As one of the oldest Cities in England, dating back to early Roman times, Canterbury’s long, deep history is entwined with the historic faith of the nation.
The arrival of the Pope’s emissary Augustine in 597, tasked with the conversion of the pagan King Ethelberht, saw the beginning of Christianity in the country.
St Martin’s Church in Canterbury was given to Augustine by Ethelberht shortly after and is the oldest church in the English speaking world still used for worship. The ruins of the accompanying Abbey, which would be named in Augustine’s honour following his canonization, have been restored and are open to the public.
Both St Martin’s Church and St Augustine’s Abbey are recognised by UNESCO as World Heritage Sites.
The Mother Church of the Anglian Communion worldwide imperiously dominates Canterbury’s changing skyline, as it has done for over a thousand years.
Dating back to Augustine’s time, following his consecration as the first Archbishop, but re-built in the 11th and 12th centuries, the Cathedral and Metropolitical Church of Christ at Canterbury is one of the finest examples of gothic architecture in the world.
It is the city’s third UNESCO World Heritage Site – the highest number in the UK awarded this honour outside of London.
Canterbury Cathedral is inextricably linked with the act of pilgrimage, as a consequence of King Henry II’s 1170 murder of the ‘turbulent priest’ and its most famous Archbishop Thomas Becket. This was to become known as The Martyrdom.
Following his murder, miracles were said to have taken place which lead to Becket’s canonization as Saint in 1173. His remains were laid to rest in the Cathedral, to which pilgrims from across the country and the world were drawn, often arriving at Canterbury from a much trodden trail that would later be named ‘Pilgrims’ Way.’