Canterbury: a ‘Ruined’ Sunday

Relaxing morning, tea & breakfast ax we chatted with our host. Cab to town in time  for our 11 am walking tour. We wandered through the city, past some key locations as we learned more about the Roman settlement, the cathedral, and damage done during WWII.  The tour took us through precepts of cathedral and through the heart of the city.  

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Happily hanging out at the modern Chaucer statue. On the back, one of the faces is that of local theatre patron Orlando Bloom- and it’s no better than the faces you can see on the front!

We enjoyed a range of views of the cathedral from various parts of the city but as you’ll see it’s much more impressive up close!

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Pedestrians enter through the smaller gate at the left. The bronze statue of Jesus is the result of a modern competition and is quite a controversial figure!

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After the tour, we returned to the Weavers Pub for lunch.  We sat out in the riverside back garden and enjoyed a Ploughman’s lunch (for T) and a stuffed Yorkshire (for me) as people passed by in their punts (remember the Cambridge post?).  A picture early on would have been a good idea as it’s already drowning in gravy here, but let me assure you that everything tasted great!

We walked in the direction of the site of the Saint Augustine Abbey ruins.  We began with a 3D virtual tour of the property as it might have looked in the middle ages, and of course made time for dressing up.  In costume, we greeted other tourists as if we worked there, because why not? Ha!

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Hello, and welcome to the ruins of St Augustine’s Abbey!

The abbey was founded by (no surprise) St Augustine around 598 as a burial place for the Anglo-Saxon kings of Kent. For well over a thousand years, this site was devoted to religion.

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This site literally unfolds before your eyes. As you step further in you see more of the detail and depth than you would imagine from entering the site. Absolutely well worth a tour (note the beautiful original tiles, found in the archway of the Chapel of the Blessed Virgin Mary, located at the back of the crypt of the Norman Church and used for burials and prayer).  But of course, not much survived the rule of Henry the VIII, who used existing materials from the Abbey and outbuildings to build what was to be a palace for one of his new wives (though she would never come to live there). 

The palace was used by a noble family until 1659, but then abandoned by their heirs and further damaged by an earthquake that shook Canterbury in 1692.  The earthquake destroyed the Ethelbert Tower, and the rest of the abbey buildings sank into decay, becoming popular subjects for artists and later used as a pub and brewery before a hospital and country prison were built on the site.  It’s Christian history was almost forgotten by the mid-1800s.  A Kent MP, Alexander James Beresford Hope, was surprised to learn that this once-sacred site had fallen to ruin, and he worked to return it to religious use, later excavating to uncover it’s glorious story.  The most exciting discovery was the original church, found in 1921.

Not wanting to miss at least a view of the oldest church in continuous use and the first church built in England, we walked to St. Martins, built in 597. The oldest part of the church is actually Roman and dates prior to 410 AD (seen in the 3rd photo, and coloured pink in the timeline photo below).  Sleeping in meant we didn’t make it there in time for morning service but seeing the outside was better than nothing!  Part Roman and part Saxon (a site map shows the age of various parts of the building), the church and it’s grounds offer a peaceful spot away from the modern city. 

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The view unfolding as you walk up the front path

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View from the back

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View from the back; the side that is shown in the legend below.

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By the end of our wander around the grounds of St. Martins, it had started to rain.  We stopped at Yo Sushi to get some dinner for the ride home, and under the cover of an umbrella we made our way back to the train station where we were able to switch to an earlier train home to London. What a great way to spend a weekend!

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