St Augustine's Abbey was a Benedictine abbey in Canterbury, Kent, England. In 597 Saint Augustine arrived in England, having been sent by Pope Gregory I, on what might nowadays be called a revival mission. The King of Kent at this time was Æthelberht, who happened to be married to a Christian, Bertha. Whether or not his spouse influenced him, he allowed Augustine to found a monastery just outside the walls of Canterbury to the east of the city.
King Æthelberht ordered the church to be erected of "becoming splendour, dedicated to the blessed apostles Peter and Paul, and endowed it with a variety of gifts" William Thorne, the late fourteenth-century chronicler of the Abbey, records 598 as the year of the foundation. Already standing on the site were three Saxon churches, dedicated respectively to Saints Pancras, Peter and Paul, and finally Mary. The Saxon-phase remains of the church of Saint Pancras are still extant, however, the other two churches were rebuilt by the Normans into one building. One of the main purposes of the abbey right from the outset was as a burial place for the Kings of Kent and the Archbishops of Canterbury.
This palace was leased to a succession of nobles, and in the early 17th century was in the possession of Edward Lord Wotton, who employed John Tradescant the elder, to lay out formal gardens around it. This palace is thought to have survived until a great storm in 1703, which certainly caused great damage to the already ruinous structure of the abbey. Now a World Heritage Site, the ruins of this important monastic foundation built by Saint Augustine are in the care of English Heritage. Today the ruin precincts cover a substantial area east of the cathedral, and in fact, in its heyday the abbey's church rivalled nearby Canterbury Cathedral in size.
In 1535 Henry VIII dissolved all monasteries found to have an annual income less than £100. It survived this first round of closures as its income was found to be £1733, but on 30 July 1538 the abbey's fate was sealed when it fell to the dissolution of Henry VIII. The abbey was systematically dismantled over the next fifteen years, although part of the site was converted to a palace, ready for the arrival of Anne of Cleves from Germany.