The west façade and around the south west porch of Canterbury Cathedral are filled with 55 statues, most of them dating from the 1860s. At the restoration of 1863 and further years on initiative of Dean Henry Alford the formerly vacant niches of the cathedral would be filled with statues of historical personages connected with the province of Canterbury or with the history of the Church itself.
The first statues were placed in 1864, in 1869 there were 36 statues placed, the last ones Victoria and Prince Albert were placed.
On 26 March 2015 two statues of Queen Elisabeth II and Prince Philip by sculptress Nina Bilbey were unveiled.
Including those two 2015 statues there are at present 55 statues. The letters below refer to the scheme from the website of the Canterbury Historical and Archaeological Society (CHAS) on Theodore Phyffers (1821-1876) (scheme opens by clicking on "Location of figures"). The names in small capitals are inscribed under each stagtue, the name in italics is that given in the Kentish Gazette, 15 August 1865 (red = never placed or no long present); the order here is that from the Kentish Gazette.
Front face of Southwest Porch (S) (erected in 1864):
- avgvstinvs achiepisc. - St. Augustine
St. Augustine of Canterbury (first third of the 6th century - probably 26 May 604), Benedictine monk who became the first Archbishop of Canterbury in the year 597. He is considered the 'Apostle to the English' and a founder of the English Church
- lanfrancvs archiepisc. - Archbishop Lanfranc
Lanfranc (Pavia 1000/10 - Canterbury 1089), archbishop of Canterbury, 1070-1089
- anselmvs archiepisc. - Archbishop Anselm
St. Anselm of Canterbury (c. 1033 - 1109), archbishop of Canterbury, 1093-1109.
- thomas cranmer archiepisc. - Archbishop Cranmer
Thomas Cranmer (1489 - 1556), leader of the English Reformation and Archbishop of Canterbury, 1553-1555
- ethelbertvs rex. - King Ethelbert
Æthelberht (also Ethelbert) (c. 560 - 616), King of Kent from c. 558 or 560 to 616
- bertha regina. - Queen Bertha
St. Bertha or St. Aldeberge (b. c. 565 - in or after 601), queen of Kent whose influence led to the Christianization of Anglo-Saxon England
East face of Southwest Porch (T) (all between 1865-1869):
- gregorivs magnvs. - Gregory the Great
St. Gregory the Great, pope 590-604
- theodorvs archiepisc. - Archbishop Theodore
St. Theodore of Tarsus or Theodore of Canterbury (602 - 690), Archbishop of Canterbury, best known for his reform of the English Church and establishment of a school in Canterbury.
- dvnstanvs archiepisc. - Archbishop Dunstan
St. Dunstan (909 - 988), Archbishop of Canterbury
- elphegvs archiepisc. - Archbishop Alphege
St. Ælfheah of Canterbury, (953 - 1012), Archbishop of Canterbury
- .... - King Alfred
Alfred the Great (849 - 899), King of Wessex, 871-899
- ...orient. rex. - King Edmund
St. Edmund (died 869), King of East Anglia from about 855;
- ca...tvs rex. - King Canute
Cnut the Great (c. 985 or 995 - 1035), more commonly known as Canute, king of Denmark, England, Norway, and parts of Sweden, together often referred to as the Anglo-Scandinavian or North Sea Empire
- edwardvs conf. rex. - K. Ewd. the Confessor
Edward [the] Confessor, one of the last Anglo-Saxon kings of England and is usually regarded as the last king of the House of Wessex, ruling from 1042 to 1066
West face of Southwest Porch (R) (all between 1865-1869):
- thomas becket archiep. - Archbishop Becket
Thomas Becket, also known as St. Thomas of Canterbury (London 1118 - Canterbury 1170), Archbishop of Canterbury from 1162 until his murder in 1170
- baldwinvs archiep. - Archbishop Baldwin
Baldwin of Forde (c. 1125 - 1190), Archbishop of Canterbury, 1185-1190
- hvbert. walter archiep. - Archbishop Hubert Walter
Hubert Walter (c. 1160 - 1205), Archbishop of Canterbury, 1193-1205
- steph. langton archiep. - Archbishop Steph. Langton
Stephen Langton (c. 1150 - 1228), Archbishop of Canterbury, 1207-1228
- gvlielmvs con...estor. - K. Wm. the Conqueror
William I the Conqueror (c. 1028-1087), son of Robert I, Duke of Normandy, and Herleva; king from 1066-1087
- gvlielmvs ii rex. - King William Rufus
William II Rufus (Guillaume le Roux) (c. 1060-1100), son of William the Conqueror and Matilda of Flanders; king of England 1087-1100 (bow and horn) (Wikipedia)
- henricvs i rex. - King Henry I
Henry I Beauclerc (Henri Beauclerc) (1068-1135), son of William the Conqueror and Matilda of Flanders; king of England 1100-1135 (Wikipedia).
