ST. AUGUSTINE'S ABBEY
Canterbury is certainly not short of its share of important religious buildings. St. Augustine's Abbey (oddly enough Benedictine, not Augustinian!) stands outside the City Walls. It was first constructed by St. Augustine himself in 598 BC, it was outside the City Walls because the Romans forbade the burial of the dead within city precincts.
St. Augustine's Church was fairly small and possibly wooden. Around 613 after the Romans had departed a second church, St. Mary's, was added and then a third, St. Pancras. At around the same time the Abbey buildings were extended greatly and the Benedictine Monks moved in.
All of this vanished in 1070 when Abbot Scotland rebuilt the Abbey on a grand scale, only St. Pancras survived this rebuilding. Two great gatehouses were added in the 14th Century and although these are now separated from the main Abbey site by Kings' College they are the most intact parts of the Abbey to survive to today.
The Abbey remained a place of huge importance until the Dissolution when it was turned into a Royal Palace by Henry VIII which it remained until the late 17th Century. In the 1880s the site became a brewery and later much was incorporated into Kings' College.
Compared to many other Abbey's not much of St. Augustine's remains much above foundation level, but what does remain is unique and hugely important because of its position in English ecclesiastical history.
The site is owned by English Heritage and is well worth a detour if you find yourself in Canterbury.
Photo - Andrew J. Müller
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