A major new exhibition in Canterbury Cathedral’s Crypt allows visitors to explore up close, for the first time, a unique collection of artefacts – including the battle shield, gauntlets and jupon of medieval warrior Edward The Black Prince, and fragments of Thomas Becket’s shrine – that tell the complex, and often violent, story of Church-State relations.
On Monday 14 February Canterbury Cathedral will open its highly-anticipated exhibition, ‘Making History: Church, State and Conflict’. The exhibition focuses on the complex relationship between Church and State and the struggles between archbishops and kings, with a particular focus on Canterbury Cathedral’s important role within this relationship, illustrated in the Cathedral’s buildings, collections, and the stories of its people.
The exhibition explores the national and international dimensions of Church-State relations and how they have changed and developed over the centuries – from the Cathedral’s 6th-century origins, through the upheaval of the later Anglo-Saxon period, to the remodelling of both buildings and religious practice forced by the Norman Conquest, and beyond.
Amazing objects that visitors will be able to see in the exhibition include:
- Grant from William de Tracy – one of the four knights who murdered Thomas Becket in Canterbury Cathedral in 1170, de Tracy made this grant of 100 shillings (equivalent of approx. £10,000 today) as a penitential gesture for his role in the killing very soon after Becket was made a saint.
- The Accord of Winchester – this 11th-century document, witnessed by William the Conqueror, his queen, Matilda, and Lanfranc, the Archbishop of Canterbury, amongst others, records the settlement establishing the supremacy of the Archbishop of Canterbury over the Archbishop of York. Each witness subscribed to the agreement by marking crosses, presumably in their own hand.
- Papal Mandate from Innocent III – in this document from 1205, Pope Innocent III orders King John to accept Reginald, sub prior of Christ Church Priory, as elected Archbishop of Canterbury. However, John refused and the country was cast out of the Church.
- The Lyghfield Bible – the finest example of a complete illuminated book from the collection now held at the Cathedral, The Lyghfield Bible is a late 13th-century, 690-leaf, pocket Bible, written on high quality parchment or vellum.
- 21 pilgrim badges featuring Thomas Becket’s likeness. On loan from Canterbury Museums and Galleries.
- The Liudhard Medalet – the first known piece of Christian art made in England after the arrival of the Anglo-Saxons, this 6th century gold medalet shows Bishop Liudhard, whose arrival in Kent from the Frankish court started the conversion of the Anglo-Saxons to Christianity. On loan from National Museums Liverpool.
- The Canterbury Cross – a significant example of Anglo-Saxon Christian art with deep connections to the religious and cultural heritage of the city of Canterbury and the wider Anglican Communion. On loan from Canterbury Museums and Galleries.
Dr Sarah Turner, Collections Manager at Canterbury Cathedral, said of the new exhibition:
“This exhibition has been a long time in the making; it is a small treasure at the heart of the Cathedral building. Each object tells a story, sometimes of faith or trust, of anger or repentance, and each one shines a light onto the complex history of the Cathedral. The care and attention of conservators, researchers, our generous lenders and the wider cathedral team, has ensured we can bring these stories to all the visitors to the Cathedral and we are excited to do so.”
The Dean of Canterbury, The Very Revd Dr Robert Willis, said:
“We have waited for this wonderful exhibition to be a part of our Cathedral life for some years now and I am thrilled that we have come to the opening day on Monday 14th February. I hope that it will bring interest and much joy to our many visitors.”
This new permanent exhibition at Canterbury Cathedral is part of The Canterbury Journey, a multi-million-pound project supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, Canterbury Cathedral Trust, The Friends of Canterbury Cathedral, and other major donors.
Project Director of The Canterbury Journey, Mark Hosea, commented:
“This exhibition is an amazing new addition to the visitor offering, arising from the major conservation and restoration project undertaken at the Cathedral over the last few years. It joins the Cathedral’s new Visitor Centre, Viewing Gallery, Community Studio, exhibition spaces, and landscaping as one of the many things for the public to explore and enjoy, and we look forward to welcoming them.”
Find out more about The Black Prince’s Cap of Maintenance – one of the artifacts being exhibited – in the video below.