THE METROPOLITICAL CHURCH OF CHRIST, CANTERBURY
Augustine’s plan for Canterbury developed around the foundation of two monastic communities. Crucially, Aethelberht’s active and material support was given to both these projects – an urban basilica for the bishop, and a dynastic mausoleum for the king. As a monastery chapel would be built first before accommodation and other buildings Augustine’s companions remained at St Martin’s for possibly three or four years until the basilica and its priory were completed.
At this stage the single community would have divided with Augustine, some of his monks and the Frankish clergy moving from St Martin’s to occupy Christ Church Priory.
Christ Church Cathedral and Priory, situated within the city walls, became the centre of an active apostolate through the ministry of the secular Frankish priests who arrived with Augustine, so that Anglo-Saxons first heard the preaching of the Gospel through priests of the Frankish Church. (Gem: St Augustine’s Abbey, 20) The Cathedral was dedicated in June 602 or 603; its name is taken from the entablature of the façade of the Lateran Basilica in Rome: Christo Salvatori, Christ the Saviour.
Like the Lateran Basilica Christ Church was not founded on an apostolic memory: there was no earlier church beneath its foundations, nor any tomb of a Christian apostle or martyr over which to build.
Bede records that Augustine, with the support of the king, restored an ancient church originally built by Roman believers for his cathedral and dedicated it to the name of the holy Saviour as Christ Church after the basilica in Rome. This is also repeated in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles; however excavations have provided no archaeological evidence of an earlier church beneath Augustine’s cathedral.
Augustine ‘established there a dwelling’, the archbishop’s palace, for himself and all his successors on the north side of the cathedral. (Bede: Ecclesiastical History, I.33) Presumably this is what Bede referred to when he wrote that after the king’s baptism, ‘it was not long before he granted his teachers a place to settle in, suitable to their rank, in Canterbury, his chief city, and gave them possessions of various kinds for their needs.’ (Bede: Ecclesiastical History, I.26)
Christ Church Priory
The consecration of the Cathedral of Christ was matched by the foundation of a priory community that was dedicated to worship, preaching and holiness of life, as the Latin Foundation Prayer of the Canterbury Cathedral Foundation declares. The prayer is still offered at the institution of all cathedral canons:
“Deus, qui nobili nos consortio dignatus es adunare, deprecamur te pro fratribus nostris et sacrosancta ecclesia Cantuariensi, ut in aede beatissimi Salvatoris devotionis decor, fidei praedicatio, morum perfectio, semper abundent, et inde in omnem partem deriventur, per Jesum Christum Dominum nostrum. Amen.”
[Eternal God, you have brought us together into a noble company. We pray for one another and for the holy Church of Canterbury; that in this house of our most blessed Saviour, dignity of worship, preaching the faith and holiness of life may for ever abound and thence spread through all the world, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.]
By AD 603, Augustine would have held the key leadership and spiritual roles of Bishop of the metropolitan See of Canterbury, which included the community at St Martin’s, Prior of the cathedral Priory, and with the consecration of Justus as bishop of Rochester and Mellitus of London in 604, also the role of Archbishop of all three Sees in the south of England. The priest Laurentius, who succeeded Augustine in Canterbury, Augsutine consecrated shortly before his death, which was most probably in AD 604.
CATHEDRAL OFFICIAL WEBSITE http://www.canterbury-cathedral.org/history/building.aspx
CANTERBURY CATHEDRAL http://www.hillside.co.uk/arch/cathedral/nave.html
SACRED DESTINATIONS http://www.sacred-destinations.com/england/canterbury-cathedral