Goodbye to Canterbury

Goodbye to Canterbury


Dr Rowan Williams, just retired as Archbishop of Canterbury, muses on Canterbury Cathedral, “a purpose-built factory of prayer” for which he has huge affection. With him we poke around the building’s bizarre byways: “It feels like being backstage in Britain’s oldest theatre,” he says, as he takes us to the high vaults where old bits of cathedral lie about or are wrapped in bubblewrap. He also talks us through some of the pivotal events that the building – and the office he held for ten years – has seen. “Even today, it is the point of intersection between the kingdom of God, the values of God, and all the skill, the art, the problems, the politics of human beings.”


As he prepares to end his tenure as Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams explores the history of the cathedral and its art and architecture. He investigates how the struggle between the established Catholic church and the new forces of the Reformation shaped the building and reveals how locals saved the church during bombing by the Luftwaffe in 1942. He also examines the exotic tombs of his predecessors, the archbishop's throne, the oldest illustrated book in England, a casket that once held the remains of the most famous saint in the medieval world and the stained-glass windows showing pilgrims restored to health. Finally Dr Williams reveals how the tensions between Church and State continue today as the person holding office must struggle to resolve loyalties to country and to God.