Augustine of Canterbury
Overview
 
Augustine of Canterbury (circa
Circa
Circa , usually abbreviated c. or ca. , means "approximately" in the English language, usually referring to a date...

first third of the 6th century – probably 26 May 604) was a Benedictine
Benedictine
Benedictine refers to the spirituality and consecrated life in accordance with the Rule of St Benedict, written by Benedict of Nursia in the sixth century for the cenobitic communities he founded in central Italy. The most notable of these is Monte Cassino, the first monastery founded by Benedict...

 monk
Monk
A monk is a person who practices religious asceticism, living either alone or with any number of monks, while always maintaining some degree of physical separation from those not sharing the same purpose...

 who became the first Archbishop of Canterbury
Archbishop of Canterbury
The Archbishop of Canterbury is the senior bishop and principal leader of the Church of England, the symbolic head of the worldwide Anglican Communion, and the diocesan bishop of the Diocese of Canterbury. In his role as head of the Anglican Communion, the archbishop leads the third largest group...

 in the year 597. He is considered the "Apostle to the English" and a founder of the English Church.

Augustine was the prior
Prior
Prior is an ecclesiastical title, derived from the Latin adjective for 'earlier, first', with several notable uses.-Monastic superiors:A Prior is a monastic superior, usually lower in rank than an Abbot. In the Rule of St...

 of a monastery in Rome when Pope Gregory the Great
Pope Gregory I
Pope Gregory I , better known in English as Gregory the Great, was pope from 3 September 590 until his death...

 chose him in 595 to lead a mission, usually known as the Gregorian mission
Gregorian mission
The Gregorian mission, sometimes known as the Augustinian mission, was the missionary endeavour sent by Pope Gregory the Great to the Anglo-Saxons in 596 AD. Headed by Augustine of Canterbury, its goal was to convert the Anglo-Saxons to Christianity. By the death of the last missionary in 653, they...

, to Britain to Christianize
Christianization
The historical phenomenon of Christianization is the conversion of individuals to Christianity or the conversion of entire peoples at once...

 the King Æthelberht of the Kingdom of Kent
Kingdom of Kent
The Kingdom of Kent was a Jutish colony and later independent kingdom in what is now south east England. It was founded at an unknown date in the 5th century by Jutes, members of a Germanic people from continental Europe, some of whom settled in Britain after the withdrawal of the Romans...

 from his native Anglo-Saxon paganism.
Encyclopedia
Augustine of Canterbury (circa
Circa
Circa , usually abbreviated c. or ca. , means "approximately" in the English language, usually referring to a date...

first third of the 6th century – probably 26 May 604) was a Benedictine
Benedictine
Benedictine refers to the spirituality and consecrated life in accordance with the Rule of St Benedict, written by Benedict of Nursia in the sixth century for the cenobitic communities he founded in central Italy. The most notable of these is Monte Cassino, the first monastery founded by Benedict...

 monk
Monk
A monk is a person who practices religious asceticism, living either alone or with any number of monks, while always maintaining some degree of physical separation from those not sharing the same purpose...

 who became the first Archbishop of Canterbury
Archbishop of Canterbury
The Archbishop of Canterbury is the senior bishop and principal leader of the Church of England, the symbolic head of the worldwide Anglican Communion, and the diocesan bishop of the Diocese of Canterbury. In his role as head of the Anglican Communion, the archbishop leads the third largest group...

 in the year 597. He is considered the "Apostle to the English" and a founder of the English Church.

Augustine was the prior
Prior
Prior is an ecclesiastical title, derived from the Latin adjective for 'earlier, first', with several notable uses.-Monastic superiors:A Prior is a monastic superior, usually lower in rank than an Abbot. In the Rule of St...

 of a monastery in Rome when Pope Gregory the Great
Pope Gregory I
Pope Gregory I , better known in English as Gregory the Great, was pope from 3 September 590 until his death...

 chose him in 595 to lead a mission, usually known as the Gregorian mission
Gregorian mission
The Gregorian mission, sometimes known as the Augustinian mission, was the missionary endeavour sent by Pope Gregory the Great to the Anglo-Saxons in 596 AD. Headed by Augustine of Canterbury, its goal was to convert the Anglo-Saxons to Christianity. By the death of the last missionary in 653, they...