- henricvs ii rex.- King Henry II
Henry II Curtmantle (Henri Court-manteau) (1133-1189), son of Geoffrey V of Anjou and Matilda - grandson of Henry I; king of England 1154-1189 (Wikipedia).
South Face (Q) (24, 26 and 27 between 1865-1869):
- iohannes stratford archiep. - Archbishop Stratford
John de Stratford (c.1275 - 1348), Archbishop of Canterbury, 1333-1348 and Treasurer and Chancellor of England
- gvl. covrtney archiep. - Archbishop Courtenay
William Courtenay (c. 1342 - 31 July 1396), Archbishop of Canterbury, 1381-1396
- simonie svdbvry archiep. - Archbishop Sudbury
Simon Sudbury, also called Simon Theobald of Sudbury (c. 1316 - 1381), Bishop of London from 1361 to 1375, Archbishop of Canterbury from 1375 until his death
- edwardvs iii rex. - King Edward III
Edward III (1312-1377), son of Edward II and Isabella of France; king of England 1327-1377 (Wikipedia).
- edwardvs walliae princeps. - The Black Prince
Edward of Woodstock (1330 - 1376), called the Black Prince, eldest son of King Edward III and Philippa of Hainault, and the father of King Richard II of England. He was the first Duke of Cornwall (from 1337), the Prince of Wales (from 1343) and the Prince of Aquitaine (1362-72)
- henricvs iv rex. - King Henry IV
Henry IV (Bolingbroke Castle 1366 - Westminster Abbey 1413), Son of John of Gaunt and Blanche of Lancaster - grandson and heir male of Edward III, king 1399-1413 (Wikipedia).
West Face (P) (all after 1869, but 29 not mentioned in 1869):
- hen. chichele archiep. - Archbishop Chiceley (Builder of the S.W. Tower)
Henry Chichele (also Checheley) (c. 1364 - 12 April 1443), Archbishop of Canterbury, 1414-1443,
- henricvs v rex. - King Henry V
Henry V (Monmouth Castle 1386 - Château de Vincennes 1422), Son of Henry IV and Mary de Bohun; king of England 1413-1422
North Face (O) (all after 1869):
- thomas arvndel archiep. - Archbishop Arundel (Builder of the S.W. Tower)
Thomas Arundel (1353 - 1414), Archbishop of Canterbury in 1397 and 1399-1414
- iohannes morton archiep. - Archbishop Morton (Builder of the Central Tower)
John Morton (c. 1420 - 1500), Archbishop of Canterbury, 1486-1500
- wilhelmvs warham archiep. - Archbishop Warham
William Warham (c. 1450 - 1532), Archbishop of Canterbury, 1503-1532
- henricvs vi rex. - King Henry VI (in Kentish Gazette nr. 35)
Henry VI (Windsor Castle 1421 - Tower of London 1471), Son of Henry V and Catherine of Valois; king of England 1422-1461 and 1540-71
- edwardvs iv rex. - King Edward IV (in Kentish Gazette nr. 34)
Edward IV (Rouen 1443 - Westminster Palace 1483), Son of Richard Plantagenet, 3rd Duke of York, and Cecily Neville - great-great-grandson and heir general of Edward III; king of England 1461-1470 and 1471-1483
- henricvs vii rex. - King Henry VII
Henry VII (Pembroke Castle 1457 - Richmond Palace 1509),
Son of Edmund Tudor and Lady Margaret Beaufort - great-great-great-grandson of Edward III; king of England 1485-1509
South West Tower
West Face (N) ((all after 1869, but 37 not mentioned in 1869):
- ernvlphvs prior - Prior Ernulph (Builder of the Choir)
Ernulf (Beauvais 1040 - 1124), prior of Christ Church in Canterbury, abbot of Peterborough, and bishop of Rochester in England. A jurist and an architect, as well, he was responsible for greatly expanding Canterbury Cathedral during his time there
- Prior Conrad (Builder of the Choir)
- Prior de Estria (Builder of the screen enclosing the Choir)
- Prior Goldstone (Builder of the Central Tower)
South Face of Buttress (M) (present in 1869):
- henricvs viii rex - King Henry VIII (Founder of the Cathedral)
Henry VIII (Greenwich Palace 1491 - Whitehall Palace 1547), Son of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York; king of England 1509-1547
West Face of Buttress (L) (not present in 1869):
- elizabetha regina - Queen Elizabeth
Elizabeth I (Greenwich Palace 1533 - Richmond Palace 1603), Daughter of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn; queen of England 1558-1603
South of Door (K) (Willem III and Mary still to be placed in 1869)
- philippvs princeps dvx edinensis - King William III
Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh (born Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark) (b. 1921), the husband of Queen Elizabeth II
- elizabetha ii regina - Queen Mary
Elizabeth II (b. London 1926), Queen of Great Britain
Over Door (present in 1869)
North of Door (J): (both placed in 1869):
- victoria regina - Queen Victoria
Queen Victoria (London 1819 - Osborne House 1901),
Queen of Great-Britain, 1837-1901
- albertvs princeps consors - The Prince Consort
Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha (Schloss Rosenau, Coburg, 1819 - Windsor Castle 1861), the husband of Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland
West Face of Buttress (I) (present in 1869):
- edwardvs vi rex - King Edward VI
Edward VI (Hampton Court Palace 1537 - Greenwich Palace 1553), Son of Henry VIII and Jane Seymour; king of England 1547-1553
North Face of Buttress (H) (not present in 1869):
- ricardvs hooker presb. - Richard Hooker
Richard Hooker (Heavitree, Exeter, 1554 - Bishopsbourne, Kent 1600), English Anglican priest and an influential theologian (Wikipedia).
