Skip to main content

Award recognises world importance of Canterbury Cathedral archive

Award recognises world importance of Canterbury Cathedral archive

Canterbury Cathedral’s medieval archive has received the international recognition of having “outstanding significance to the UK” and has been given a UNESCO Memory of the World (MoW) award.

The historically important archive, which includes some 17,000 items dating from the 9th century to 1540, is one of seven new UNESCO (United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization) MoW inscriptions announced on Tuesday 21 June 2016.

Canterbury Cathedral Canon Librarian, Revd Christopher Irvine said: “In Canterbury, we are proud of our archive collection and of the facilities which we have for caring for it and for providing access to it. We are delighted and honoured that the Cathedral’s medieval archive has secured this international recognition.”

Pictured above right is an image of the medieval seal of St Sepulchre’s Priory, Canterbury, an example of the range of seals in the archive.

It is noted that the wealth of heritage in the archive helps to tell the story of the Cathedral, its monastery, its buildings, its work and its people and is one of the most extensive monastic archives in the UK. The Anglo-Saxon documents in the archive are older than any of the Cathedral buildings visible today. Canterbury Cathedral, as the seat of the Archbishop of Canterbury, has had a particular role to play in national affairs during the centuries and has been and continues to be a major pilgrimage destination. In medieval times the Cathedral and its priory had influence well beyond Canterbury, Kent and England and that importance is reflected in its archive.

ChAnt/A/2 Accord of Winchester
The Accord of Winchester 1072, bearing the autograph cross of William the Conqueror.

UNESCO established the MoW programme in 1992 with the vision that the world’s documentary heritage belongs to all, should be fully preserved and protected for all and permanently accessible to all without hindrance. The new inscriptions will join the 50 already listed on the UK register and the registers are considered catalogues of the world’s most prized documentary and audio-visual heritage.

The UK Memory of the World Committee is a voluntary team of experts, UK-based librarians and archivists, who administer and review applications to the Registers.

The UK National Commission for UNESCO is the central hub for UNESCO-related matters in the UK. Karen Merkel, the UKNC’s Non-Executive Director for Communications and Information said: “We would like to thank the members of the UK Memory of the World Committee, chaired by Elizabeth Oxborrow-Cowan, for their careful assessment of the new collections to be inscribed onto the UK’s Memory of the World Register. Their expertise guides applicants through the rigorous application process and ensures that collections of truly global significance and national impact join the prestigious community on the UK Memory of the World Register”.

 UNESCO was established in London in 1945 to promote a culture of peace by fostering intercultural dialogue and international cooperation through collaborative work in the fields of education, the natural and social sciences, culture, communication and information and the Cathedral is part of Canterbury’s UNESCO World Heritage site.


Back to top of page