, to Britain to Christianize
Christianization
The historical phenomenon of Christianization is the conversion of individuals to Christianity or the conversion of entire peoples at once...

 the King Æthelberht of the Kingdom of Kent
Kingdom of Kent
The Kingdom of Kent was a Jutish colony and later independent kingdom in what is now south east England. It was founded at an unknown date in the 5th century by Jutes, members of a Germanic people from continental Europe, some of whom settled in Britain after the withdrawal of the Romans...

 from his native Anglo-Saxon paganism. In a letter to the patriarch of Alexandria detailing early successes of the mission, Gregory wrote of having sent Augustine and his companions "to the ends of the earth". Kent was probably chosen because it was near the Christian kingdoms in Gaul
Gaul
Gaul was a region of Western Europe during the Iron Age and Roman era, encompassing present day France, Luxembourg and Belgium, most of Switzerland, the western part of Northern Italy, as well as the parts of the Netherlands and Germany on the left bank of the Rhine. The Gauls were the speakers of...

 and because Æthelberht had married a Christian princess, Bertha
Bertha of Kent
Saint Bertha was the Queen of Kent whose influence led to the introduction of Christianity to Anglo-Saxon England. She was canonized as a saint for her role in its establishment during that period of English history.Bertha was the daughter of Charibert I, Merovingian King of Paris...

, daughter of Charibert I
Charibert I
Charibert I was the Merovingian King of Paris, the second-eldest son of Chlothar I and Ingund. His elder brother was Gunthar, who died sometime before their father's death....

 the King of Paris who was expected to exert some influence over her husband. Before reaching Kent the missionaries had considered turning back but Gregory urged them on and, in 597, Augustine landed on the Isle of Thanet
Isle of Thanet
The Isle of Thanet lies at the most easterly point of Kent, England. While in the past it was separated from the mainland by the nearly -wide River Wantsum, it is no longer an island ....

 and proceeded to Æthelberht's main town of Canterbury
Canterbury
Canterbury is a historic English cathedral city, which lies at the heart of the City of Canterbury, a district of Kent in South East England. It lies on the River Stour....

.

King Æthelberht converted to Christianity and allowed the missionaries to preach freely, giving them land to found a monastery outside the city walls. Augustine was consecrated bishop of the English and converted many of the king's subjects, including thousands during a mass baptism on Christmas Day
Christmas
Christmas or Christmas Day is an annual holiday generally celebrated on December 25 by billions of people around the world. It is a Christian feast that commemorates the birth of Jesus Christ, liturgically closing the Advent season and initiating the season of Christmastide, which lasts twelve days...

 in 597. Pope Gregory sent more missionaries in 601, along with encouraging letters and gifts for the churches, although attempts to persuade the native Celtic bishops to submit to Augustine's authority failed. Roman bishops were established at London and Rochester in 604, and a school was founded to train Anglo-Saxon
Anglo-Saxons
Anglo-Saxon is a term used by historians to designate the Germanic tribes who invaded and settled the south and east of Great Britain beginning in the early 5th century AD, and the period from their creation of the English nation to the Norman conquest. The Anglo-Saxon Era denotes the period of...

 priests and missionaries. Augustine also arranged the consecration of his successor, Laurence of Canterbury
Laurence of Canterbury
Laurence was the second Archbishop of Canterbury from about 604 to 619. He was a member of the Gregorian mission sent from Italy to England to Christianize the Anglo-Saxons from their native Anglo-Saxon paganism, although the date of his arrival is disputed...

. The archbishop probably died in 604 and was soon revered as a saint
Saint
A saint is a holy person. In various religions, saints are people who are believed to have exceptional holiness.In Christian usage, "saint" refers to any believer who is "in Christ", and in whom Christ dwells, whether in heaven or in earth...

.

Background to the mission

After the withdrawal of the Roman
Roman Empire
The Roman Empire was the post-Republican period of the ancient Roman civilization, characterised by an autocratic form of government and large territorial holdings in Europe and around the Mediterranean....

 legions
Roman legion
A Roman legion normally indicates the basic ancient Roman army unit recruited specifically from Roman citizens. The organization of legions varied greatly over time but they were typically composed of perhaps 5,000 soldiers, divided into maniples and later into "cohorts"...

 from the province of Britannia in 410, the natives of the province were left to defend themselves against the attacks of the Saxons. Before the withdrawal Britannia had been converted to Christianity and had even produced its own heretic in Pelagius
Pelagius
Pelagius was an ascetic who denied the need for divine aid in performing good works. For him, the only grace necessary was the declaration of the law; humans were not wounded by Adam's sin and were perfectly able to fulfill the law apart from any divine aid...

. Britain sent three bishops to the Council of Arles in 314, and a Gaulish bishop went to the island in 396 to help settle disciplinary matters. Material remains testify to a growing presence of Christians, at least until around 360. After the legions left, pagan tribes settled the southern parts of the island, but western Britain, beyond the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms, remained Christian. This native British Church
Celtic Christianity
Celtic Christianity or Insular Christianity refers broadly to certain features of Christianity that were common, or held to be common, across the Celtic-speaking world during the Early Middle Ages...

 developed in isolation from Rome under the influence of missionaries from Ireland and was centred on monasteries instead of bishoprics. Other distinguishing characteristics were its calculation of the date of Easter
Easter
Easter is the central feast in the Christian liturgical year. According to the Canonical gospels, Jesus rose from the dead on the third day after his crucifixion. His resurrection is celebrated on Easter Day or Easter Sunday...

