Canterbury St.Augustine's Abbey & St.Martin's Church (Kent - England)

Almost towards the end of my stay in London, I headed to Canterbury, the only reason – it’s a UNESCO World Heritage site! First of all, I didn’t even know of it! When I was returning from Dover, I saw a road sign that said Canterbury World Heritage Site. 
Very much amused, I started to read about the place and on one fine day, I took a bus to Canterbury. It was a 3 hr ride and I was there! Since I was there on a day trip, my prime targets were 3 places – Canterbury Cathedral, St.Augustine’s Abbey and St.Martin’s Church! 

It all began at St.Martin’s Church! In the 6th C, when whole was England was Anglo-Saxon and was worshiping pagan gods. At the same time, Roman Empire was in full power and they were spreading Christianity across the world under Pope Gregory I.  So in 597 CE, St.Augustine was sent here to propagate Christianity and he landed at Dover. England was then ruled by Ethelbert and his queen Bertha. They gifted St.Augustine some land. Thus was set up the first ever few churches - one to each to Christ, St.Peter & St.Paul. Today the church to Christ is the Canterbury Cathedral and the churches to St.Peter & St.Paul together is St.Augustine’s Abbey.  Queen Bertha’s private Chapel was used by St.Augustine before setting up the new churches and today it is St.Martin’s Church, the first ever English speaking Church here that still stands!
Unfortunately St.Martin’s Church was closed when I went. I just saw it from outside! The architecture is old. Some portion of it, belongs to the original chapel that Bertha worshipped and some portions built in 7th C under St.Augustine and some (incl the tower) much later after Norman Conquest. There is a huge cemetery behind it. It’s a peaceful place and on such days like the ones I went there are some locals enjoying the serene and silent place to read a book, have lunch or just relax (reminding me much of St.Dunstan in the East). 


From there I headed to St.Augustine’s Abbey. This pathway that connects the 3 UNESCO sites is called the Queen Bertha’s Walk! St.Augustine’s Abbey is an English Heritage property. Here was the churches to St.Peter and St.Paul with an attached monastery. In 605 CE, St.Augustine died and was buried here. By 978 CE, the church was dedicated to him too along with St.Peter and St.Paul and thus was the name St.Augustine’s Abbey. However during Norman take over, the Anglo Saxon church was destroyed and a huge cathedral was built (1072-1100 CE). Later on during the times of King Henry VIII in 1538 CE, this was totally destroyed again and a palace was built here. Later, by late 1600s, this fell into ruins. 

Today since the whole place is in ruins, it is more like an open space with few brick structures here and there! Audio guide is available and the trail is way marked. So it’s easy to explore the place. In the midst of the ruins, the floor plan is pretty much still evident. Along this floor plan are also markings today to help identify! Of the masonry that’s still standing, the windows with true arches are enough proof of how excellent the rest of the architecture would have been. The red brickwork atop the arches were by Henry VIII! Just in front of these arches are quite a few burials incl. St.Augustine himself! 


Below the altar of the old Anglo Saxon church was a crypt whose pillars are still semi-intact. In one of the chapels around it, I saw some pattered tiles that are still intact and also in some stone surfaces, I saw some shells and shell patterns!!! Remember spotting similar at Dholavira? It means that these rocks were sourced from very close to the sea and these are fossilized sea shells!!!

Beyond this, to the right was some architecture that was still in a decent shape. This was once the Abbey’s cloister and was once the place were some great books and illustrated manuscripts were written. Obviously the books were all handwritten and hand painted. The dyes were natural dyes and shells were used as palettes! Some of these shells with remnants of the paints were excavated here and are in display in the in-house museum! This is where the monks lived, cooked, ate and slept!!!

At the very far end is a wall with a pointed arch window - St.Pancras Church! This is the only section remaining of the original Anglo Saxon monastery built in 7th C CE, built with red Roman bricks!!! 

Just beside the inhouse museum, is a nice seating arrangement with benches and chairs, perfect for a picnic lunch or to read a book, overseeing the ruins of what was once the beginning of Christianity in England! 

To get there: 
From London: 100km
From Dover: 27km
It's connected from both London & Dover via National Express & South Eastern Railways.
All 3 UNESCO sites are about a km & walkable from Bus & Railway Station.

