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Archive for August 28th, 2017

Before setting off on my adventure I did some research into the history of St Augustine and the journey between Ramsgate and Canterbury. It has been super fascinating to find out more about Augustine and the era he arrived in England, and of course the walk itself revealed so many amazing places…I long to just do it again. The churches in particular are just fantastic.

About St Augustine: Augustine was born in the first 3rd of the 6th century and probably died 26 May 604. He was a Benedictine monk who, in the year 597, became the first Archbishop of Canterbury. Augustine was the prior of a monastery in Rome when Pope St Gregory the Great chose him in 595 to lead a mission, aka as ‘the Gregorian mission’, to Britain to convert King Æthelberht and his Kingdom of Kent from Anglo-Saxon paganism to Christianity. After many dangers and difficulties by land and sea Augustine landed at last on the shores of Richborough near Ebbsfleet on the Isle of Thanet in AD 597. Successful in his endeavour, his legacy is with us still today throughout art, culture, legal systems, music, and more. He is considered the “Apostle to the English” and a founder of the English Church. The church in Ramsgate, built by Augustus Pugin, is also the shrine of St Augustine of England. The shrine at Ramsgate houses a relic of St Augustine’s bone.

The Isle of Thanet and the Wantsum Channel.

The Isle of Thanet and the Wantsum Channel.

As you can imagine, thelandscape has changed dramatically since 597 when Augustine landed at Richborough. For one thing the Wantsum Channel, after silting up and becoming un-navigable has since been covered over and is now just a small stream. If I’d had to walk from Minster to Canterbury then, I’d have gotten my feet rather wet LOL

About the shrine and Pugin: Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin (1812-1852) had a particular fascination with St Augustine after whom he was named. In 1843 Pugin bought a cliff-side property in Ramsgate nearby Ebbsfleet – ‘close to the spot where blessed Austin landed’. He first built a family home, ‘the Grange’, and then a personal church dedicated to Augustine. Augustus Pugin and his family are buried in the church.  In 1848 it was the venue for the first High Mass on Thanet since the Reformation.

The Shrine of St Augustine in Ramsgate

The Shrine of St Augustine in Ramsgate

More about the route: 19.1 miles – usually comfortably walked over 2 days. It can be done over one day; but certainly NOT by me!!!

Domesday Book villages along the way: 3 – Minster, Stourmouth, Fordwich and of course Canterbury…although I’ve visited there a number of times so I didn;t count it in for this walk. So 3 new places to add to Project 101. 🙂 There are quite a few other Domesday Book villages nearby the route but despite my intentions I didn’t get to visit…frankly…after walking all those miles I was absolutely NOT interested in diverting and adding more miles….so those places will have to wait for when I have access to a car!! Habitations in most areas of the late 11th century England followed an ancient pattern of isolated farms, hamlets and tiny villages interspersed with fields and scattered over most of the cultivatable land. Domesday Book

Stop 1. St Augustine’s Shrine – Ramsgate – the Shrine of St Augustine built by Augustus Pugin, this magnificent personal church and burial place is dedicated to his patron St Augustine. On 1st March 2012, the church became the official shrine commemorating the coming of the Gospel to the Anglo-Saxon peoples. Augustine and his group of forty monks were invited to Canterbury and through their holy lives, miracles and preaching converted 10,000 souls, as well as King Ethelbert who allowed Augustine to build a monastery and establish a cathedral church.

Stop 2. St Augustine’s CrossCliffs End stands close to the site at which an important meeting between St Augustine and King Æthelberht of Kent is said to have taken place nearly 1,500 years ago, and preached his first sermon to our own countrymen. The 19th century cross of Saxon design marks what is traditionally thought to have been the site of St Augustine’s landing on the shores of England in AD 597. Accompanied by 30 followers, Augustine is said to have held a mass here before moving on. Thus he happily planted the Christian faith, which spread with speed throughout the whole of England.

Stop 3. Minster Abbey, Minster – It was just a short distance from the present site of Minster Abbey, that within a few years of Augustine’s arrival on the shores of Thanet, Christianity had spread throughout southern England, and monastic life began to flourish. St. Augustine became the first Archbishop of Canterbury and together with his monks established a monastery there.

Minster was a royal foundation; its foundress and first abbess was Ermenburga or Domneva, a great-granddaughter of King Ethelbert of Kent.
The name Minster is derived from the first “mynster” or monasterium/ monastery built on the site of the Parish Church of St.  Mary the Virgin by Domneva in 670 AD.  Her daughter Mildred became the second Abbess.  She was one of the best loved Anglo-Saxon Saints and patron of Thanet. The monastery was repeatedly attacked and eventually destroyed during Viking raids of the 9th & 10th Centuries, the foundations of which were uncovered during excavations in the late 1930’s.