 and the style of the tonsure
Tonsure
Tonsure is the traditional practice of Christian churches of cutting or shaving the hair from the scalp of clerics, monastics, and, in the Eastern Orthodox Church, all baptized members...

 haircut that clerics wore. Evidence for the survival of Christianity in the eastern part of Britain during this time includes the survival of the cult of Saint Alban
Saint Alban
Saint Alban was the first British Christian martyr. Along with his fellow saints Julius and Aaron, Alban is one of three martyrs remembered from Roman Britain. Alban is listed in the Church of England calendar for 22 June and he continues to be venerated in the Anglican, Catholic, and Orthodox...

 and the occurrence in place names of eccles, derived from the Latin ecclesia, meaning "church". There is no evidence that these native Christians tried to convert the Anglo-Saxons. The invasions destroyed most remnants of Roman civilization in the areas held by the Saxons and related tribes, including the economic and religious structures.

It was against this background that Pope Gregory I decided to send a mission, often called the Gregorian mission, to convert the Anglo-Saxons to Christianity in 595. The Kingdom of Kent was ruled by Æthelberht, who had married a Christian princess named Bertha before 588, and perhaps earlier than 560. Bertha was the daughter of Charibert I, one of the Merovingian kings of the Franks
Franks
The Franks were a confederation of Germanic tribes first attested in the third century AD as living north and east of the Lower Rhine River. From the third to fifth centuries some Franks raided Roman territory while other Franks joined the Roman troops in Gaul. Only the Salian Franks formed a...

. As one of the conditions of her marriage she had brought a bishop named Liudhard
Liudhard
Liudhard was a Frankish bishop – of where is unclear – and the chaplain of Queen Bertha of Kent, whom she brought with her from the continent upon her marriage to King Æthelberht of Kent...

 with her to Kent. Together in Canterbury, they restored a church that dated to Roman times—possibly the current St Martin's Church, Canterbury
St Martin's Church, Canterbury
The Church of St Martin in Canterbury, England, situated slightly beyond the city centre, is England's oldest parish church in continuous use. Since 1668 St Martin's has been part of the benefice of St Martin & St Paul Canterbury. Both St Martin's and nearby St Paul's churches are used for weekly...

. Æthelberht was a pagan at this point but allowed his wife freedom of worship. One biographer of Bertha states that under his wife's influence, Æthelberht asked Pope Gregory to send missionaries. The historian Ian Wood feels that the initiative came from the Kentish court as well as the queen. Other historians, however, believe that Gregory initiated the mission, although the exact reasons remain unclear. Bede
Bede
Bede , also referred to as Saint Bede or the Venerable Bede , was a monk at the Northumbrian monastery of Saint Peter at Monkwearmouth, today part of Sunderland, England, and of its companion monastery, Saint Paul's, in modern Jarrow , both in the Kingdom of Northumbria...

, an 8th-century monk who wrote a history of the English church, recorded a famous story in which Gregory saw fair-haired Saxon slaves from Britain in the Roman slave market and was inspired to try to convert their people. More practical matters, such as the acquisition of new provinces acknowledging the primacy of the papacy, and a desire to influence the emerging power of the Kentish kingdom under Æthelberht, were probably involved. The mission may have been an outgrowth of the missionary efforts against the Lombards
Lombards
The Lombards , also referred to as Longobards, were a Germanic tribe of Scandinavian origin, who from 568 to 774 ruled a Kingdom in Italy...

.

Aside from Æthelberht's granting of freedom of worship to his wife, the choice of Kent was probably dictated by a number of other factors. Kent was proving to be the dominant power in south-eastern Britain. Since the eclipse of King Ceawlin of Wessex
Ceawlin of Wessex
Ceawlin was a King of Wessex. He may have been the son of Cynric of Wessex and the grandson of Cerdic of Wessex, whom the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle represents as the leader of the first group of Saxons to come to the land which later became Wessex...

 in 592, Æthelberht was the leading Anglo-Saxon ruler; Bede refers to Æthelberht as having imperium
Imperium
Imperium is a Latin word which, in a broad sense, translates roughly as 'power to command'. In ancient Rome, different kinds of power or authority were distinguished by different terms. Imperium, referred to the sovereignty of the state over the individual...

 (overlordship) south of the River Humber
Humber
The Humber is a large tidal estuary on the east coast of Northern England. It is formed at Trent Falls, Faxfleet, by the confluence of the tidal River Ouse and the tidal River Trent. From here to the North Sea, it forms part of the boundary between the East Riding of Yorkshire on the north bank...

