And especially, at this time of the year, people from every corner of England journey to Canterbury to visit the shrine of the martyr Saint Thomas a Becket.
Geoffrey Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales, written in the 14th century in Middle English, remains a widely read and influential text, often credited with popularizing the English vernacular as a vehicle for literature (as opposed to, say, French or Latin).
The plot, on the surface, is quite simple: a group of pilgrims are traveling to the English town of Canterbury to pay a visit to the shrine of Thomas Becket, an archbishop who was murdered in the cathedral in the 12th century (see T. S. Eliot's Murder in the Cathedral). To pass the time, they decide to have a storytelling contest, and the book largely consists of their stories.
Chaucer uses what is called a frame story or frame narrative, which can also be found in Boccaccio's The Decameron and The Arabian Nights. All three are stories that are about stories, which give them all a meta-quality that feels very contemporary. There are 24 stories that make up the Tales, and the book was most likely unfinished when Chaucer died in 1400.
Mostly written in verse, the stories offer a wide array of styles, tones, and sources. "The Knight's Tale" is about ancient Greece and is serious, while "The Wife of Bath's Tale" is set in the time of King Arthur and has some fantastic elements. Chaucer is also known for his humor, which can be bawdy, and so there are comic tales, as well as ones involving animals. Many have some kind of moral or meaning, but Chaucer usually avoids moralizing, another element that makes it feel modern.