The sources of evidence available for the late twelfth-century work at Canterbury Cathedral offer an exceptional opportunity to discuss the complex building history of a major church in relation to the historical circumstances surrounding its reconstruction. The publication here of new measured drawings, which correlate accurately for the first time the crypt with the upper church at the junction between the presbytery and the Trinity Chapel, establishes a more secure basis for the interpretation of the complex archaeological evidence of the building sequence after the fire of 1174. The evidence provided by these drawings allows a reassessment of the contributions of the two architects, William of Sens and William the Englishman. A critical review of the published interpretations of both the archaeological and the historical evidence is then undertaken, particularly relating to the arguments advanced in two major articles recently published on the cathedral, which are shown to be misleading in significant respects. The influence of the cult of Thomas à Becket and the possible roles of the leading clergy are carefully reconsidered and a new interpretation offered which suggests a decisive role for Prior Alan of Tewkesbury in the formulation of the final design of the Trinity Chapel.

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