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Long, long history

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.

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