Message From Canterbury

About the film

Shots of Canterbury Cathedral and the surrounding countryside are accompanied by choral songs and a sermon by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr William Temple, on the history and significance of the cathedral.

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  • Release year - 1944
  • Director - George Hoellering
  • Producer - George Hoellering
  • Screenplay - Emmanuel Strickland, Michael Sylvester
  • Cinematographers - D.P. Cooper, H. Reece
  • Composer - Henry Purcell, Orlando Gibbons, Thomas Tallis
  • Narration - William Temple, Archbishop of Canterbury
  • Editor - George Hoellering
  • Musical director - Reverend Joseph Poole
  • Music Sung by - Canterbury Cathedral Choir
  • Music Arranged by - Ludo Read, Reverend Joseph Poole
  • Running time (minutes) - 22 mins 56 secs

Original description

The story of Canterbury Cathedral

'The history of the Cathedral is told in a sermon by Archbishop Temple, Primate of all England. Three epochs stand out: the sixth century when Christianity was founded in Britain, the twelfth century when the new Church rose round the shrine of Thomas à Becket, and this century, with its problems of was and post-war reconstruction.'

(Films of Britain - British Council Film Department Catalogue - 1942-1943)

Did you know?

  • Message From Canterbury only appears in the 1942-43 Films of Britain catalogue, where it is listed under the title of ‘Canterbury Cathedral’ as 'In Production'. This is because the British Council's Film Department and George Hoellering, who seems to have produced this film almost entirely by himself, argued for some time over the content of this film. Hoellering, a devout Christian, seemed to feel that the British Council's desired portrayal of the Church was not deferent enough, and was too much like propaganda. The footage was recut a number of times, to the complete satisfaction of neither party. The Archbishop declined to side with either party, though many letters were exchanged. Hoellering eventually declared his wish to make another film without the interference of the Council, but the Archbishop's office issued a statement in October 1943 that the Archbishop would not be involved in another film production. In early September 1943, the British Council demanded that Hoellering give to them all the film and negatives that he held in relation to this title, as they felt that he could not complete the film satisfactorily. Whether or not it was ever distributed is uncertain.
  • "Ludo" Read was a pseudonym of Margaret Read (nee Ludwig), wife of poet Herbert Read.
  • Choral songs sung by the Canterbury Cathedral Choir include 'Fantasia' by Henry Purcell, 'Salvator Mundi' by Thomas Tallis, 'O Lord increase my faith' by Orlando Gibbons, and 'Remember not, Lord, our offences' by Henry Purcell.
  • Though extremely different in tone and made by different production teams, St Paul's Cathedral bears a number of stylistic similarities to A Message From Canterbury. For example, both films open and close with shots of rooftop Christian crosses, both utilise cathedral choirs for the soundtrack, both relay the repeated destruction of their respective cathedrals, and both feature a similarly-styled re-enactment of an air raid.

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