Interior of Canterbury Cathedral

The ascending levels of steps denote the divergent functions of this great church. The lowest level visible in our photograph is that of the choir stalls. This is where the monastic community of 300 monks sang their daily round of services. At the Reformation (1532) the monks were replaced by a collegiate chapter of canons who were supported in their daily worship by lay clerks and boys — a tradition which continues today.

The short flight of steps to the east of the choir stalls was called the presbytery during the middle ages, for it was here that the priests and deacons of the cathedral community selected to perform the sacramental rites were situated. This is also continued to the present day in that the pulpit and archbishop’s throne are located here (the throne on the north and the pulpit on the south).

The long flight of steps beyond the presbytery is the location of the principal altar of the cathedral (which also possesses at least 24 additional chapels for lesser services of worship). The flight of steps behind the principal altar leads to the Throne of St. Augustine, upon which the archbishop sits when he functions as the primate of the Anglican Church. The throne, or cathedra, (from which the cathedral church derives both its function and name) dates from the thirteenth century but remains in the same position that is documented in the original cathedral constructed by St. Augustine in the sixth century.

The highest point of the cathedral's eastern end is the site of St. Thomas a Becket’s shrine, called the corona for its crown of stained glass windows. Pilgrims even today can process around the entire east of the church and stand on the place where England's “blissful martyr” rested for 500 years.

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Canterbury Cathedral
(click for a larger image)