Directors Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger pay homage to Geoffrey Chaucer’s work in their 1944 film A Canterbury Tale, where the characters willingly or unwillingly follow in the footsteps of the old pilgrims and even feel their presence. The physical and spiritual journey of the characters encourages the audience to have a closer relationship with their national, local, and family heritage. During The Blitz, which endangered the British historical architecture, the film points to the importance of the intangible heritage. The celebration of national writers like Chaucer and his international readers “further allow us to understand literary heritage as a project of collective memory”. Contrary to Powell’s pilgrims, the pilgrims in the Tales never reached Canterbury and as Carolyn Oulton clarifies: “there is no hard evidence that Chaucer did either”. Finally, Chaucer’s statue found itself in the city in 2016 and connects the medieval pilgrims with the modern tourists walking down the High Street.


Oulton, Carolyn. “L is for Literature.” The Christ Church Heritage A to Z. 2019. Online.

Zemgulys, Andrea. Modernism and the Locations of Literary Heritage. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008. Print.

Return to the homepage for 20th-century Canterbury, or explore Canterbury’s economic growth through the essays on Canterbury’s commerce and industrial heritage, its retail industry and trading estates, or Canterbury as a boom city. You can also learn more about Canterbury’s school system and universities, and how Canterbury has been shaped by other facets of its transport infrastructure and the railway, planning decisions, as well as the significant impact of the Second World War and the disastrous 1909 floods.