North West Tower
West Face (G) (52 placed between 1865 and 1869, still two vacant niches):
- Dean Wootton
- Dean Bargrave
- georgivs stanhope decanvs - Dean Stanhope (nr. 52)
George Stanhope (1660 - 1728), Dean of Canterbury and a Royal Chaplain
- hvgo percy decanvs - Dean Percy (Restorer of the Cathedral) (nr. 53)
Hugh Percy (1784 - 1856), Dean of Canterbury 1825-1826, Bishop of Rochester (1827) and Bishop of Carlisle (1827-56). While Dean of Canterbury he set in motion the repair of the interior of the cathedral
South Face (F) (55 and 58 between 1865 and 1869, the others stayed vacant):
- Archbishop Parker
- gvl. san.....episc. - Archbishop Sancroft
William Sancroft (1617 - 1693), Archbishop of Canterbury, 1677-1690
- Archbishop Tillotson
- Archbishop Grindal
- nicol. ridley episc. lond. - Bishop Ridley (formerly Prebendary of the 5th Prebend)
Nicholas Ridley (c. 1500 - 1555), Bishop of London and Westminster, 1550-1553
- Archbishop Whitgift
West Face (E) (both placed 1865-1869):
- gvl. lavd archiepisc. - Archbishop Laud
William Laud (1573-1645), English churchman and academic, Archbishop of Canterbury from 1633 (Wikipedia).
- carolvs i rex - King Charles
Charles I (Dunfermline Palace 1600 - Whitehall Palace 1649), King of England, 1625-1649
North Face (D), added later and not mentioned in the Kentish Gazette, 1865 and 1869:
Description from the Kentish Gazette of 15 August 1865:
- erasmvs roterodam - Placed c. 1870
Desiderius Erasmus (1466/69 - 1536), Dutch humanist and Catholic theologian, (Wikipedia).
- henricvs alford decanvs - Unveiled 16 October 1871
Henry Alford (1810 - 1871), Dean of Canterbury 1857-1871
- carolvs t. longley archiep. - Placed in July 1877
Charles Thomas Longley (1794 - 1868), Archbishop of Canterbury, 1862-1868
THE CATHEDRAL STATUES
How came the figures in the niches of the new South Porch? Whom do they represent? and where is the matter going to end These arc questions which do not seem to have excited much attention in Canterbury. But they have frequently been asked by visitors; and for that reason, and that if possible more interest may be awakened on this matter in Canterbury itself, we shall try to give answer to them.
In the summer of 1863, when the carved work of the South Porch was about to be renovated, it struck the Dean that the effect of the whole of this part of the Cathedral would be very much improved, if the vacant niches could be filled with figures of historical personages connected with the province of Canterbury or with the history of the Church itself. Before trying to raise a subscription for the purpose, he endeavoured to ascertain the cost per figure. At first it seemed as if the scheme must be abandoned, from the high price demanded; but at hist Mr. Pfyffers, of Grosvenor Row, Pimlico, was applied to, and he undertook them at £24 a piece, which seemed a sum within the reach many who, it was thought, might be disposed to erect a figure at their individual expense.
