Hastings, 3 July 2009
We got a somewhat early start today and drove up to Canterbury. Our first stop was St. Augustine's Abbey. Or rather, the ruins thereof. The original monastery dates back to the 7th century (when St. Augustine of Canterbury founded it) but very little is left besides the tombs of several of the archbishops and a few Saxon kings. The Normans built a larger church there, and improvements were made until Henry VIII dissolved that one too, built a palace with some of the stone and carted off much of the rest. Seems to be a common theme. Like so many other places, I wonder what it must have been like back in its prime.
After seeing the vestiges of what once was, we went to Canterbury Cathedral. For a cathedral it's a bit small, but still very richly decorated. There is a small shrine set up to commemorate where Thomas Becket was martyred, and a lit candle at the place where the shrine used to be - back when Canterbury was a famous place of pilgrimage and before Henry VIII destroyed the shrine (and Becket's bones). The marble floor has worn down in places from the many people that have visited over time, including a noticeable groove in the floor near Becket's old shrine.
In the undercroft were several small chapels, including one with the remnants of medieval frescoes (St. Gabriel's chapel, I think).
After a takeaway lunch, we drove to Dover. We stopped and walked along the White Cliffs for a short while, and looked out over the harbor (and a busy harbor it is!) We then went to Dover Castle. Unfortunately the keep itself was closed, and since we weren't much interested in WWII uses of Dover, we just looked around the outside, then left.
DD had really been looking forward to Dover, and when we discovered two other castles in the area, she cheered up. The first was Walmer Castle, which was a Tudor fortress that had been heavily renovated over the years, so much so that we didn't stay long.
The other was Deal Castle. This was also Tudor, and it turns out that it was one of three castles (with Walmer and one other) built by Henry VIII to defend the coast after he ticked off Charles V (who was Henry's first wife's nephew). This castle was mostly as originally designed, and was purely defensive with artillery in mind. It was quite impressive, though, with the engineering and strategy involved. I enjoyed Deal more than I thought I might, though I do have to wonder how much of the stone was pilfered from monasteries.
We took the scenic route back to Hastings, and I think we saw all of the original Cinque Ports except Sandwich.
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