Kent historic churches, cathedrals and abbeys
During Kent's turbulent evolution, a great number of Christian places of worship were erected, starting with the 6th century and continuing to present day. The area has got a notable religious significance as it was the starting point of Christianity in England, where the missionary known as Saint Augustine of Canterbury first landed in England, on the island of Thanet.
Renowned as the oldest church in England which still serves as a place of worship, Canterbury Cathedral dates back to the earliest stages of Christianity in England and was founded upon the arrival of St Augustine in Kent, in 597 AD. He was a Benedictine monk and monastery prior and undertook a long journey from Rome, with the purpose of converting ancient England to Christianity. The cathedral was later expanded by the Saxons and rebuilt by the Normans after partial destruction due to a fire, yet parts of the original building still survive. It is also known as the place where Archbishop Thomas Becket was murdered in 1170.
The second oldest cathedral in England, next to Canterbury Cathedral, it can be traced back to the 7th century, as it was initially built in 604 AD by Bishop Justus, on land donated by King Ethelbert - however, the original building did not survive until present day. Centuries later, in 1080, a French monk by the name of Gundulf erected the present construction, which suffered certain transformations overtime. The result was a merger of Norman and Gothic architectural styles, which is in itself unique. One of the oldest doors in England, dating from the 14th century, is still in the cathedral. Today it is known as a place of pilgrimage as well as interest to those seeking to discover local history.
The Friars (monastery)
Located in Aylesford, Maidstone, this monastery was built during the 13th century, more precisely in 1242, by Carmelites originating from the Holy Land. It functioned normally until its dissolution in 1535 at the hands of Henry VIII , when the property was granted to an aristocrat by the name of Sir Thomas Wyatt. During mid 20th century (after undergoing restoration works following a fire in 1930, which damaged it to some extent) in 1949, the property was bought back by the Carmelites, who restored it to its original function, as a place of worship.
St Augustine's Abbey
St Augustine, a missionary who was sent by Pope Gregory the Great from Rome to spread Christianity in England, founded a monastery known today as St Augustine's Abbey. St Augustine landed in Kent in 597, after a perilous voyage which lasted two years, and later became Archbishop of Canterbury. As he belonged to the Benedictine order, St Augustine's Abbey, built in 598, was a Benedictine monastery. During the first few hundred years of its existence, it was repeatedly rebuilt and extended, until its dissolution in 1538, by Henry VIII's decision. As a result of that, the abbey was partially destroyed, areas of it being converted and passed down through generations by aristocratic families. Its ruins are now being preserved by the English Heritage.
All Saints Church
Located in Maidstone, near the Archbishop's Palace, this church dates back to the late 14th century, when Archbishop William Courtenay established it as a Collegiate Church. It was built in 1395guidin, at a time when the clergy's role in spiritually guarding their parish members was of utmost importance. Since 1549 it has been known as the Parish Church of Maidstone and still function today as such.
St Nicholas Church, Barfreston
Built in late Norman times, during the 12th century, St Nicholas Church is beleieved to have been constructed and decorated with the financial input of a very wealthy local family. That is due to its unique interior decorating traits, which consists, among others, of stone carvings, carried out using imported Caen stone, as this particular type has never been available in the area. Other surprising architectural details as well as sculptures can still be seen in this church, which is in use to this day.
St Mary's Church, Burham
The construction of St Mary's Church first started in the 12th century, with later additions erected during the following centuries. Its completed structure encompassed a nave, west tower and chancel, the nave arcade dating from the 13th century and the west tower being gradually being built in the 14th century. It was used as a place of worship until the 19th century, when the community of Burham village relocated from the immediate vicinity of the River Medway to an area of higher altitude. That was actually not an uncommon fate for places of worship and other buildings in the region, which ceased to be used due to mass relocation.
St Martin's Church, Canterbury
Known as the oldest church in the country to still be in use as a place of worship, St Martin's Church was founded by St Augustine, upon his arrival in 1597, which makes it of great historical interest. Its constituting materials include Roman brick, flint and masonry blocks. The church itself, though simple in terms of structure, includes a number of architectural particularities as well as monuments, mostly linked to the aristocratic burials on its grounds.
St Peter and St Paul, Charing
Built according to the classic structure of a nave, chancel and tower, this impressively preserved church was partially built during the 13th century, to be later completed with transepts during the 14th century, and with its imposing tower a century later. It later underwent a major reparation process following a fire which partially damaged its nave and chancel; whereas the nave took under two years to repair, the chancel was restored over three decades. Inside the church, visitors can observe details such as carvings, as well as a number of artefacts dating from medieval times.