Church officially deemed a shrine
THE church of St Augustine in Ramsgate has been designated as a shrine to St Augustine.
Archbishop Peter Smith of Southwark has formally established AWN Pugin's church as a place of pilgrimage.
The announcement fills a 500-year gap created when the last shrine of Augustine was destroyed in the 16th century.
St Augustine's is a Catholic church already dedicated to the saint. It stands closer than any other to the place of Augustine's landing at Ebbsfleet, his first preaching and his encounter with King Ethelbert of Kent in 597AD.
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The official day on which the foundation of the shrine will be remembered is March 1, Pugin's birthday, linking the erection of the shrine with the church's founder who is buried inside.
The Friends of St Augustine's church welcomed the designation.
A spokesman said: "The cult of St Augustine is fully in tune with the heart and mind of Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin. He states in his letters that he selected the Ramsgate site because 'blessed Austin landed nearby' and he personally chose the dedication name and wanted the church to be a memorial to the founding identity of Christian England and its early saints."
St Augustine's has already functioned as a quasi-shrine.
In 1997 thousands descended upon the St Augustine's site to celebrate the 1500th anniversary of the Augustine landing.
In 2000 St Augustine's was a 'Jubilee Shrine'.
The church is adorned with images of St Augustine in stone and stained glass including Hardman Powell windows above Pugin's tomb relating the story of Augustine's mission and especially the moment of setting foot on a land in Thanet.
Fr Marcus Holden, the parish priest of St Augustine's, said: "This is amazing news for us. Pugin's church is secured by this added living identity which also fulfils many of his own dreams in honouring the English saints and St Augustine in particular. There was need here not only to rescue the church as a great work of art but also to find a fitting spiritual significance for the future of the site."
The church is presently being restored and brought back to its former glory and major celebrations are planned this year surrounding the feast day of St Augustine.