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Ramsgate-in-Thanet: First landing place of St Augustine: "ffor there he arryued fyrft."

Thanet (Thanatos) has its own little piece of unique history, almost as though this island, once known as Thanatos (the Isle of the Dead) was destined to be the Island of Mercy and of life, with the landing of Saint Augustine taking place on its shores.
Ramsgate [Romansgate] -in -Thanet (the landing place of St Augustine) derives its name from the Romans who landed here under Julius Caesar in c55 BC. The precise landing place was the natural harbour at Ebbsfleet, next to Cliffsend, described as a little creek or bay where "veffels ufed to harbour." Four hundred years later, the Saxon Hengist landed in Thanatos and established the Royal House of Kent, it is his standard, the rearing white horse, that are displayed on the arms of the county.
Meanwhile, Thanet had indeed been named, during much earlier times, as "Thanatos" Greek meaning 'death' or 'the dead,' the "Isle of Thanatos;" the "Island of the Death/the Dead." In the ancient writings of W. Caxton and his "dyfcrycyon of Englonde:"The Isle of "Thanatos" is recorded as having been given this name following the blessing by Saint Augustine and snakes being driven elsewhere; a factor attributed to St Augustine's blessing:

"Thanatos, that is, Tenet, is an Ylonde befydes Kente, and have the name
Thanatos, of deth of Serpentes, for ther ben none. And the crthe therof
fleeth Serpents yborn into other londes. There is a noble Corn lond and
fruytful. Hit is fuppofed that this Ilonde was haalowed and blyffed of St.
Auftyn, the fyrft Doctour of Englyfthe Men, ffor there he arryued fyrft."1

St Augustine's blessing was given at this dawn of the awakening of Christendom in England, and which also brought with it the golden era of Anglo Saxon monastic Christendom.
There is much evidence of sporadic groups; pockets of Catholics in earlier Britain; during the later era of the Roman empire and which era was, simultaneously, the early centuries of Christianity. Where did they come from?
As is well known, the main authority for what happened in that early era in Britain is the English priest/monk/historian Saint Bede, a Doctor of the Church and who was born in England towards the end of the 7th century and who gathered much historical information in his works and very much including in his:"A history of the English Church and People." And just to note that Pope Leo XIII named Bede a Doctor of the Church and which he would not have done unless he believed that Bede was a Doctor of the Roman Catholic Church!
St Bede tells of how, in those early centuries, Britain was made up of or became variously inclusive of: Britons, English, Scots, celts, Picts, Angles, Saxons and Franks. As well as some Romans from the Roman Empire. That there were a number of separate and transitional kingdoms throughout Britain. And that Britain was under constant invasion and threat from invasion.
It is difficult to imagine how, in this setting, there would any type of overall ecclesiastical structure, let alone what would properly constitute any kind of separate "Church"; all points, rather, to groups of Christians. Any other groups that were pagan or semi-pagan.
St Bede tells us the following:

"In the year of Our Lord's incarnation 156, Marcus Antoninus
Venus, fourteenth after Augustus, became co-Emperor with
his brother Aurelius Commodus. During their reign, and
while the Holy Eleutherius ruled the Roman Church, Lucius,
a British king, sent him a letter, asking to be made a Christian.
This pious request was quickly granted, and the Britons held
the faith which they received in all its purity and fullness until
the time of the Emperor Diocletian."1

And so this tells us that Lucius had a clear understanding that to be a Christian was to be a Roman Catholic; that there was a focus on papal authority, and that the "Faith" held by the Britons was Roman Catholicism. A reference to this letter is found in an early biography of the popes; the early 5th Century 'Libor Pontificalis' and under Pope Eleutherius.
Saint Augustine, drew the existing groups together, with their presentational variations through local customs but who were sound in Roman Catholic doctrine.
St Augustine and his forty missionaries landed at Ebbsfleet in 597,(the place of landing later became known as Saint Mildred's rock); the arrival of Saint Augustine is recorded at the site known as Saint Augustine's Cross, in between Cliffsend and Ebbsfleet; next to Pegwell Bay. It is also of course that Roman Catholicism was already known and practiced in England, this through the strong connections with France, "the eldest daughter of the Church."
St Augustine was welcomed by King (Saint) Ethelbert, a great, great grandson of Hengist, and his French Catholic wife, Queen(Saint)Bertha. King Ethelbert is recorded as having converted to the faith immediately, and that he was baptized the following Whit Sunday. However, he was already aware of Roman Catholicism; a requirement of his marriage to Bertha, a French[Frankish] princess, being that she be allowed to practice her faith; she had brought a Bishop, Liudhard, with her on her marriage. Ethelbert had built a chapel for her.
This would account for the welcome that St Augustine received, and Pope Gregory is thought to have made his decision to send Augustine and the missionaries with King Ethelbert's receptiveness in mind. Ethelbert allowed the monks to preach and to settle in Canterbury. St Augustine was the first archbishop of Canterbury and within a few months of him landing, ten thousand Kentish men and women are recorded as having converted to the faith.
There is also the story of how Pope Gregory, a Benedictine, had come across some English, "Angle" slaves in Rome. He noticed their good looks and inquired as to where they were from. When told they were Angles he commented "They be angels if they be converted." He sent Augustine the following year.
St Augustine was a Benedictine monk and he brought with him Benedictine Monasticism. No doubt King Ethelbert recognized the right ordering of life found in the monastic setting; life centres on God being foremost in a monk or a nuns life; the first commandment. The day is centred on this, with its balance of the Sacraments, prayers, devotions, work and study.
The monasteries finding great favour with the Anglo Saxon monarchs would also have derived from their being natural 'overseers' and helpers of a developing local community and which would invariably attach itself to the safety and tranquility of the monastic buildings and setting. Church schools and hospitals would be part of the developing setting as well as, of course, charitable almsgiving. Monasteries were required to give a minimum of one tenth of their income directly to the poor (a tithe)an almoner would carry out the distribution. The monastries might also be local employers for various people and trades. Great portions of land were given by the Anglo Saxon Kings to the developing Church.
Christendom, evolving during these early centuries of Christianity, sees the relevant laws and customs of a society accord with Catholic teaching and which, of course, reflect Our Lord's commandments and teachings. The Christian calendar, with its holy days, feast days and observances, structured society and were part of a whole framework of the faith which was both taught and caught in this environment; Christendom!
Crucial to Christendom is that rulers of a country; kings, queens, and governing authorities, ensure that it is maintained, and the Catholic people of a country would expect this of their rulers, and visa versa; rulers and their subjects "being one" in upholding the teachings of the Catholic Church. This is Catholic Royalism.The authority of the Catholic Church comes, of course, from it being Our Lord's Church and Our Lord gave to His Church; the Ark of Salvation, the authority for bounding and loosing:

"And I say to thee, thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church,
and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give thee the keys
of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever thou shalt bind on earth shall be
bound in heaven; and whatever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in
heaven."[Mt 16:18-19]

The Anglo Saxon nobility understood the faith; for them it was personal. They would have been taught and would have understood the faith first and foremost in the context of salvation; their own and others, and that the life and teachings of Jesus and His death, as shown clearly in the Gospels, were historical fact that took place in time those centuries earlier in fulfillment of that foretold in scripture.
The land given over to the Church by the Anglo Saxons automatically had the effect of giving the Church a natural authority and standing in society, and which the nobility intended; they would have wanted to protect the Church; the Ark of Salvation and Minister of Redemption.
A significant number of the Anglo Saxon nobilty consecrated themselves to God; and they showed a great devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary. England also realised, during the Anglo Saxon era, its great title of "Mary's Dowry." England was also known as the "great land of the Saints."
A whole framework for the Faith developed, an example being that the Kings and nobility would ask that Masses be said for them and for their families in Chapels on land that they had given to the Church, and particularly for deceased family members. From this developed the use of Chantries, which saw landowners set aside a Chapel with priest(s) and with lands specifically for the saying of Masses for family members. Great devotion to the Blessed Virgin or to a particular saint might be associated with this. Income generated from the land would pay for the Chantry. The priests themselves, given over exclusively to the Chantry, were often teachers in for their local community, thus providing an education for poorer members of society.
An example of the strength of the faith amongst the English nobility is found in Saint Eanswythe of Folkestone, granddaughter of King Ethelbert and Queen Bertha, she founded the first recorded community of Christian women in this country at Folkestone; her monastery being built by her Father, King Eadbald. Eanswythe's mother Emma, as with her grandmother, was a French Catholic princess. The great devotion of the Benedictine nuns was:

"to return unceasing thanks to God for
the great gift of the faith
bestowed upon their country"2

And Saint Domneva, another granddaughter of King Ethelbert and Queen Bertha, had founded a monastery at Minster near Ramsgate, her daughter, Saint Mildred, the Island's patron saint, became its second Abbess. She guided her community for thirty years and was known as a woman of Wisdom and of peace. It was during this time that the grant of lands given by King's Ethelbert to the Church had increased to include one half of Thanet! This means that at one time one half of Thanet was monastic land.
There was, of course, a strong spiritual life in the monastic communities, which were also centres of learning. Thanet also provides an example of some material prosperity; the natural harbour at Ebbsfleet, being a refuge for ships, meant that from here, grain from the "good soil" of Thanet could be transported to London. Charters from this period show that the monastery at Minster both built and owned ships.
Minster, the mother house of the Island's monastic community, was also, at this time, the island's capital. The missionary activity had continued at home too, for example, Saint Ethelburga, daughter of King Ethelbert and Queen Bertha, had, together with her husband, Edwin, whom she converted to Christianity, converted his Kingdom of Northumbria. Later in life, Ethelburga is found fleeing back to Kent, escaping from persecuting armies. She built a monastery at Lyminge, her birthplace.
Thanet is a good example of monastic Christendom, in place in spite of the many difficulties caused in society by feudalism, throughout England for more than nine hundred years. Thanet prospered under its Anglo Saxon monastic heritage, as indeed did England itself. Interesting that at the time of the introduction of printing presses almost all new books were devotiuonal books, and which is always given as a great measure of how much the English loved their Catholic Faith. The suppression of the monasteries, under Henry VIII, brought about the changes to religion and to society.

1 Recorded in: The History And Antiquities as well as Ecclfiaftical as Civil, of The Ifle of Tenet, in Kent. By John Lewis, M.A.
Second Edition1736. Volume 1 p2 (available from Michael's Book Shop, King Street, Ramsgate.)
2 OSB (Order of St Benedict) CTS (Catholic Truth Society)1915

For a text that emphasizes Ramsgate further, see:

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