Issue Date: 07/11/2017
Issue Name: Christmas 2017 Stamps Cover
Producer: Buckingham Covers
This lovely Christmas 2017 stamps cover features Royal Mail's Madonna and Child new issue stamps. Our cover features St Martins Church in Canterbury, Kent, the first chuch founded in England, the oldest parish church in continous use and the oldest church in the entire English speaking world, and has our Canterbury postmark (7th November, 2017).
The Church of St Martin in Canterbury, England, situated slightly beyond the city centre, is the first church founded in England, the oldest parish church in continuous use and the oldest church in the entire English-speaking world.
The oldest part of St Martin’s church was built during the Roman occupation of Britain. It is uncertain whether at first the building was a church, a mausoleum, or something else.
Bertha was a Christian princess from Tours, in France. About AD 580 she married Ethelbert of Kent, who was a pagan Anglo-Saxon. Ethelbert restored St Martin’s for her, and she prayed here regularly. Ethelbert became king of Kent and ‘over-king’ of all the kingdoms northwards to the River Humber (200 miles to the north).
Augustine was a Benedictine monk in Rome. He arrived here in AD 597 with 40 companions, including Roman monks and Frankish interpreters, to preach. St Martin’s was Augustine’s first base for his mission. “Here they first began to assemble, to sing the psalms, to pray, to celebrate mass, to preach and to baptize, until the king was converted to the faith and gave them greater freedom to preach and to build and restore churches everywhere.” (Bede’s Ecclesiastical History, AD 731).
Needing more space, they extended St Martin’s to nearly its present size, using Roman building methods and reusing some Roman bricks. The largest part of the building (the nave) was the first Anglo Saxon structure made of mortared brick and stone instead of wood. Ethelbert soon granted Augustine more land in Canterbury, where he founded St Augustine’s Abbey and Canterbury Cathedral. Augustine became the first Archbishop of Canterbury. He died in AD 604 and was buried in the abbey.
The east end of St Martin’s church was extended in the 12-13th centuries and substantially altered in the 19th century. The church tower was added in the 14th century. It has three bells, the largest of which was made in 1393.
St Martin’s remains in use for Christian worship, prayer and mission, as it has done ever since Augustine arrived in the 6th century.
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The Very Revd Dr Robert Willis is the Dean of Canterbury Cathedral.