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It lies on the River Stour. The Archbishop of Canterbury is the primate of the Church of England and the worldwide Anglican Communion owing to the importance of St Augustine , who served as the apostle to the pagan Kingdom of Kent around the turn of the 7th century. The city's cathedral became a major focus of pilgrimage following the martyrdom of Thomas Becket , although it had already been a well-trodden pilgrim destination since the murder of St Alphege by the men of King Canute in A journey of pilgrims to Becket's shrine served as the frame for Geoffrey Chaucer 's 14th century classic The Canterbury Tales.
Canterbury is a popular tourist destination: consistently one of the most-visited cities in the United Kingdom ,  the city's economy is heavily reliant upon tourism. The city has been occupied since Paleolithic times and served as the capital of the Celtic Cantiaci and Jute Kingdom of Kent. Many historical structures fill the area, including a city wall founded in Roman times and rebuilt in the 14th century, the ruins of St Augustine's Abbey and a Norman castle , and the oldest extant school in the world , the King's School.
The Canterbury area has been inhabited since prehistoric times. Lower Paleolithic axes, and Neolithic and Bronze Age pots have been found in the area. Despite being counted as one of the 28 cities of Sub-Roman Britain ,   it seems that after the Romans left Britain in Durovernum Cantiacorum was abandoned for around years, except by a few farmers and gradually decayed. After the conversion, Canterbury, being a Roman town, was chosen by Augustine as the centre for his episcopal see in Kent, and an abbey and cathedral were built.
Augustine thus became the first Archbishop of Canterbury. By , gold coins were being struck at the Canterbury mint. In and , Canterbury suffered great loss of life during Danish raids. In the early 12th century, the castle was rebuilt with stone. After the murder of the Archbishop Thomas Becket at the cathedral in , Canterbury became one of the most notable towns in Europe, as pilgrims from all parts of Christendom came to visit his shrine.
The Black Death hit Canterbury in At 10,, Canterbury had the 10th largest population in England; by the early 16th century, the population had fallen to 3, In , during the Hundred Years' War , a Commission of Inquiry found that disrepair, stone-robbing and ditch-filling had led to the Roman wall becoming eroded.