Long, long history
Posted: 02 Nov 2006 @ 00:00
WE HAVE it on Bede’s authority that the small and unpretentious Church of St
Martin in Canterbury was built “whilst the Romans were still
in the island”. If it can’t claim with certainty to be the oldest church in
continuous use in the British Isles, it is certainly the best-documented, says
its Rector, Canon Noelle Hall.
There are still traces of the original Roman building, and of its Saxon
development; and we know from Bede that Bertha, the Christian Queen of
Ethelbert, King of Kent, was using it as her private chapel when Augustine
arrived from Rome in 597. So, every year St Martin’s celebrates St Augustine
around his feast of 26 May; and this year the church was opened to the public
for three days, with an exhibition showing the history of the church over the
past 1400 years.
The church was filled with flowers; there were lunchtime organ recitals each
day; and several hundred people came to take part in the tours of both the
church and its churchyard.