. Trade between the Franks and Æthelberht's kingdom was well established, and the language barrier
Language barrier
Language barrier is a figurative phrase used primarily to indicate the difficulties faced when people who have no language in common attempt to communicate with each other...

 between the two regions was apparently only a minor obstacle, as the interpreters for the mission came from the Franks. Lastly, Kent's proximity to the Franks allowed support from a Christian area. There is some evidence, including Gregory's letters to Frankish kings in support of the mission, that some of the Franks felt that they had a claim to overlordship over some of the southern British kingdoms at this time. The presence of a Frankish bishop could also have lent credence to claims of overlordship, if Liudhard was felt to be acting as a representative of the Frankish church and not merely as a spiritual advisor to the queen. Frankish influence was not merely political; archaeological remains attest to a cultural influence as well.

In 595, Gregory chose Augustine, who was the prior of the Abbey of St Andrew's in Rome, to head the mission to Kent. The pope selected monks to accompany Augustine and sought support from the Frankish royalty and clergy in a series of letters, of which some copies survive in Rome. He wrote to King Theuderic II
Theuderic II
Theuderic II , king of Burgundy and Austrasia , was the second son of Childebert II...

 of Burgundy and to King Theudebert II
Theudebert II
Theudebert II , King of Austrasia , was the son and heir of Childebert II. He received the kingdom of Austrasia plus the cities of Poitiers, Tours, Vellay, Bordeaux, and Châteaudun, as well as the Champagne, the Auvergne, and Transjurane Alemannia, on the death of his father in 595, but was...

 of Austrasia
Austrasia
Austrasia formed the northeastern portion of the Kingdom of the Merovingian Franks, comprising parts of the territory of present-day eastern France, western Germany, Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands. Metz served as its capital, although some Austrasian kings ruled from Rheims, Trier, and...

, as well as their grandmother Brunhild
Brunhilda of Austrasia
Brunhilda was a Visigothic princess, married to king Sigebert I of Austrasia who ruled the eastern kingdoms of Austrasia and Burgundy in the names of her sons and grandsons...

, seeking aid for the mission. Gregory thanked King Chlothar II of Neustria
Neustria
The territory of Neustria or Neustrasia, meaning "new [western] land", originated in 511, made up of the regions from Aquitaine to the English Channel, approximating most of the north of present-day France, with Paris and Soissons as its main cities...

 for aiding Augustine. Besides hospitality, the Frankish bishops and kings provided interpreters and Frankish priests to accompany the mission. By soliciting help from the Frankish kings and bishops, Gregory helped to assure a friendly reception for Augustine in Kent, as Æthelbert was unlikely to mistreat a mission who visibly had the support of his wife's relatives and people. Moreover, the Franks appreciated the chance to participate in mission that would extend their influence in Kent. Chlothar, in particular, needed a friendly realm across the Channel to help guard his kingdom's flanks against his fellow Frankish kings.

Sources make no mention of why Pope Gregory chose a monk to head the mission. Pope Gregory once wrote to Æthelberht complimenting Augustine's knowledge of the Bible
Bible
The Bible refers to any one of the collections of the primary religious texts of Judaism and Christianity. There is no common version of the Bible, as the individual books , their contents and their order vary among denominations...

, so Augustine was evidently well educated. Other qualifications included administrative ability, for Gregory was the abbot of St Andrews as well as being pope, which left the day-to-day running of the abbey to Augustine, the prior.

Arrival and first efforts

Augustine was accompanied by Laurence of Canterbury, his eventual successor to the archbishop
Archbishop
An archbishop is a bishop of higher rank, but not of higher sacramental order above that of the three orders of deacon, priest , and bishop...

ric, and a group of about 40 companions, some of whom were monks. Soon after leaving Rome, the missionaries halted, daunted by the nature of the task before them. They sent Augustine back to Rome to request papal permission to return. Gregory refused and sent Augustine back with letters encouraging the missionaries to persevere. In 597, Augustine and his companions landed in Kent. They achieved some initial success soon after their arrival: Æthelberht permitted the missionaries to settle and preach in his capital of Canterbury where they used the church of St Martin's for services. Neither Bede nor Gregory mentions the date of Æthelberht's conversion, but it probably took place in 597. In the early medieval
Early Middle Ages
The Early Middle Ages was the period of European history lasting from the 5th century to approximately 1000. The Early Middle Ages followed the decline of the Western Roman Empire and preceded the High Middle Ages...

 period, large scale conversions required the ruler's conversion first, and Augustine is recorded as making large numbers of converts within a year of his arrival in Kent. Also, by 601, Gregory was writing to both Æthelberht and Bertha, calling the king his son and referring to his baptism. A late medieval
Late Middle Ages
The Late Middle Ages was the period of European history generally comprising the 14th to the 16th century . The Late Middle Ages followed the High Middle Ages and preceded the onset of the early modern era ....

 tradition, recorded by the 15th-century chronicler Thomas Elmham
Thomas Elmham
-Life:He was probably born at North Elmham in Norfolk. He may have been the Thomas Elmham who was a scholar at King's Hall, Cambridge from 1389 to 1394...

