1st February 2020
Kent has good reason to rejoice in its sacred places
Your first stop on your Kentish 'pilgrimage' should be at the heart of beautiful Canterbury's UNESCO World Heritage Site to visit famous Canterbury Cathedral. Parts of this magnificent building date from the 11th century, and the sweeping Gothic nave, vivid stained glass and cavernous crypt ensure it is one of the most impressive structures in Britain. Home to the Archbishop of Canterbury, this deeply spiritual place has been a centre of Christian pilgrimage since the murder of Archbishop Thomas Becket in 1170, while prayers have been offered here daily for more than 1,400 years. You can even sleep in fine style within the grounds, at the Canterbury Cathedral Lodge.
Canterbury's World Heritage Site also includes the ruined St Augustine’s Abbey, and St Martin’s Church. St Martin's was the base of the first Archbishop of Canterbury, St Augustine, who arrived in Kent in 597 AD. Today this profoundly atmospheric building is the oldest church in the English speaking world still in use.
Founded in 604, Rochester Cathedral is England's second oldest cathedral and a joy to behold. The imposing Norman nave, Pilgrim Steps, stunning Romanesque façade, and superb audio and visual guide ensure an inspirational visit.
Much smaller but also deeply spiritual, are the 14 medieval Romney Marsh Churches, dotted around a vast, ethereal landscape. These hidden gems are well worth tracking down.
The Churches Conservation Trust cares for 17 Kent churches, including St James’ Church in Cooling. The graveyard of this late-13th century building provided the inspiration for the opening Pip-meets-Magwitch scene in Charles Dickens' Great Expectations. The tower of St Peter’s Church in Sandwich offers spectacular views over England’s most complete medieval town.
And Kent is now also home to one of the largest Sikh places of worship outside India. The exquisite Gravesend Gurdwara with its fine marble carvings and brightly-painted dome, actively welcomes respectful visitors - Sikh and non-Sikh alike.