The first portion subscribed for was the south face of the porch, containing six niches, two below, and four above. This being deemed the post of principal honour it was thought well to devote it to our Founder and Foundress, King Ethelbert and Queen Bertha, and our four great Archbishops, Augustine, who planted Christianity in Kent and founded the Archiepiscopal see, Lanfranc, who built a large portion of the former church, Anselm, the greatest divine of the early days of the English Church, and Cranmer, the chief of the Reforming Fathers, and the founder of our King's School. (...). Of these six figures, which were erected during the summer and autumn of 1864, King Ethelbert is represented holding the church in his hand: St. Augustine, as treading under foot the symbol of Paganism, and pointing to banner impressed with the countenance of our Blessed Lord; St. Anselm, as holding his celebrated treatise "Cur Deus Homo" (Why God became Man) in which he expounded the doctrine of the Atonement; Cranmer, as holding the English Bible, in the translation and promulgation whicli he took so prominent a part. The Eastern side of the porch is next filled, and here first, - The treatment of the south font (the place of honour) being exceptional, - The strict chronological order begins first to be observed. The eight historical personages here represented belong to the Saxon period. First in the upper row we have Gregory the Great, with whom originated the mission of Augustine to England. Mr. Pfyffers has adopted the conventional representation of his subject, and has placed the dove on his right shoulder, symbolizing the suggestion of his discourses by the Holy Spirit. On scroll are inscribed the celebrated words "non Angli sed Angeli" (not Angles but Angels) which he uttered on seeing the English boys exposed for sale in the slave market at Rome. The next figure is Archbishop Theodore of Tarsus, the first introducer of the study of Greek into England, the founder of the school attached to the Monastery, the predecessor of the King's School. The next is the famous Archbishop Dunstan, commonly known as St. Dunstan, a portion of whose shrine yet remains in our Cathedral: Mr Pfyffers has taken the liberty of omitting in this case the tongs usually represented in Dunstan's hand, as commemorating a legend more grotesque than edifying. The next figure, and the last in the upper row, is that of St. Elphege, or Alphege, who was murdered by the Danes at Gravesend, whither they had taken him after the sack of Canterbury in 1012; he holds in his hand an axe, the symbol of beheading, which, according to the account followed by the sculptor, was the manner of his death, others relate that the was stoned.
In the lower row we have represented four Kings of the Saxon period, beginning at the S.E. corner. The first is Alfred the Great, holding a book inscribed "Leges Angliæ" (The Laws of England). Next is Edmund, known as St. Edmund, King of East Anglia, from whom Bury St. Edmunds is named; he is described having been a youth of great beauty and sanctity, who, being unwilling, from horror at the carnage on the battlefield, to follow up an advantage gained over the Danes, was taken by them and shot to death with arrows: of this the arrow held in his hand is a symbol. The next figure is our Danish King Canute, who, in addition to his other claims on our remembrance, bequeathed his iron crown to the church at Canterbury; he is represented at the moment when he rebuked the flattery of his courtiers by letting the waves come up and wet his feet. He points to the crest of a wave which is breaking at the left hand corner of the pedestal, and on his shield is inscribed from Psalm xxix., 3., in the vulgate translation, "Vox Domini super aquas " (The voice of the Lord is over the waters.) Next, and last in this row, is the figure of King Edward the Confessor, taken from his Great Seal yet extant.
(...) Mr. Pfyffers has given much study to the history and character of each personage, and in the physical details has followed any hints which may happen to be furnished in ancient chronicle or legend. In the greater part of the figures at present erected, the portrait is of course ideal: as we advance to latter times, ideal portraiture will be superseded by real, and our niches will form a valuable portrait gallery of Kings, Archbishops, and other noted men.
The material in which the sculptor his worked is Caenstone. It is intended to obviate the somewhat perishable nature of this stone in our Kentish climate, by the modern invention of silicating, or imparting hardened surface by chemical solution of flint.
- Nina Bilbey,
British sculptor from Wells-next-the-Sea
- Theodore Phyffers (Leuven c. 1821 - 1876),
Belgian sculptor working in London
Sources & Information
- Canterbury Historical and Archaeological Society (CHAS), Theodore Phyffers (1821-1876) Belgian-born sculptor working in London.
- Fanny Alford (ed.), Life, Journal and Letters of Henry Alford, D.D. Late Dean of Canterbury (Philadelphia, 1873), p. 529.
- Kentish Gazette, 15 August 1865, 16 February 1869.
- Daily Mail, 26 March 2015, His and hers statues of the Queen and Prince Philip unveiled at Canterbury Cathedral - but are they a good likeness?.
Charles I (King of England)
Cnut the Great, king
Edmund (King), St.
Edward III (King of England)
Edward IV (King of England)
Edward VI (King of England)
Edward of Woodstock
Edward the Confessor
Elizabeth I (Queen of England)
Elizabeth II (Queen of Great-Britain)
Façade with statues (church)
Gregory the Great, St.
Henry I (King of England)
Henry II (King of England)
Henry IV (King of England)
Henry V (King of England)
Henry VI (King of England)
Henry VII (King of England)
Henry VIII (King of England)
Longley, Charles Thomas
Philip Duke of Edinburgh
Stratford, John de
Theodore of Tarsus, St.
Victoria (Queen of Great-Britain)
William II (King of England)
William the Conqueror
Location N 51°16'47" E 1°4'54"
Item Code: gbse066; Photograph: 12 August 2015
Of each statue we made photos from various angles and also detail photos of the various texts.
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© Website and photos: René & Peter van der Krogt