, gives the date of the king's conversion as Whit Sunday
Pentecost
Pentecost is a prominent feast in the calendar of Ancient Israel celebrating the giving of the Law on Sinai, and also later in the Christian liturgical year commemorating the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the disciples of Christ after the Resurrection of Jesus...

, or 2 June 597; there is no reason to doubt this date, although there is no other evidence for it. Against a date in 597 is a letter of Gregory's to Patriarch Eulogius of Alexandria in June 598, which mentions the number of converts made by Augustine, but does not mention any baptism of the king. However, it is clear that by 601 the king had been converted. His baptism likely took place at Canterbury.

Augustine established his episcopal see
Episcopal See
An episcopal see is, in the original sense, the official seat of a bishop. This seat, which is also referred to as the bishop's cathedra, is placed in the bishop's principal church, which is therefore called the bishop's cathedral...

 at Canterbury. It is not clear when and where Augustine was consecrated as a bishop. Bede, writing about a century later, states that Augustine was consecrated by the Frankish Archbishop Ætherius of Arles
Arles
Arles is a city and commune in the south of France, in the Bouches-du-Rhône department, of which it is a subprefecture, in the former province of Provence....

 after the conversion of Æthelberht. Contemporary letters from Pope Gregory, however, refer to Augustine as a bishop before he arrived in England. A letter of Gregory's from September 597 calls Augustine a bishop, and one ten months later says that Augustine had been consecrated on Gregory's command by bishops of the German lands. The historian R. A. Markus discusses the various theories of when and where Augustine was consecrated, and suggests that he was consecrated before arriving in England, but argues that the evidence does not permit deciding exactly where this took place.

Soon after his arrival, Augustine founded the monastery
Monastery
Monastery denotes the building, or complex of buildings, that houses a room reserved for prayer as well as the domestic quarters and workplace of monastics, whether monks or nuns, and whether living in community or alone .Monasteries may vary greatly in size – a small dwelling accommodating only...

 of Saints Peter
Saint Peter
Saint Peter or Simon Peter was an early Christian leader, who is featured prominently in the New Testament Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles. The son of John or of Jonah and from the village of Bethsaida in the province of Galilee, his brother Andrew was also an apostle...

 and Paul, which later became St Augustine's Abbey
St Augustine's Abbey
St Augustine's Abbey was a Benedictine abbey in Canterbury, Kent, England.-Early history:In 597 Saint Augustine arrived in England, having been sent by Pope Gregory I, on what might nowadays be called a revival mission. The King of Kent at this time was Æthelberht, who happened to be married to a...

, on land donated by the king. This foundation has often been claimed as the first Benedictine abbey outside Italy, and that by founding it Augustine introduced the Rule of St. Benedict into England, but there is no evidence that the abbey followed the Benedictine Rule at the time of its foundation. In a letter Gregory wrote to the patriarch of Alexandria
Patriarch of Alexandria
The Patriarch of Alexandria is the Archbishop of Alexandria and Cairo, Egypt. Historically, this office has included the designation of Pope , and did so earlier than that of the Bishop of Rome...

 in 598, he claimed that more than 10,000 Christians had been baptised; the number may be exaggerated but there is no reason to doubt that a mass conversion took place. However, there were probably some Christians already in Kent before Augustine arrived, remnants of the Christians who lived in Britain in the later Roman Empire. Little literary traces remain of them, however. One other effect of the king's conversion by Augustine's mission was that the Frankish influence on the southern kingdoms of Britain was decreased.

After these conversions, Augustine sent Laurence back to Rome with a report of his success along with questions about the mission. Bede records the letter and Gregory's replies in chapter 27 of his Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum
Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum
The Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum is a work in Latin by Bede on the history of the Christian Churches in England, and of England generally; its main focus is on the conflict between Roman and Celtic Christianity.It is considered to be one of the most important original references on...

, this section of the History is usually known as the Libellus responsionum
Libellus responsionum
The Libellus responsionum or Responsiones is a section of Bede's Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum that is a reply by Pope Gregory I to questions posed by Augustine of Canterbury about specifics of the Gregorian mission.-Creation:...

. Augustine asked for Gregory's advice on a number of issues, including how to organise the church, the punishment for church robbers, guidance on who was allowed to marry whom, and the consecration of bishops. Other topics were relations between the churches of Britain and Gaul, childbirth and baptism, and when it was lawful for people to receive communion and for a priest to celebrate mass.