An East grange was built to accommodate guests and those on pilgrimage to the shrine of St. Thomas of Canterbury, while the south wing of the Abbey was added within a 100 years of the Norman Conquest in 1066, this “Norman Wing” also remains standing. Minster Abbey is considered to be possibly the oldest inhabited house in the country, and home to the monks for over 500 years. During the reformation the monks were forced to leaveand it passed into private hands. The Benedictine community of St Walburga in Bavaria, re-established Monastic Life at Minster Abbey in 1937 and once again the Abbey became a place of prayer and dedication to God.

Stop 4. St Mary’s Church, Minster – St. Mary’s Church, known as the ‘Cathedral on the marshes’ founded in 670AD was originally both a monastic and a parish church, and is the mother church of western Thanet. In bygone days the sea would have come up to the Churchyard wall which acted as a barrier during high tides. The turret may have served as a watch tower for shipping. The first Church was probably built of mud and wood. The oldest part of the present building was built just after the Norman conquest with work continuing for about 100 years. The Chancel is Early English in style. The nave has stood in its present form since about 1150.
The Church has a set of 18 mediaeval monks stalls (Misericords), which is one of the finest in the south of England.

I absolutely loved this church, so beautiful and serene it seems to float above the trees….quite apt since it was known as the cathedral on the marshes.

Stop 5. All Saints, West Stourmouth – A Grade I listed building, the church stands in the settlement of West Stourmouth, some 4 miles (6 km) north of Wingham. The main fabric in the church is Saxon with alterations made in the late 12th century. The church was damaged in an earthquake in 1382, and subsequently rebuilt. In the chancel there’s a brass dated 1472!! Windows were replaced in the 14th and 15th centuries and the church was restored in 1845, when the seating was reorganised. The royal arms of George III can be seen in the church. It has been redundant since 1979.

Another stunning little church, I spent a very happy hour there just enjoying the serenity. It was also raining so the shelter was most welcomed.

I stayed overnight at The Rising Sun Inn Stourmouth. “Originally a bakery owned and worked by the Monks of the Diocese of Canterbury, the first part of the building was erected in 1372 during the reign of Edward III. An absolutely wonderful location in the heart of the Kent countryside.

Stop 6. Stodmarsh Nature Reserve – The name Stodmarsh is derived from the Saxon words “stode”, meaning mare, and “merse”, a marsh, demonstrating its former use of pasture for cattle among the marshes.
This was probably one of my favourite sections of the walk….mile on mile of marshlands beneath blue skies and fluffy white clouds floating above. It was incredibly peaceful and I saw about 5 people in the whole time it took to cross. The reserve has the largest reed bed in the south east of England, which supports a range of specialised birds and insects. The reed beds are an excellent sanctuary for migrating birds such as swallows and house martins in the summer and starlings in the winter. Bittern, marsh harrier, kingfisher, great crested grebe, coot, moorhen, reed bunting, bearded reedling can all be seen. The reserve supports a large variety of invertebrates (including dragonflies and moths) and rare plants. It also has a strong population of water voles. Stodmarsh has over 6 kilometres of footpaths, including a circular walk around the whole site. There are short and long easy access ‘sensory’ trails at the Stodmarsh end of the reserve.

Stop 7. St Mary’s Church, Stodmarsh – The church, dedicated to St Mary is small and consists of a single aisle and chancel; first built in the 12th and 13th centuries. Originally part of the possessions of the abbey at Canterbury, it remained so until 1243, when the abbot Robert, at the insistence of archdeacon Simon de Langton, granted it to the hospital of poor priests in Canterbury, together with four acres of Stodmarsh, on the condition that they should not demand in future any tithes from the abbey. 

Stop 8. Church of St Mary the Virgin, Fordwich – The church, dating from the Norman era, stands near the centre of Fordwich, some 3 miles (5 km) northeast of Canterbury. There is some Saxon material in the nave, while the chancel and north aisle were added in the 12th century. During the 13th century the chancel was extended and the west tower was built. In the 14th century the windows in the south wall of the church were inserted and box pews were added in the 18th century, and the church floored with tiles. Sadly the church closed in 1995, but it is open for visitors. In the north aisle is a large block of limestone standing about 5.5 feet (1.7 m) high, carved to give the appearance of a tomb. Dating from about 1100, it is considered to be the former shrine of a saint. It is not known how long it had been in the church but it was moved from the church to Canterbury Cathedral in 1760, and subsequently returned to Fordwich in 1877. It is considered that it may have been part of the shrine of Saint Augustine of Canterbury.

