The oldest and smallest of all the suffragan sees of Canterbury, was founded by St. Augustine, Apostle of England, who in 604 consecrated St. Justus as its first bishop. It consisted roughly of the western part of Kent, separated from the rest of the county by the Medway, though the diocesan boundaries did not follow the river very closely. The cathedral, founded by King Ethelbert and dedicated to St. Andrew from whose monastery at Rome St. Augustine and St. Justus had come, was served by a college of secular priests and endowed with land near the city called Priestfield. It suffered much from the Mercians (676) and the Danes, but the city retained its importance, and after the Norman Conquest a new cathedral was begun by the Norman bishop Gundulf. This energetic prelate replaced the secular chaplains by Benedictine monks, translated the relics of St. Paulinus to a silver shrine which became a place of pilgrimage, obtained several royal grants of land, and proved an untiring benefactor to his cathedral city. Gundulf had built the nave and western front before his death; the western transept was added between 1179 and 1200, and the eastern transept during the reign of Henry III. The cathedral is small, being only 306 feet long, but its nave is the oldest in England and it has a fine Norman crypt. Besides the shrine of St. Paulinus, the cathedral contained the relics of St. Ithamar, the first Saxon to be consecrated to the episcopate, and St. William of Perth, who was held in popular veneration. In 1130 the cathedral was consecrated by the Archbishop of Canterbury assisted by thirteen bishops in the presence of Henry I, but the occasion was marred by a great fire which nearly destroyed the whole city and damaged the new cathedral. After the burial of St. William of Perth in 1201 the offerings at his tomb were so great, that by their means the choir was rebuilt and the central tower was added (1343), thus completing the cathedral. From the foundation of the see the arthbishops of Canterbury had enjoyed the privilege of nominating the bishop, but Archbishop Theobald transferred the right to the Benedictine monks of the cathedral who exercised it for the first time in 1148.
The canonical line was restored by the appointment in 1554 of Maurice Griffith, the last Catholic bishop of Rochester, who died in 1558. The diocese was so small, consisting merely of part of Kent, that it needed only one archdeacon (Rochester) to supervise the 97 parishes. It was also the poorest diocese in England. The cathedral was dedicated to St. Andrew the Apostle. The arms of the see were argent, on a saltire gules an Escalop shell, or .
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