Further missionaries were sent from Rome in 601. They brought a pallium
Pallium
The pallium is an ecclesiastical vestment in the Roman Catholic Church, originally peculiar to the Pope, but for many centuries bestowed by him on metropolitans and primates as a symbol of the jurisdiction delegated to them by the Holy See. In that context it has always remained unambiguously...

 for Augustine and a present of sacred vessels, vestment
Vestment
Vestments are liturgical garments and articles associated primarily with the Christian religion, especially among Latin Rite and other Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Anglicans, and Lutherans...

s, relic
Relic
In religion, a relic is a part of the body of a saint or a venerated person, or else another type of ancient religious object, carefully preserved for purposes of veneration or as a tangible memorial...

s, and books. The pallium was the symbol of metropolitan
Metropolitan bishop
In Christian churches with episcopal polity, the rank of metropolitan bishop, or simply metropolitan, pertains to the diocesan bishop or archbishop of a metropolis; that is, the chief city of a historical Roman province, ecclesiastical province, or regional capital.Before the establishment of...

 status, and signified that Augustine was now an archbishop unambiguously associated with the Holy See. Along with the pallium, a letter from Gregory directed the new archbishop to ordain 12 suffragan bishop
Suffragan bishop
A suffragan bishop is a bishop subordinate to a metropolitan bishop or diocesan bishop. He or she may be assigned to an area which does not have a cathedral of its own.-Anglican Communion:...

s as soon as possible and to send a bishop to York
York
York is a walled city, situated at the confluence of the Rivers Ouse and Foss in North Yorkshire, England. The city has a rich heritage and has provided the backdrop to major political events throughout much of its two millennia of existence...

. Gregory's plan was that there would be two metropolitans, one at York and one at London
London
London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...

, with 12 suffragan bishops under each archbishop. As part of this plan, Augustine was expected to transfer his archiepiscopal see to London from Canterbury. The move from Canterbury to London never happened; no contemporary sources give the reason, but it was probably because London was not part of Æthelberht's domains. Instead, London was part of the kingdom of Essex
Kingdom of Essex
The Kingdom of Essex or Kingdom of the East Saxons was one of the seven traditional kingdoms of the so-called Anglo-Saxon Heptarchy. It was founded in the 6th century and covered the territory later occupied by the counties of Essex, Hertfordshire, Middlesex and Kent. Kings of Essex were...

, ruled by Æthelberht's nephew Saebert of Essex
Saebert of Essex
Sæberht, Saberht or Sæbert was a King of Essex , in succession of his father King Sledd. He is known as the first East Saxon king to have been converted to Christianity....

, who converted to Christianity in 604. The historian S. Brechter has suggested that the metropolitan see was indeed moved to London, and that it was only with the abandonment of London as a see after the death of Æthelberht that Canterbury became the archiepiscopal see. This theory contradicts Bede's version of events, however.

Additional work

In 604, Augustine founded two more bishoprics in Britain. Two men who had come to Britain with him in 601 were consecrated, Mellitus
Mellitus
Mellitus was the first Bishop of London in the Saxon period, the third Archbishop of Canterbury, and a member of the Gregorian mission sent to England to convert the Anglo-Saxons from their native paganism to Christianity. He arrived in 601 AD with a group of clergymen sent to augment the mission,...

 as Bishop of London
Bishop of London
The Bishop of London is the ordinary of the Church of England Diocese of London in the Province of Canterbury.The diocese covers 458 km² of 17 boroughs of Greater London north of the River Thames and a small part of the County of Surrey...

 and Justus
Justus
Justus was the fourth Archbishop of Canterbury. He was sent from Italy to England by Pope Gregory the Great, on a mission to Christianize the Anglo-Saxons from their native Anglo-Saxon paganism, probably arriving with the second group of missionaries despatched in 601...

 as Bishop of Rochester
Bishop of Rochester
The Bishop of Rochester is the ordinary of the Church of England Diocese of Rochester in the Province of Canterbury.The diocese covers the west of the county of Kent and is centred in the city of Rochester where the bishop's seat is located at the Cathedral Church of Christ and the Blessed Virgin...

. Bede relates that Augustine, with the help of the king, "recovered" a church built by Roman Christians in Canterbury. It is not clear if Bede meant that Augustine rebuilt the church or that Augustine merely reconsecrated a building that had been used for pagan worship. Archaeological evidence seems to support the latter interpretation; in 1973 the remains of an aisled building dating from the Romano-British
Romano-British
Romano-British culture describes the culture that arose in Britain under the Roman Empire following the Roman conquest of AD 43 and the creation of the province of Britannia. It arose as a fusion of the imported Roman culture with that of the indigenous Britons, a people of Celtic language and...

 period were uncovered just south of the present Canterbury Cathedral
Canterbury Cathedral
Canterbury Cathedral in Canterbury, Kent, is one of the oldest and most famous Christian structures in England and forms part of a World Heritage Site....

. The historian Ian Wood argues that the existence of the Libellus points to more contact between Augustine and the native Christians because the topics covered in the work are not restricted to conversion from paganism, but also dealt with relations between differing styles of Christianity.

