Rochester Cathedral - 'Boy Meets Girl'

Æthelberht met Bertha.

King Æthelberht of Kent married Princess Bertha, a Frank and a Christian who brought with her her own Bishop Liudhard.

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In 595AD Pope Gregory The First sent Augustine to Kent. Æthelberht allowed him to preach in Canterbury and in 597 became a Christian himself. Under his influence Christian conversions continued and in 604 Augustine made his friend Justus a Bishop in the new seat of Rochester. Rochester is thus the second oldest bishopric in Britain.

The present Rochester Cathedral dates back to 1080 and a French Monk called Bishop Gundulf. His talent for architecture was renowned. He built the White Tower at the Tower of London and parts of the castle at Rochester. He served three kings successfully and became known as 'The King's Engineer'. There is still a close association with the Royal Engineers at the cathedral.

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Gundulf also set up the original St. Bartholomew's Hospital, in Rochester, in 1078 for the care of the poor and lepers. The hospital only closed permanently on 23 September 2016.

Under the Roman system, a bishop was required to establish a school for the training of priests. To provide the upper parts for music in the services a choir school was required. This led to cathedral choir schools. Music is very important and lively at Rochester. There are three choirs at the cathedral and they have a very impressive list of CDs to their name. One, 'The Rochester Mass', with the James Taylor Quartet, is unique. Recorded in just one day it is the first time that Funk music and a religious mass have been fused!

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The Cathedral library contained the Textus Roffensis, the only existing copy of the first code of English law written in Rochester during the early 1120s. It has been described as one of the most important documents in English history and influenced the wording of Magna Carta of 1215. It is currently available online at Manchester University Library.

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To me, there were two other sources of fascination near to the Cathedral. (1) The Huguenot Museum which is the first and only museum of Huguenot history in Britain. It tells an important story of Britain's first refugees, the crafts, trades, and skills they brought with them and the impact their contribution has had on the development of our country. (2)The French Hospital set up in 1718 exists for the care of Huguenots almost 100,000 of whom had migrated to England by the early 1700s. Its principles and care prevail to this day.

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Bertha, having met her man, certainly made an impact upon our history.

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