Orthodox Pilgrimage on the Augustine Camino

Orthodox pilgrims may find the following information useful, including information on saints from before the Great Schism.

St Augustine of Canterbury – to whom the whole route is dedicated – was sent by Gregory the Great to convert the English in 597 AD. The relics of St Augustine, St Gregory the Great, St Leo the Great and St Laurence at St Augustine’s in Ramsgate all date from the 5th to the 7th centuries.

Rochester Cathedral – was originally dedicated to St Andrew the Apostle now to Christ and the Blessed Virgin Mary. The monastery in Rome from which Augustine came was dedicated to St Andrew. It was founded by Gregory the Great who had been papal ambassador to the imperial court in Constantinople. Before the Reformation there were shrines to St Paulinus, the second Bishop of Rochester and St Ithamar, the first English Bishop. There is a chapel in the crypt dedicated to Ithamar and statues of all these saints can be found on the pulpitum (choir screen). In the Nave are Orthodox icons of the Crucifixion and Madonna and Child by Sergei Fyodorov. By the same artist is a fresco of the Baptism of Ethelbert by Augustine which marks the start of the pilgrimage.

Aylesford Priory – dedicated to St Simon Stock (13th century) and Our Lady of the Assumption (Dormition). The Friars is a mixture of medieval and modern buildings. There are chapels to St Joseph and St Anne and a beautiful rosary garden along the riverside.

The dedications of the churches along the route are all ancient including St Mary, St Martin of Tours, St Margaret of Antioch, John the Baptist and Saints Peter and Paul. Of particular interest is the church of St Catherine at Kingsdown near Doddington which has stained glass windows to the twelve apostles. The church of The Beheading of John the Baptist is thought to have received its name after a relic of the block on which the Saint was beheaded (no longer there). At Faversham is a Shrine to St Jude the Apostle and the medieval church of St Mary of Charity.

Canterbury is most famous for its medieval saints but there are earlier dedications. On the way in to the city is the church of St Dunstan, a tenth century Archbishop renowned for his tussle with the Devil. Christ Church Cathedral has an ancient and beautiful Lady Chapel and medieval wall paintings in the St Gabriel Chapel, both in the crypt. The recently restored medieval south window showing the ancestors of Christ is unmissable. One of the most influential early Archbishops was Theodore of Tarsus who brought great learning from the East in the 7th century. He is commemorated in the great window in the Chapter House. On the way out of town you pass the statues of Saints Ethelbert and Bertha, King and Queen of Kent at the time of Augustine. You then pass the ruins of St Augustine’s Abbey which once housed shrines to all the early Archbishops of Canterbury and Kings of Kent. Still standing is St Martin’s Church in which can be found a statue of St Bertha by the late Mother Concordia of Minster Abbey.

The last section of the pilgrimage to Ramsgate is full of beauty. In particular are the churches of St Vincent of Saragossa and St Andrew which have stunning stained glass windows. When you arrive at Minster Abbey there is a shrine to St Mildred (8th Century). Finally there is the visit to St Augustine’s described at the beginning. The church was originally meant for a Benedictine monastery and so has statues and stained glass to Benedict and other early saints such as Bede, Wilfrid and Cuthbert.