Augustine failed to extend his authority to the Christians in Wales
Wales
Wales is a country that is part of the United Kingdom and the island of Great Britain, bordered by England to its east and the Atlantic Ocean and Irish Sea to its west. It has a population of three million, and a total area of 20,779 km²...

 and Dumnonia
Dumnonia
Dumnonia is the Latinised name for the Brythonic kingdom in sub-Roman Britain between the late 4th and late 8th centuries, located in the farther parts of the south-west peninsula of Great Britain...

 to the west. Gregory had decreed that these Christians should submit to Augustine and that their bishops should obey him, apparently believing that more of the Roman governmental and ecclesiastical organization survived in the Britain than was actually the case. According to the narrative of Bede, the Britons in these regions viewed Augustine with uncertainty, and their suspicion was compounded by a diplomatic misjudgement on Augustine's part. In 603, Augustine and Æthelberht summoned the British bishops to a meeting. These guests retired early to confer with their people, who, according to Bede, advised them to judge Augustine based upon the respect he displayed at their next meeting. When Augustine failed to rise from his seat on the entrance of the British bishops, they refused to recognise him as archbishop. There were, however, deep differences between Augustine and the British church that perhaps played a more significant role in preventing an agreement. At issue were the tonsure, the observance of Easter, and practical and deep-rooted differences in approach to asceticism, missionary endeavours, and how the church itself was organised. Some historians believe that Augustine had no real understanding of the history and traditions of the British church, damaging his relations with their bishops. Also, there were political dimensions involved, as Augustine's efforts were sponsored by the Kentish king, and at this period the Wessex and Mercian kingdoms were expanding to the west, into areas held by the Britons.

Further success

Easier to implement were Rome's mandates concerning pagan temples and celebrations. Temples were to be consecrated for Christian use, and feasts, if possible, moved to days celebrating Christian martyrs. One religious site was revealed to be a shrine of a local St Sixtus, whose worshippers were unaware of details of the martyr's life or death. They may have been native Christians, but Augustine did not treat them as such. When Gregory was informed, he told Augustine to stop the cult and use the shrine for the Roman St Sixtus
Pope Sixtus II
Pope Sixtus II or Pope Saint Sixtus II was Pope from August 30, 257 to August 6, 258. He died as a martyr during the persecution by Emperor Valerian....

.

Gregory legislated on the behaviour of the laity and the clergy. He placed the new mission directly under papal authority and made it clear that English bishops would have no authority over Frankish counterparts nor vice versa. Other directives dealt with the training of native clergy and the missionaries' conduct.

The King's School, Canterbury
The King's School, Canterbury
The King's School is a British co-educational independent school for both day and boarding pupils in the historic English cathedral city of Canterbury in Kent. It is a member of the Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference and the Eton Group....

 claims Augustine as its founder, which would make it the world's oldest existing school, but the first documentary records of the school date from the 16th century. Augustine did establish a school, and soon after his death Canterbury was able to send teachers out to support the East Anglia
East Anglia
East Anglia is a traditional name for a region of eastern England, named after an ancient Anglo-Saxon kingdom, the Kingdom of the East Angles. The Angles took their name from their homeland Angeln, in northern Germany. East Anglia initially consisted of Norfolk and Suffolk, but upon the marriage of...

n mission. Augustine received liturgical book
Liturgical book
A liturgical book is a book published by the authority of a church, that contains the text and directions for the liturgy of its official religious services.-Roman Catholic:...

s from the pope, but their exact contents are unknown. They may have been some of the new mass books that were being written at this time. The exact liturgy that Augustine introduced to England remains unknown, but it would have been a form of the Latin
Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

 language liturgy in use at Rome.

Death and legacy

Before his death, Augustine consecrated Laurence as his successor to the archbishopric, probably to ensure an orderly transfer of office. Although at the time of Augustine's death, 26 May 604, the mission barely extended beyond Kent, his undertaking introduced a more active missionary style into the British Isles. Despite the earlier presence of Christians in Ireland and Wales, no efforts had been made to try to convert the Saxon invaders. Augustine was sent to convert the descendants of those invaders, and eventually became the decisive influence in Christianity in the British Isles. Much of his success came about because of Augustine's close relationship with Æthelberht, which gave the archbishop time to establish himself. Augustine's example also influenced the great missionary efforts of the Anglo-Saxon Church.

