The last few miles of a walking pilgrimage to Canterbury are an unforgettable experience and the Augustine Camino is a particularly special way to get there. The Cathedral dominates the town, visible from afar. En-route you visit St Dunstan’s Church, from where Henry II was whipped, barefoot to the Cathedral, in penance for the murder of Thomas Becket. Entering the City by the Westgate you pass medieval churches and pilgrim hostels to the Cathedral Gate where you receive your pilgrim welcome. You may join a Canon for prayers in the Crypt or simply wander the aisles enjoying the ancient stained glass windows and monuments to Kings and Bishops. Evensong is held each evening in the Choir, the oldest Gothic building in England and afterwards a blessing is offered.
Canterbury has many claims to global significance as a pilgrimage destination. The Cathedral, St Augustine’s Abbey and St Martin’s Church form a UNESCO World Heritage Site for their unique artistic, historical and religious importance. The Cathedral is Mother Church to the Worldwide Anglican Communion. St Martin’s is the Oldest Church in continuous use in the English Speaking World while St Augustine’s was built to house the tombs of Ethelbert, the first Christian English King and Augustine, Apostle to the English. It was the mission of St Augustine in 597 which ultimately made Canterbury and not London, the centre of Christianity in England. Later saints and martyrs such as Thomas Becket made the City an international pilgrimage destination with magnificent shrines and richly decorated chapels. Although this ended with the Reformation, Canterbury is once again open for pilgrimage. Much medieval stained glass survives and the Victorian Gothic Revivalists replaced much that was destroyed. There are even relics to venerate, of Thomas More at St Dunstan’s and Thomas Becket at St Thomas’s.
The Augustine Camino is a week long walking pilgrimage route which recreates the spirit of medieval pilgrimage with visits to living monasteries and religious communities including the Carmelites at Aylesford and Benedictines at Minster. The route passes through orchards, vineyards, hop gardens and woodlands from which Kent earns its title “The Garden of England”. Starting at the second oldest Cathedral in England at Rochester, seven days of gentle walking, enjoying delightful country pubs and village churches, end at St Augustine’s in Ramsgate, the Shrine to St Augustine and the ideal church of Augustus Pugin, architect of Big Ben. The arrival at Canterbury, on Day Five, is just one of the many highlights of the route.