St Augustine's Abbey was a Benedictine monastery in Canterbury, Kent, England. The abbey was founded in 598 and functioned as a monastery until its dissolution in 1538 during the English Reformation. After the abbey's dissolution, it underwent dismantlement until 1848. Since 1848, part of the site has been used for educational purposes and the abbey ruins have been preserved for their historical value.

In 597, Saint Augustine arrived in Anglo-Saxon England, having been sent by the missionary-minded Pope Gregory I to convert the Anglo-Saxons. The King of Kent at this time was Æthelberht or Ethelbert. Although he worshipped in a pagan temple just outside the walls of Canterbury to the east of the city, Ethelbert was married to a Christian, Bertha. According to tradition, the king not only gave his temple and its precincts to St Augustine for a church and monastery, he also ordered that the church to be erected be of "becoming splendour, dedicated to the blessed apostles Peter and Paul, and endowed it with a variety of gifts." One purpose of the foundation was to provide a residence for Augustine and his brother monks. As another, both King Ethelbert and Augustine foresaw the abbey as a burial place for abbots, archbishops, and kings of Kent.

On July 30, 1538, the King's Commissioners arrived to take the surrender of St Augustine's Abbey. The last abbot and monks complied and left the abbey. The abbey, with its site, its goods, buildings, lands and all other possessions, became the property of the Crown. This dissolution ended over 940 years of monastic presence.During the rest of Henry's reign, St Augustine's Abbey was held by the Crown with some of its buildings converted into a royal residence. However, in other parts of the abbey dismantling and sale of material began in 1541. Some of the stone was used in the fortifications of the Pale of Calais, but more of it was sold locally. The library, containing two thousand manuscripts, was destroyed and the treasure plundered. In 1844 a rich young landowner, member of parliament, and generous churchman, Alexander James Beresford Hope, visited the ruins, found them deplorable, and bought them. Inspired by the missionary zeal of the Reverend Edward Coleridge, Hope and other donors gave additional money to restore and construct buildings for the establishment of a college to train young men as missionaries in the British colonies. They envisioned a dual purpose for the college: (a) to educate missionaries and (b) to excavate and preserve the abbey remains. St Augustine's Missionary College remained in existence until 1947. However, on the night of May 31, 1942, its buildings were so badly damaged by a German blitz that the College ceased operations.The ruins of the abbey are now a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the care of English Heritage.
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Categories & Keywords
Category:Travel and Places
Subcategory:Europe
Subcategory Detail:United Kingdom
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