St Martin's Church, Canterbury

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St Martin's Church, Canterbury

The Church of St Martin in Canterbury, England, situated slightly beyond the city centre, is England's oldest parish church in continuous use. Since 1668 St Martin's has been part of the benefice of St Martin & St Paul Canterbury. Both St Martin's and nearby St Paul's churches are used for weekly services. The current Rector of the Parish is the Rev'd Canon Noelle Hall.

Early history

St Martin's was the private chapel of Queen Bertha of Kent in the 6th century before Augustine arrived from Rome. Queen Bertha was a Christian Frankish princess who arrived in England with her Chaplain, Bishop Liudhard. King Æthelberht of Kent, her husband, allowed her to continue to practise her religion in an existing church which the Venerable Bede says had been in use in the late Roman period but had fallen into disuse. There is a strong possibility that this church is St Martin's, especially since Bede names it.

Shortly before 1844, a hoard of gold coins was found in the churchyard, one of which is the Liudhard medalet, which bears an image of a diademed figure with a legend referring to Liudhard.

Architecture

Local finds prove that Christianity did exist in this area of the city at the time, and the church contains many reused Roman bricks or spolia, as well as complete sections of walls of Roman tiles. Several sections of walls are clearly very early, and it is possible that a blocked square-headed doorway in the chancel was the entrance to Bertha's church, while other sections of wall come from the period after the Gregorian mission in the 7th or 8th centuries, including most of the nave. The apse that was originally at the east end has been removed. The tower is much later, in Perpendicular style. The church is a Grade A (equivalent to Grade I) listed building.

Graves

The churchyard contains the graves of many notable local families and well-known people including Thomas Sidney Cooper, RA (artist) and Mary Tourtel, the creator of Rupert Bear.

Music

The church has a strong continuing musical tradition from the monks of St Augustine to the present day. The first Sunday of every month is usually a Renaissance mass setting, sung by a quartet of singers. The Choral Director for the parish is Dom del Nevo.

Sources
  • F. Haverfield, "Early British Christianity" The English Historical Review Vol. 11, No. 43. (Jul., 1896)
  • Service, Alastair, The Buildings of Britain, A Guide and Gazetteer, Anglo-Saxon and Norman, 1982, Barrie & Jenkins (London), ISBN 0091501318

Building Activity

  • removed a media
    about 6 years ago via OpenBuildings.com