What is the Augustine Camino?

We use the word “Camino” as shorthand for “long distance walking pilgrimage”, inspired, of course, by the Camino de Santiago.

The route crosses the Pilgrim’s Way a couple of times but is otherwise distinct from it.

There have been many attempts to recreate pilgrimage routes which are authentic, in the sense of following the actual paths used in the past. Derek Bright’s book “The Pilgrim’s Way Fact and Fiction of an Ancient Trackway” does a good job of tracing the history of one such attempt.

We tackle things from another angle by being authentic to the spirit of pilgrimage. So for instance, the original pilgrimage to Canterbury was to the Shrine of St Augustine and the Augustine Camino leads to the new Shrine of St Augustine in Ramsgate. The re-emergence of pilgrimage infrastructure in England has been a gradual process starting in the early 19th century. Medieval pilgrims would have visited monasteries and shrines along their route which were run by religious orders. It is now possible to re-establish this experience, often in the original buildings and it is this that has informed the route of the Augustine Camino. Hence the visits to Aylesford Priory and the shrine of St Jude (run by the Carmelites), Eastbridge Hospital (run by the Franciscans) and Minster abbey, which is a Benedictine Convent.

There is another layer of meaning which overlays the Camino. It is the story of the Gothic Revival. St Augustine’s in Ramsgate was the personal project of Augustus Pugin, leading light of the Revival and architect of Big Ben.  His Church has a special place in Christian and national culture (hence the recent award from the Heritage Lottery Fund). But the Gothic Revival was part of a wider movement which could be said to include a renewed interest in church decoration including stained glass, the re-instatement of shrines in our cathedrals as well as the return of ritual and sacred music.  The Camino goes out of its way to find some of the hidden gems of this revival.