Canterbury’s Franciscan gardens reopen

A 15th-century doorway to the garden.

Geoffrey Chaucer supposedly started on his pilgrimage on 18 April in 1387.

On the walk into Canterbury from the West Gate to the cathedral you pass his statue.

Opposite is Eastbridge Hospital for pilgrims whose first master was Becket’s nephew Ralph. Today his successor is a Franciscan.

Next to the Hospital, and opposite the Weavers’ House, is an easily missed shop. This is the access to the little-known Franciscan Gardens which have reopened this Easter.

The first Franciscans, or Greyfriars, arrived in Canterbury in 1224, just four years after the Translation of St Thomas to his new shrine in the cathedral and fifteen years after the order had been established by St Francis.

In the centre of the garden and straddling the river is the Greyfriars Chapel built in 1267. It was probably at first another pilgrim dormitory. Today there are second hand books on sale on the ground floor below the chapel.

Upstairs the Anglican Eucharist is celebrated every Wednesday at 11am as the water flows under the little building.

On its south side there is wildflower meadow and on the north, where the chancel of the community’s church stood until 1544, is a ‘symbolic love garden’.

The £6 admission charge is part of fundraising to complete urgent conservation work.

However, during National Lottery Open Week, Monday 21 to Sunday 27 March 2022, entry is free entry to visitors who show a National Lottery ticket or scratchcard at the entrance.

Anglican Franciscans are now in residence and it is hoped that the garden will have further matured for the 800th anniversary of the arrival of the first Franciscans in two years’ time.

Pointed arches supporting the chapel.
Chapel above the river.

The cathedral’s towers seen from the meadow.
The Victorian vinery is awaiting repair when funds allow.
The rarely seen back of Eastbridge Hospital which, like the chapel, spans the river.
Autumn flowers include the Corn Poppy.

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