St.Martin’s Church: On Google Maps
Timings: Tue, Thu & Fri (11:00AM to 3:00PM) and Sun (9:45AM to 10:30AM). 
Also Saturdays during Summer alone (11:00AM to 4:00PM).
Entry fee: Free

St.Augustine’s Abbey: On Google Maps
Timings: 10:00AM to 6:00PM Mon-Sun in Summers; 10:00AM to 5:00PM Mon-Sun in Oct; 10:00AM to 4:00PM Sat-Sun in Winters.
Entry Fee: £6.20

Bhushavali N

An ardent traveler by passion. I am a wanderlust.. Read more about me here.

25 comments:

  1. Aren't spontaneous trips just the best? I'm glad you were able to get in and see your top 3 sites! Pretty cool that you were able to see shells and shell patterns in the floor. Love fossils!

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  2. Wow this place looks so intricate... so much history on one place. Aren't there any stories that this place is haunted? Because it looks like the perfect setting for ghost stories ;) Will defintitely add the St Augustines and St Martins church on my bucket list.

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  3. Those church that you've visited looks interesting! Especially the St.Augustine’s Abbey. I would love to check it out!

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  4. This churches are beautiful! Great pictures. Those fossilized shells 💜💜💜.

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  5. WE love seeing a UNESCO site, they are the best! It seems as though this church is very significant and has obviously been around for a very long time! Thank you for all the information, it seems quite easy to get to from London. IS there anything else close to it to visit?

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  6. I hope I can get a chance to visit these places. Do you drive to these destinations by yourself or do you go with a tour guide? Your lucky to visit these places while you have them all to yourself!

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    1. I don't drive out of India! I take public transport. Took a bus from London to Canterbury! And no, so far just once I've taken a tour guide, that was to Dorset, England. Otherwise trips are planned and executed myself...

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  7. The church looks very antique and unique.. It must be a great experience for you to visit there.. It's very beautiful indeed...

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  8. I have read a lot of Canterbury tales about the group of people called Anglo-Saxons. They made a pilgrim in going to Canterbury. They're curious to know the Archbishop Thomas Becket's murder.

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  9. You seem to have fully enjoyed the trip. I truly admire old structures, reminds me of history classes back when i'm still studying. Thanks for sharing them and reminding me again. 😊

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  10. I love visiting the adorable and gorgeous churches that the UK has to offer! Kent isn't too far from my hometown and St Augustine's is just stunning! Thanks for sharing!

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  11. A friend is visiting soon, going to share this informative article to her for her reference..

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  12. Considering this is so close to where I grew up I can't believe I haven't been. This post has made me realise I still have so much to see in my own country

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  13. I love the stories behind these architectural structures. The churches and the structures look gorgeous and the photographs are so beautiful. Happy travelling!

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  14. The history of these ruins are really great. Love visiting places like this that has so much historical significance.

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  15. Traveling spontaneously are just one of the best like what you did. Though the St. Martin is closed yet there is something really interesting from the outside as well, I wonder how beautiful it would be inside.

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  16. Again a beautiful and detailed post on architectural Canterbury. I was not knowing that Canterbury is an UNESCO heritage site with so many wonderful ancient historical sculptures and churches inside before reading your post. I would love to sit in that seating arrangement near inhouse museum to view the ruins of beginning of Christianity in England.

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  17. I loved the old architecture of the abbey. Actually, its the history that surrounds it which makes the place even more interesting. I am sure it is a UNESCO site for a reason... which has also ensured that it so well maintained.

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  18. Interesting ruins. Wish I can Visit this when we go to England.

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  19. Looks like an interesting place! All the ruins are very suggestive. Would love to wander among them. There are so many beautiful places to visit around London!

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  20. This is very nice place. This is very fantastic and significance. Thanks for sharing this post.
    http://www.pacificindiatour.com/tours/delhi-agra-jaipur-tour/

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  21. Another epic location. Canterbury reminds me of Canterbury Tales but apart from that I did not have much idea about the place. Especially the old ruins are intriguing, not the usual medieval structures we are used to around a church.

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  22. Very well written. Canterbury is an amazing location and there is so much to explore. I recommend your piece to my friends who are looking forward to a trip there. Thanks for the post.

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  23. i have been to canterbury with school quite some time back but seeing your pictures, I realize I have close to zero memories to that city. I hope to get there again one day, I really love the sights in south england...

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  24. Canterbury has the most special place in my heart as my University town. St.Augustine’s Abbey was always a real treat to explore and it looks like you got the measure of the place!

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