Archaeology has shown a Bronze Age settlement at Minster-in-Thanet. The area became part of the Roman Empire under the emperor Claudius which four centuries later was ceded to the Saxons around 450AD.
In 597 Augustine of Canterbury is said, by the Venerable Bede, to have landed with 40 men at nearby Ebbsfleet, in the parish of Minster-in-Thanet, before founding a monastery in Canterbury; a cross marks the spot of his landing.
Minster itself originally started as a monastic settlement in 670 AD. The buildings are still used as nunneries today. The first abbey in the village was founded by St Domneva, a widowed noblewoman, whose daughter St Mildred, is taken as the first abbess. The tradition is that Domneva was granted as much land as a hind could run over in a day, the hind remains the village emblem, see also Thanet. The abbey was extinguished by Viking raiding. The next abbess after St Mildred was St Edburga daughter of King Centwine of the West Saxons.
The third known abbess was Sigeburh, who was active around 762 AD and is known from the Secgan hagiography and from Royal charters. In 761AD Offa, king of the Mercians, granted Sigeburh a toll-exemption which king Æthelbald had previously granted to Abbess Mildrith. Again in about 763 AD Eadberht II, king of Kent, granted the remission of toll on two ships at Sarre and on a third at Fordwich. It has been stated that in gaining these privileges, she may have been taking advantage of Æthelbald's political weakness.
Vikings attacked the surrounding area in 850 AD.
The parish church of St Mary-the-Virgin is largely Norman but with significant traces of earlier work, the problems of which are unresolved. The nave is impressive with five bays, and the crossing has an ancient chalk block vaulting. The chancel is Early English with later flying buttresses intended to halt the very obvious spread of the upper walls. There is a fine set of misericords reliably dated around 1400. The tower has a curious turret at its southeast corner that is locally referred to as a Saxon watch tower but is built at least partly from Caen stone; it may be that it dates from the time of the conquest but is built in an antique style sometimes called Saxo-Norman. A doorway in the turret opens out some two metres above the present roof line.
The church was used by both the brethren of the second abbey, a dependency of St Augustine's Abbey in Canterbury, and as a parish church. Socket holes in the piers of the crossing suggest that, as well as a rood screen, there was a further screen dividing nave and crossing, such as still exists at Dunster in Somerset. This abbey surrendered during the dissolution in 1534.