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Ramsgate-in-Thanet, Early history.

Ramsgate-in-The Isle of Thanet (Thanatos) Early History. The awakening of the great structuring of Christendom in England.

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

Thanet (Thanatos) has its own litle piece of unique history, almost as though this island, once known as Thanatos(the Isle of the Dead) was meant to bring a great structuring for life, with the landing of Saint Augustine taking place on its shores. Roman Catholicism was already in Britain from the very earliest times but Britain was also under constant invasion and displacements but when St Augustine arrived he was able to draw the groups together under a great developing monastic ecclesiastical structuring in this land and helped and facilitated by the great Anglo-Saxon Kings. It also helped that the various kingdoms in Britain became unified under one King; and which helped protect against invasions.
Ramsgate was the first landing place of St Augustine, 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." Recent excavations, 2008, have confirmed Richborough as the first established site of Roman landings by the Emperor Claudius's troops in AD 43. Richborough's Roman fort became known as the Roman gateway to Britain.
Four hundred years later, the Saxon Hengist landed and established the Royal House of Kent, it is his standard, the rearing white horse, that are still 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 Dead." The Thanet historian John Lewis, writing c1736, records "Thanatos" from the earlier writings of W. Caxton and his "dyfcrycyon of Englonde." Here, the name "Thanatos" is seen as deriving from its being blessed with good soil and not having any serpents. A factor that seems to be attributed to a blessing given by Saint Augustine:

"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."2

Clearly with great effect did St Augustine give his blessing at this dawn of the awakening of Christendom in England, and which also brought with it the golden era of Anglo Saxon monastic Christendom. Notice also the name "Tenet," and which word means "doctrine."
The era of monastic Christendom followed on, of course, from the landing of Saint Augustine and his forty missionaries 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.
Saint 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 almost immediately, and that he was baptized the following Whit Sunday. Ethelbert was already aware of Roman Catholicism since a requirement of his marriage to Bertha, a French[Frankish] princess; was 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 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 had converted to the faith.
Saint 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. The monastries would also be local employers for various people and trades.
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. 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:

"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 to 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."[Mt16:18-19]

The Anglo Saxon nobility understood the faith; for them it was very personal and their understanding of the 'new' Benedictine Monasticism would have blended with the understanding of the faith that they already had. 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.
A significant number of the Anglo Saxon nobilty consecrated themselves to God; and they showed a great devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Great portions of land were given by the Anglo Saxon Kings to the developing Church. England also realised, during this era, its great title of "Mary's Dowry." This title has great significance in these last days of mankind. England was also known as the "great land of the Saints."
An example of the strength of the faith amongst the Benedictine 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"4

Meanwhile, 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.
In the designs of providence there are no coincidences and so it is very interesting to note that the feast day of St Mildred of Thanet (since 1388) is July 13th. July13th is, of course, the date of the Blessed Virgin's lengthy apparition at Fatima and the date on which She gave the three secrets of Fatima. She also said "In the end My Immaculate Heart will triumph."
There was, of course, a strong spiritual life in the monastic communities, which were also centres of learning. Thanet also gained some material prosperity from the natural harbour at Ebbsfleet being a refuge for ships. 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 was the mother house of the Island's monastic community, standing on what is today the site of Saint Mary's parish church. The mother house was consecrated to the Blessed Virgin Mary by Saint Theodore in 670AD and by this time the Thanet community was itself involved in supporting missionary activity overseas.
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 prospered under its Anglo Saxon monastic heritage, as did much of England. The suppression of the monasteries, under Henry VIII, brought about the changes to religion and to society.

Angela MM Searles.©

1 http://www.bbc.co.uk/kent/content/articles/2006/05/15/Thanet_isle_of_death_feature.shtml
2 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.)
4 OSB CTS 1915

Below, St Mildred of Thanet and a very old part of Minster Abbey.

Below, St Augustine's Cross, near Cliffsend, commemorating his landing place.

Saint Augustine's cross is in between Cliffsend and Ebbsfleet (next to St Augustine's Golf club) on the way to Minster; it is also close to the new road that links up to the Thanet Way.
Erected in 1886, the monument is a great commemorative landmark and very grateful we should be that it is there. Those who have seen it, however, will not help noticing that it has its own peculiarity in that the landing date of St Augustine, and his forty missionaries, is given as AD 596, I am not sure why this is since all historical records and accounts give it as AD 597.
The commemorative writing on the monument, given in both Latin and English, documents the great landing, it is very difficult to decipher in the above photo, but the monument is well worth a visit for those who have not yet been.

Below, early maps of Thanet (Thanatos).

And (below) a later map; the Wantsum Channel has clearly silted up.

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