Justus was the fourth 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...

. He was sent from Italy to England by Pope Gregory the Great, on a mission to Christianize
The historical phenomenon of Christianization is the conversion of individuals to Christianity or the conversion of entire peoples at once...

 the 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...

 from their native Anglo-Saxon paganism, probably arriving with the second group of missionaries despatched in 601. Justus became the first 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...

 in 604, and attended a church council in Paris in 614.

Following the death of King Æthelberht of Kent in 616, Justus was forced to flee to 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...

, but was reinstated in his diocese the following year. In 624 Justus became Archbishop of Canterbury, overseeing the despatch of missionaries to Northumbria
Northumbria was a medieval kingdom of the Angles, in what is now Northern England and South-East Scotland, becoming subsequently an earldom in a united Anglo-Saxon kingdom of England. The name reflects the approximate southern limit to the kingdom's territory, the Humber Estuary.Northumbria was...

. After his death he was revered as a saint, and had a shrine in 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...

, 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....


Arrival in Britain

Justus was an Italian and a member of 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...

 sent to England by Pope Gregory I. Almost everything known about Justus and his career is derived from the early 8th-century 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...

of 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...

. As Bede does not describe Justus' origins, nothing is known about him prior to his arrival in England. He probably arrived in England with the second group of missionaries, sent at the request of Augustine of Canterbury
Augustine of Canterbury
Augustine of Canterbury was a Benedictine monk who became the first Archbishop of Canterbury in the year 597...

 in 601. Some modern writers describe Justus as one of the original missionaries who arrived with Augustine in 597, but Bede believed that Justus came in the second group. The second group included 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,...

, who later became 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 Archbishop of Canterbury.

If Justus was a member of the second group of missionaries, then he arrived with a gift of books and "all things which were needed for worship and the ministry of the Church". A 15th-century Canterbury chronicler, Thomas of Elmham, claimed that there were a number of books brought to England by that second group still at Canterbury in his day, although he did not identify them. An investigation of extant Canterbury manuscripts shows that one possible survivor is the St. Augustine Gospels
St. Augustine Gospels
The St Augustine Gospels is an illuminated Gospel Book which dates from the 6th century. It was made in Italy and has been in England since fairly soon after its creation; by the 16th century, it had probably already been at Canterbury for almost a thousand years...

, now in Cambridge, Corpus Christi College, Manuscript (MS) 286.

Bishop of Rochester

Augustine consecrated Justus as a bishop in 604, over a province including the Kentish
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...

 town of Rochester. The historian Nicholas Brooks argues that the choice of Rochester was probably not because it had been a Roman-era bishopric, but rather because of its importance in the politics of the time. Although the town was small, with just one street, it was at the junction of Watling Street
Watling Street
Watling Street is the name given to an ancient trackway in England and Wales that was first used by the Britons mainly between the modern cities of Canterbury and St Albans. The Romans later paved the route, part of which is identified on the Antonine Itinerary as Iter III: "Item a Londinio ad...

 and the estuary of the Medway
Medway is a conurbation and unitary authority in South East England. The Unitary Authority was formed in 1998 when the City of Rochester-upon-Medway amalgamated with Gillingham Borough Council and part of Kent County Council to form Medway Council, a unitary authority independent of Kent County...

, and was thus a fortified town. Because Justus was probably not a monk (he was not called that by Bede), his cathedral clergy was very likely non-monastic too.

A charter purporting to be from King Æthelberht, dated 28 April 604, survives in the Textus Roffensis
Textus Roffensis
The Textus Roffensis, or in full, Textus de Ecclesia Roffensi per Ernulphum episcopum , refers to a manuscript in which two originally separate manuscripts written about the same time, between 1122 and 1124, are bound together...

, as well as a copy based on the Textus in the 14th-century Liber Temporalium. Written mostly in Latin but using an Old English boundary clause, the charter records a grant of land near the city of Rochester to Justus' church. Among the witnesses is Laurence
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...

, Augustine's future successor, but not Augustine himself. The text turns to two different addressees. First, Æthelberht is made to admonish his son Eadbald
Eadbald of Kent
Eadbald was King of Kent from 616 until his death in 640. He was the son of King Æthelberht and his wife Bertha, a daughter of the Merovingian king Charibert. