On Tuesday, March 15 a group of parishioners from St Anthony of Padua, Rye with their priest Fr Matthew Chadwick, travelled to Aylesford Priory for a day of Lenten reflection and prayer. Also known as “The Friars”, Aylesford Priory in Kent is one of the ancient houses of the Carmelite Order, and has been a major place of pilgrimage for many centuries.
Situated on the traditional Pilgrims Way, (Winchester to Canterbury – 153 miles) pilgrims have been visiting Aylesford since 1172. An alternative Pilgrims Way route as followed by Chaucer’s pilgrims in the Canterbury Tales is the Becket Way from Southwark to Canterbury which is 90 miles and can be walked in 11 days.
St Anthony’s parish, stalwart pilgrims at heart, travelled by car via the M20.
The Carmelites first arrived in Aylesford in 1242 from Mount Carmel in the Holy Land, remaining there until 1538 and the dissolution of the monasteries. They returned to their ancient home in 1949.
The Friars is a beautiful place to visit where all are welcome. There are many restored medieval buildings to visit and in keeping with its tradition there are displays of inspired creative endeavours and the work of artists such as Adam Kissowski and Philip Lindsey Clark. There is a shop, bookshop and café and a pottery also operates on the site.
On arrival, we were warmly greeted by the abbot who celebrated mass for us. Lunch in the pilgrims hall was very good indeed. After lunch we were given a fascinating tour of the priory. We were able to see some of the Tudor buildings that are still in use today, the Priors Hall and the Pilgrimage Hall.
With the landscape gardens and a sunny day and pond full of geese and ducks it made for a welcome peaceful time enjoyed by all. There is no doubting the warmth of the welcome that we experienced at The Friars. We modern pilgrims were made to feel at home in the same way as pilgrims were many centuries ago.
Image Credits: Mags Ivatts .