St Martin’s ChurchCanterbury
North Holmes Road
Kent CT1 1PW  
 

The ancient Church of St Martin in Canterbury was used for Christian worship before St Augustine and his missionaries arrived in 597 AD. It was Augustine’s first church in England and has been in continuous use as a parish church ever since. The significance of this place has led to it being included in the UNESCO Canterbury World Heritage Site.
 
The fabric of the church includes a significant amount of Roman brick and tiling indicating that the original building was either built as a Christian church or a mortuary chapel during the Roman occupation (AD 43-410).
 
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King Ethelbert
The history of St Martin’s begins with the pagan King Ethelbert of Kent (c. 560–616). In the 580s he married Bertha, a Frankish princess who was a Christian. Part of her marriage settlement was that she could continue to practise her religion and for this purpose she was allowed to be accompanied by her private chaplain, Bishop Lindhard.
 
Ethelbert restored an abandoned Roman building, outside the city walls, to be her personal Royal Chapel.
 
It is believed that the western part of the present chancel is Queen Bertha’s original chapel. Certainly the rest of the nave and chancel were built in the 7th century.
 
Saint Augustine
When Augustine landed on the Isle of Thanet, just off the Kentish mainland, he met King Ethelbert. Augustine explained the purpose of his mission and Ethelbert allowed him and his forty companions to cross to the mainland. He told them they would be received hospitably and not molested. Augustine and his companions followed the old Roman road, Watling Street, straight to Canterbury.
 
According to ancient historian, the Venerable Bede, a mission base was established in Queen Bertha’s chapel. Soon the Royal chapel was too small and the present nave was built. After Ethelbert was converted to Christianity and baptised, Augustine and his missionaries were given greater liberty to move around Kent, converting and baptising the King’s subjects.
 
Following his conversion Ethelbert gave Augustine a site for his household and a Roman building for his church within the city walls. It is the remains of this first cathedral that were discovered under the present Canterbury Cathedral nave. When Augustine died in the early 7th century he was buried in the north aisle of St Augustine's Abbey church.
 
A Very Special Church
St Martin’s is a very special church because of its connections with the spread of Christianity in Britain. It is also special because of its architecture. Few Saxon churches in their entirety remain. It has an early Perpendicular tower and an early Norman tub font.
 
There are several well preserved 16th century memorial brasses.
 
Two well known identities buried in the churchyard are the artist Thomas Sidney Cooper RA whose paintings are on display in Canterbury Art Gallery, and Mary Tourtel, creator of the popular children’s comic strip character, Rupert Bear (1920-1935).
 
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.
 
Visitors are more than welcome to attend services held weekly on Sundays at 10:00 and Thursdays at 12:00.
 
Plan Your Visit
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Opening Hours 
Tuesdays:       11:00 - 15:00
Thursdays:      11.00 - 15:00
Saturdays:      11:00 - 15:00
 
Contact & Further Information
Website   St Martins Church    External Link
 
Getting There
St Martin's Church is located on the east side of North Holmes Road, close to the junction with Longport and St. Martin's Hill. It is about 10 minutes walk from Canterbury Cathedral.
 
Google Maps - St Martin's Church