Augustine's body was originally buried in the portico of what is now St Augustine's, Canterbury, but it was later exhumed and placed in a tomb within the abbey church, which became a place of pilgrimage and veneration. After the Norman Conquest
Norman conquest of England
The Norman conquest of England began on 28 September 1066 with the invasion of England by William, Duke of Normandy. William became known as William the Conqueror after his victory at the Battle of Hastings on 14 October 1066, defeating King Harold II of England...

 the cult of St Augustine was actively promoted. After the Conquest, his shrine
Shrine
A shrine is a holy or sacred place, which is dedicated to a specific deity, ancestor, hero, martyr, saint, daemon or similar figure of awe and respect, at which they are venerated or worshipped. Shrines often contain idols, relics, or other such objects associated with the figure being venerated....

 in St Augustine's Abbey held a central position in one of the axial chapels, flanked by the shrines of his successors Laurence and Mellitus. King Henry I of England
Henry I of England
Henry I was the fourth son of William I of England. He succeeded his elder brother William II as King of England in 1100 and defeated his eldest brother, Robert Curthose, to become Duke of Normandy in 1106...

 granted St. Augustine's Abbey a six day fair
Fair
A fair or fayre is a gathering of people to display or trade produce or other goods, to parade or display animals and often to enjoy associated carnival or funfair entertainment. It is normally of the essence of a fair that it is temporary; some last only an afternoon while others may ten weeks. ...

 around the date on which Augustine's relics were translated
Translation (relics)
In Christianity, the translation of relics is the removal of holy objects from one locality to another ; usually only the movement of the remains of the saint's body would be treated so formally, with secondary relics such as items of clothing treated with less ceremony...

 to his new shrine, from 8 September through 13 September.

A life of Augustine was written by Goscelin
Goscelin
Goscelin of Saint-Bertin was a Benedictine hagiographical writer, born between 1020–1035 and who died shortly after 1107...

 around 1090, but this life portrays Augustine in a different light than Bede's account. Goscelin's account has little new historical content, mainly being filled with miracles and imagined speeches. Building on this account, later medieval writers continued to add new miracles and stories to Augustine's life, often quite fanciful. These authors included William of Malmesbury
William of Malmesbury
William of Malmesbury was the foremost English historian of the 12th century. C. Warren Hollister so ranks him among the most talented generation of writers of history since Bede, "a gifted historical scholar and an omnivorous reader, impressively well versed in the literature of classical,...

, who claimed that Augustine founded Cerne Abbey
Cerne Abbey
Cerne Abbey was a Benedictine monastery founded in 987 AD in the town now called Cerne Abbas by Æthelmær the Stout. Ælfric of Eynsham, the most prolific writer in Old English was known to have spent time at the abbey as a priest and teacher....

, the author (generally believed to be John Brompton
John Brompton
John Brompton was a supposed English chronicler.Brompton was elected abbot of Jervaulx in 1436. The authorship of the compilation printed in Roger Twysden's Decem Scriptores is uncertain. It has been ascribed to Brompton on the strength of an inscription at the end of the C. C. C...

) of a late medieval chronicle containing invented letters from Augustine, and a number of medieval writers who included Augustine in their romances
Romance (genre)
As a literary genre of high culture, romance or chivalric romance is a style of heroic prose and verse narrative that was popular in the aristocratic circles of High Medieval and Early Modern Europe. They were fantastic stories about marvel-filled adventures, often of a knight errant portrayed as...

. Another problem with investigating Augustine's saintly cult is the confusion resulting because most medieval liturgical documents mentioning Augustine do not distinguish between Augustine of Canterbury and Augustine of Hippo
Augustine of Hippo
Augustine of Hippo , also known as Augustine, St. Augustine, St. Austin, St. Augoustinos, Blessed Augustine, or St. Augustine the Blessed, was Bishop of Hippo Regius . He was a Latin-speaking philosopher and theologian who lived in the Roman Africa Province...

, a 4th century saint. Medieval Scandinavian liturgies feature Augustine of Canterbury quite often, however. During the English Reformation
English Reformation
The English Reformation was the series of events in 16th-century England by which the Church of England broke away from the authority of the Pope and the Roman Catholic Church....

, Augustine's shrine was destroyed and his relics were lost.

Today, a Celtic cross
Celtic cross
A Celtic cross is a symbol that combines a cross with a ring surrounding the intersection. In the Celtic Christian world it was combined with the Christian cross and this design was often used for high crosses – a free-standing cross made of stone and often richly decorated...

 marks the spot in Ebbsfleet, Thanet
Ebbsfleet, Thanet
Ebbsfleet is a hamlet near Ramsgate, Kent, at the head of Pegwell Bay. Historically it was a peninsula on the south coast of the Isle of Thanet, marking the eastern end of the Wantsum Channel that separated Thanet from the rest of Kent....

, East Kent
East Kent
East Kent and West Kent are one-time traditional subdivisions of the English county of Kent, kept alive by the Association of the Men of Kent and Kentish Men: an organisation formed in 1913...

, where Augustine is said to have landed, although historian Alan Kay told the BBC in 2005 that Augustine actually landed somewhere between Stonar and Sandwich
Sandwich, Kent
Sandwich is a historic town and civil parish on the River Stour in the Non-metropolitan district of Dover, within the ceremonial county of Kent, south-east England. It has a population of 6,800....

. According to Kay, Ebbsfleet was not on the coast in the 6th century. The story that Augustine landed there was started in 1884, he said, by a Victorian aristocrat who needed a publicity stunt to draw people to his newly opened tea rooms.

External links

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