Saints and Stones: St. Augustine's Cross

At the end of the 6th Century, Pope Gregory the Great sent St. Augustine and 40 Benedictine monks to England to re-establish the Catholic faith. Christianity in Southern England had for the most part disappeared after the end of Roman occupation nearly 200 years earlier.

St. Augustine and the monks landed at Ebbsfleet on the Isle of Thanet in 597 A.D. The cross at Cliffsend was erected in 1884 to commemorate the site where St. Augustine was said to have celebrated his first mass in the presence of the Saxon King Ethelbert. Later that year, St. Augustine was enthroned as the first Archbishop of Canterbury.

The cross was commissioned in 1884 by Granville George Leveson- Gower, second Earl Granville, at the time Minister for Foreign Affairs and Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports. He was inspired to erect it after hearing the story of a massive oak tree felled within living memory and known as the Augustine Oak, one of a group of trees fringing a field which he owned. According to local legend, under this oak in 597 A.D., the first meeting was held between King Ethelbert and the monk Augustine, newly arrived from Rome.

Lord Granville chose to commemorate the meeting between Augustine and Ethelbert with a stone cross in the early Christian style, and as a model he selected an 8th-9th Century cross. The erected cross carries carvings illustrating the Christian story on its west side: the Annunciation, the Virgin and Child, the Crucifixion, and the Transfiguration. On the north side are the 12 apostles, and on the south side 14 early Christian martyrs. The east side has runic ornamentation which continues nearly halfway down the shaft, the design then breaking into panels showing St. Alban, St. Augustine, and King Ethelbert.

About St. Augustine's Cross

English Heritage: St. Augustine's Cross
Wikipedia: Augustine of Canterbury
New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia: St. Augustine of Canterbury

Journey to St. Augustine's Cross

St. Augustine's Cross is located near the Thanet area village of Cliffsend, approximately 15 miles from Canterbury in Kent in Southeast England.

Ordnance Survey Map (TR3445864310)

Visitors Information

Visitors information for St. Augustine's Cross may be found at the English Heritage website. For general tourism information on the Thanet area, visit the Visit Thanet website. General tourism information for Kent, visit the Visit Kent website.

Additional Photos of St. Augustine's Cross

Approaching St. Augustine's Cross
Descriptive Sign at St. Augustine's Cross
Plaque in Latin Installed at 1884 Erection of St. Augustine's Cross
Plaque in English Installed at 1884 Erection of St. Augustine's Cross
East Side of St. Augustine's Cross
Close-Up of East Side of St. Augustine's Cross
Top of West Side of St. Augustine's Cross
Bottom of West Side of St. Augustine's Cross
South Side of of St. Augustine's Cross
West Side of St. Augustine's Cross

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