Latin: Durovernum Cantiacorum
Cantorber, Cantorbile, Cantorbire, Cantorbyre, Dorobernia
A cathedral city in Kent, near England’s southeast coast.
Formerly called Dorobernia, Canterbury served as Vortigern’s capital and as the Christian seat during Arthur’s reign (the Welsh Triads list it as one of the three archbishoprics).
Mordred had himself crowned king and apparently held his parliament here, and also retreated here after the battle of Dover. Mordred’s alliance with the Saxons works in with an identification of Kent as Saxon (Sessoin) territory. The name may also be applicable to the “Saxon shore” of Britain.
In the Vulgate and Post-Vulgate Cycles, and in Malory, the Archbishop of Canterbury is perhaps the chief Christian leader in Britain. The cycles tell us that the archbishop was related to Guinevere.
According to the Scandinavian Breta sogur, Arthur was buried at Canterbury.
In the early fifth century, the Roman Empire began to withdraw its military presence from Britain, leaving the island vulnerable to invasions by various Germanic tribes, including the Angles, Saxons, and Jutes. Canterbury, known as Durovernum Cantiacorum during Roman times, was an important Roman town and administrative center. With the Roman withdrawal, it fell into decline and likely suffered from the impact of the invading Germanic tribes.
By the mid-fifth century, the area around Canterbury came under the control of the Jutes. They established the Kingdom of Kent, with Canterbury as its capital. The Jutes were eventually assimilated into the larger Anglo-Saxon culture. The Kingdom of Kent expanded its influence and became one of the dominant Anglo-Saxon kingdoms in southeastern Britain.
The Celtic church was established at Canterbury in Roman times, but in the fifth century, when the Romans left and the heathen Saxons and Jutes replaced them as the rulers of south-east England, Christianity was extinguished in the city.
Around 580 the local king, Æthelbert of Kent, married Bertha. She was the daughter of Charibert I, the King of the Franks and she brought her Christian faith with her when she married Æethelberht. The marriage played a crucial role in the spread of Christianity in England. She was allowed to continue practicing her faith and had a private chapel within the walls of Canterbury. This arrangement provided a place for Christian worship and laid the groundwork for the arrival of Saint Augustine. Æthelberht allowed his Queen to restore an ancient Christian church to the east of the city. The church, St. Martin, is still there and claims to be the oldest Christian church in England.
In 597, Pope Gregory the Great (Gregorio) sent a mission led by Saint Augustine of Canterbury to convert the Anglo-Saxons to Christianity. Augustine and his companions arrived in Kent and was granted an audience with King Æthelberht, who was open to hearing his message due to his wife’s influence ant the tolerant environment she had established. The missionaries were granted permission to preach. King Æthelberht converted to Christianity and was baptized in the church of St. Martin. He was the first English king to convert, and established the Archbishopric of Canterbury, making it the primary religious and ecclesiastical center in Britain.
Saint Augustine and his successors played a vital role in converting the pagan Anglo-Saxon kingdoms to Christianity and in establishing the early Christian church in England. Canterbury’s significance as a religious center continued to grow. In the late sixth century, King Æthelberht founded St. Augustine’s Abbey in Canterbury, adjacent to the existing church of St. Martin. The abbey became an influential religious institution and a burial place for kings and archbishops. In the seventh century, the original church of St. Martin was expanded and rebuilt as the Canterbury Cathedral, which became the center of the Archbishopric of Canterbury and a place of pilgrimage.
Pilgrims traveled to Canterbury to visit the shrine of Saint Thomas Becket, the Archbishop of Canterbury who was martyred in Canterbury Cathedral in 1170. The murder of Thomas Becket elevated him to the status of a martyr and he became widely venerated throughout Europe.
Triads of the Island of Britain (Welsh ”Triads”) | 11th century to 14th century
Historia Regum Britanniae | Geoffrey of Monmouth, c. 1138
Vulgate Lancelot | 1215-1230
Vulgate Mort Artu | 1215-1230
Vulgate Merlin | 1220-1235
Post-Vulgate Queste del Saint Graal | 1230-1240
Post-Vulgate Mort Artu | 1230-1240
The Stanzaic Le Morte Arthur | 14th century
Le Morte Darthur | Sir Thomas Malory, 1469-1470
Breta Sögur | 14-19th century
Cligés | Chrétien de Troyes, late 12th century