Ramsgate, England: Shrine of Saint Augustine
The history of the Shrine of Saint Augustine of Canterbury in Ramsgate:
In 595 AD, Saint Augustine, who was a prior in a monastery in Rome, was given the commission from Pope Gregory the Great to evangelize the Anglo-Saxon peoples. In 597, he landed in Ramsgate, Thanet, along with 40 monks and went on to Canterbury. He was widely known for working miracles, and led his group of 40 monks to bring tens of thousands of people to Christianity – over 10,000 were baptised in their first year alone! He had close contact with Pope Gregory throughout his time in England, and the letters between them survive.
St Augustine was the first Archbishop of Canterbury, although that title did ot exist at the time and came later. A holy, efficient, and hardworking man, he was acclaimed as a saint soon after his death. The first shrine to Saint Augustine was established in Ramsgate. A shrine existed here in Ramsgate from 604 AD until 1538 AD, at which time King Henry VIII dissolved all the monasteries in the country.
Once it became legal to be Catholic again, the brilliant architect Augustus Pugin (1812-1852) designed the building you see here. A convert to Catholicism, he was enthralled with the beautiful churches and Cathedrals throughout Europe. In 1843, he bought property in Ramsgate by Ebbsfleet, which he described as “close to the spot where Augustine landed”. He built his home here (which had its own private chapel) as well as a personal church nearby, dedicated to St. Augustine.
The personal church was intended for public worship, and since there was no local parish here, the church provided Mass for the local Catholic population as well as foreign sailors and visitors. It was also Pugin’s wish to be buried here.
In 1848, it had the distinction of offering the first High Mass on Thanet since the reformation. From the 1860’s until 2010, the church was home to the Benedictine monks of St Augustine’s Abbey (constructed opposite the church). In 2010 the Benedictines withdrew from the church and it returned to the jurisdiction of Southwark Archdiocese.
About the Shrine of Saint Augustine:
Saint Augustine’s shrine was re-established in March 2012, here at the church of St. Augustine in Ramsgate, Kent. The shrine here in Ramsgate took on the role of the shrine because St. Augustine’s was built specifically to honor St. Augustine, just as Catholicism was regaining a foothold in England, and the original site in Canterbury is now owned by Historic England, so the original place is not an active religious site.
A rare surviving relic of St Augustine’s body, donated by the Fathers of the Oxford Oratory, was placed in the reliquary in the church by the Archbishop at the shrine inauguration on May 20, 2012. Many pilgrimages have since followed, and you are encouraged to visit the Shrine.
Pilgrims are welcome each day at the Shrine Mass. Official pilgrimages can be organised for groups with a variety of suggested programs. Please call or e-mail them to make arrangements.
The Shrine is open daily from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Masses are at 12:00 noon daily, Sundays at 8.30 a.m. and 12:00 noon (sung).
Each year, in May around his Feast Day, the people of Ramsgate host a St Augustine Week of Catholic History and Culture, centered around his Feast Day of May 27. They try to include school half term holidays, and weekends, as part of the week, so in some years it starts with the feast rather than leading up to it.
Traveling to the Shrine of St. Augustine in Ramsgate:
Address: St Augustine’s Road, Ramsgate, CT11 9PA
GPS coordinates: 51° 19′ 43.9356” N, 1° 24′ 39.5244” E
Tel: +44 01843 592 071
Click here for the official website of the Saint Augustine Shrine Ramsgate (be sure to watcvh the excellent videos that they have on their website.