Latin: Durovernum Cantiacorum
Cantorber, Cantorbile, Cantorbire, Cantorbyre, Dorobernia
According to Geoffrey of Monmouth, it was founded by King Hudibras in the tenth century BC, and Canterbury was managed by Duke Kimmarc in Arthur’s time. 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.
Canterbury | 0 to the 9th century AD
Roman Canterbury | c. 1st – 5th centuries
Canterbury, known as Durovernum Cantiacorum in Roman times, was an important Roman settlement in Britain. It served as a regional center with a forum, bathhouse, and other structures. The Romans established it around the first century AD.
Anglo-Saxon Period | 5th – 9th centuries
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. After the decline of Roman influence in Britain, Canterbury became part of the Anglo-Saxon Kingdom of Kent. The Anglo-Saxons established their dominance in the region in the fifth century. Canterbury was a significant center during this period.
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.
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.
Saint Augustine’s Mission | 597 AD
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 Bertha, his wife’s influence and 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.
Synod of Whitby | 664 AD
The Synod of Whitby in 664 had significant implications for the Church in Canterbury. It was a meeting of ecclesiastical representatives to resolve differences between the Roman and Celtic Christian traditions. The decision to follow Roman practices had a lasting impact on the organization of the Church of England.
Viking Raids | 8th – 9th centuries
Canterbury, like many other English towns, faced Viking raids and invasions during the eighth and ninth centuries. These raids caused disruption and insecurity in the region.
Alfred the Great and the Burghal Hidage | 9th century
In response to Viking threats, King Alfred the Great implemented defensive measures, including the construction of fortified towns known as burhs. While there isn’t specific evidence of Canterbury’s inclusion in the Burghal Hidage document, the general defensive strategy was applied across Wessex.
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.
Canterbury Cathedral | The Legend of King Arthur
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