Minster Abbey is at the heart of the village of Minster. It was at Ebbsfleet, a few miles from Minster that St. Augustine, sent by Pope Gregory the Great, landed in 597 to begin his mission to the Anglo-Saxon people. Within a few years of his arrival on the shores of Thanet, Christianity had spread throughout southern England, and monastic life began to flourish. Minster Abbey was one of the earliest monastic foundations.
Minster was a royal foundation; its foundress and first abbess was Ermenburga or Domneva, a great-granddaughter of King Ethelbert of Kent. Two of her younger brothers had been murdered as a result of a political dispute at the court of their cousin Egbert, King of Kent. Instead of claiming the customary blood money or ‘wergild’ for the murder of her brothers, Domneva asked the repentant King for land on which she could build a house of prayer.
The name Minster is derived from the first “mynster” or monasterium/ monastery built on the site of the Parish Church of St. Mary the Virgin by Domneva in 670 AD. Her daughter Mildred became the second Abbess. She was one of the best loved Anglo-Saxon Saints and patron of Thanet. Edburga was the third Abbess of Minster. During her time a monastic church, dedicated to Saints Peter and Paul, was built on the present site of the Abbey. The monastery was repeatedly attacked and eventually destroyed during Viking raids of the 9th and 10th Centuries. Excavations in the late 1930’s uncovered the foundations of these buildings.
The history of the foundation of Minster Abbey is well documented in the old chronicles, and supported by several charters of the Kings of Kent.
In 1027 the property was given to the Abbey of St Augustine Abbey in Canterbury and the monastery was rebuilt. Its oldest section, the Saxon Wing, with a small chapel is still in use by the present community.
The monks soon resumed the life of prayer, and rebuilt the monastery church as well as the parish church, which became known as the Cathedral of the marshes. For many years, the monk of Minster Abbey served as priests in parishes of Thanet. Together with their tenants they farmed the land; the grain collected as tithes was collected in the great twelfth century barn at Minster. An East grange was built to accommodate guests and those on pilgrimage to the shrine of St. Thomas of Canterbury.
The south wing of the Abbey was added within a 100 years of the Norman Conquest in 1066. “The Norman Wing” also remains standing and Minster Abbey is thus considered to be possibly the oldest inhabited house in the country. The Abbey was home to the monks for over 500 years. At the time of the reformation when the monks were forced to leave, it passed into private hands.
In 1937, the Benedictine community of St. Walburga in Bavaria re-established Monastic Life at Minster Abbey. Once again, the Abbey became a place of prayer and dedication to God.
“A monastery is a place where a person discovers how to love God with their whole being. It is a place where ones heart is gradually being transformed into the likeness of God. This is the simple goal of the monastic life. “
As part of their work of hospitality the sisters welcome the public to view the ancient monastic buildings and beautiful gardens. In these guided tours visitors are given an explanation of the historic background to this ancient site.
Those who come to the abbey for historic tours of the ancient buildings find it interesting to see that it is the home to an actual living community.
Monday to Friday from 2.45 p.m. until 4.00 p.m.,
(1st May to 30th September only)
Saturday mornings from 11.00 a.m. until 12.00 noon (Throughout the year)
Tours can also be arranged by appointment, by ringing Sr. Benedict on 01843 821254
Residential Hospitality and Day Groups
As in the days of St. Mildred, hospitality is an important aspect of the monastic life and a way of sharing the riches of the Benedictine heritage. The sisters have a Guest House which is situated in the grounds of the ancient monastery. Residential groups are accommodated in the Guest House. Recently the Bethany wing was opened. The sisters were able to provide this added space for hospitality through the generosity and help of many friends, especially from the local village community. The Bethany wing has a large spacious meeting room, overlooking a private garden, and has full access for people with disabilities.
In addition to residential groups, the community are also able to welcome day groups to Parkminster. The newly renovated North Grange can accommodate up to 100 day visitors. The beautiful grounds provide a quiet space for reflection and prayer for groups and individuals who are in need spiritual refreshment and those who come seeking sanctuary from demanding and stressful lives. The property is also used as a regular meeting place for various local groups. For information about booking our various facilities please write to Minster Abbey.
The Guest Sister, Minster Abbey, Minster, Nr. Ramsgate, Kent CT12 4HF
Since the time of St. Benedict in the 5th century, prayer has always been the centre of Benedictine monastic life. The sisters welcome guests, local visitors and the local community to join the prayer services that take place seven times throughout the day. Not only Christians but people of every faith and spiritual tradition all who truly seek God, are welcome to join the sisters in prayer.
Minster Abbey attracts thousands of visitors each year. Although it is an ancient monument, it is also the home of a living community. Some people come mainly to view the ancient monument, from an educational, historical or even archaeological perspective. Others come to find peace and to pray in the chapel, or to share in the peace of a holy place, where the praises of God have been sung for so many centuries.