting pilgrims. The Altar, with cross and candlesticks, was designed by Professor Tristram in 1931. On the green curtain, above the Altar, are embroidered figures representing St Edward the Confessor and the Beggar (in reality St John the Evangelist in disguise), holding the ring given to him by the King, one of the many legends surrounding the Saxon Monarch, who was for many centuries the Patron Saint of England. The three panels of 15th century glass in the Chapel are (left to right) of St Christopher, carrying Christ on his shoulders, St Edward the Confessor and St Katherine of Alexandria.
The Miracle Windows are so-called because they depict some of the miracles that were observed by the monks William and Benedict at the first tomb of Thomas Becket in the crypt between 1180 and 1220. Of the six windows in the north aisle of the Trinity Chapel (going clockwise) the first (the Life of Becket) and second are relatively modern replacements or reproductions, but the remaining four are substantially as they were in the early thirteenth century.
Investigating the Miracle Windows
More recently, the fifth window was also removed and loaned to the British Museum for its Murder and the Making of a Saint exhibition (delayed from 2020) to mark the 850th anniversary of Thomas Becket’s murder. When this window was cleaned and examined closely in preparation for the exhibition, it was realised that some of the panels had been placed in the wrong order, and had been that way quite possibly for almost four hundred years, following restoration in the 17th century.
Immediately opposite the last two miracle windows in the north aisle is the most striking Renaissance tomb in the Cathedral; that of Dean Nicholas Wotton. The effigy shows the Dean kneeling in his Doctor of Divinity surplice, with an obelisk towering above him. The Latin epitaph (written by the Dean himself) on the pillar nearby, praises his many accomplishments, adding that he was “indeed slim of build, and though of small stature, yet upright, he had a healthy constitution and the look of a gentleman.”*
*From a translation by Jonathan Gale
The ‘modern’ tomb opposite, is that of Dr. Randall Davidson (1903-28). Strictly speaking, it is a cenotaph – an empty tomb – as the Archbishop is buried in the cloister garden. He has the distinction of being both the first archbishop to retire from office, in November 1928 (he died in 1930), and the last archbishop to be memorialised with a conventional tomb and sculpted effigy.
The bronze effigy, by British sculptor, Cecil Thomas (1885-1976) depicts the archbishop in his cope, his hand raised in blessing.