Stop 9. St Martin’s Church, Canterbury – the first base of St Augustine when he came to Canterbury in 597. The Church of St Martin in Canterbury, England, situated slightly beyond the city centre, is the first church founded in England, the oldest parish church in continuous use and the oldest church in the entire English-speaking world. Oh my gosh, I can’t believe that I managed somehow to end up visiting this church. Although it was securely locked, I did get to walk around the grounds for a few minutes and rested there before my final push into Canterbury.

St Martin’s Church was the private chapel of Queen Bertha of Kent in the 6th century before Augustine arrived from Rome. Considered to be the oldest Church in the English speaking world still used for worship, and has been for over 1,400 years. It was here that Queen Bertha welcomed Augustine, who with his 40 companions, set up his mission when he arrived from Rome in 597AD to convert the Saxons. Here they remained until King Ethelbert granted him the land for the abbey and the cathedral which, with St Martin’s, now form the Canterbury World Heritage Site. For this reason it is sometimes called the first church of the Anglican Communion, and forms part of the Canterbury World Heritage Site. Shortly before 1844, a hoard of gold coins which may date from the late 6th century was found in the churchyard, one of which is the Liudhard medalet, which bears an image of a diademed figure with a legend referring to Liudhard.

The other two parts are Canterbury Cathedral which is where my walk ended and St Augustine’s Abbey, which I am yet to visit.

http://www.martinpaul.org/architecturalhistory.htm

Stop 10. Canterbury – Cathedral

Canterbury Cathedral is the destination for those who travel along the pilgrim paths from Winchester and Rochester. It is also the beginning of the route to Santiago de Compostela in Spain and the Via Francigena to Rome.

The Way of St Augustine

The Way of St Augustine

Medieval pilgrimage: a pilgrimage is a journey to a holy place connected with the stories of the bible. People have made pilgrimages for centuries and thousands still do so today, but it was especially popular in the medieval period. Early churches were built over the tombs of saints. The bodies and relics of saints, famous miracle-working images and statues , and holy wells, all attracted pilgrims. Apart from major holy cities such as Rome and Jerusalem, there were many thousands of major and minor pilgrimages sites across Europe and hundreds in England.

Why is Canterbury so important?Canterbury is where St Augustine, who reconverted parts of southern England to Christianity founded his cathedral in 597 AD. The cathedral always attracted pilgrims as a special holy place, but it was only after the murder of Archbishop Thomas Becket in 1170 that large numbers of pilgrims began to come to Canterbury. Canterbury has one of the largest collections of holy relics; bones, clothes and other items associated with saints in England. Most pilgrims only visited Canterbury once in their lives, so it was important to make it as memorable an experience as possible. Pilgrims, then as now, liked to take a souvenir of their journey, and Canterbury had many different badges that could be bought in the town, and which would identify the wearer as a pilgrim to Thomas Becket’s shrine. 

St Augustine’s Abbey: Although I didn’t get to visit this particular site due to the fact that I somehow ended up on the Roman Road into Canterbury and thus visited St Martin’s Church instead, I am planning to visit at some stage after my Camino de Santiago….so more on that later. I have however visited in the past, but the next visit will have more meaning after having done the walk.

St Augustine’s Abbey was a Benedictine monastery in Canterbury, and marked the rebirth of Christianity in southern England. Founded shortly after AD 597 by St Augustine, it was originally created as a burial place for the Anglo-Saxon kings of Kent. For two centuries after its founding, St Augustine’s was the only important religious house in the kingdom of Kent. It is now part of the Canterbury World Heritage Site, along with Canterbury  Cathedral and St Martin’s Church. The abbey functioned as a monastery until its dissolution in 1538 during the English Reformation

The Conduit House at St Augustine’s Abbey; dates from the mid-12th century. A roughly octagonal masonry tank is now divided by an 18th century chalk and brick wall. Four tunnelled openings and three smaller ducts, which collect water from springs, lead into the tank. Water was delivered from here to the abbey by a lead pipe 75cm (3 inches) in diameter running from the western side of the structure. The pipe may have led to a water tower at the abbey, which would have fed smaller tanks in the kitchen, infirmary and other parts of the monastic complex.

Thanks for reading this far…I hope you’ve enjoyed learning more about one of England’s many saints. 😉

To read more about my walk

Day 1 The Way of St Augustine Ramsgate to Stourmouth 

Day 2 The Way of St Augustine Stourmouth to Canterbury

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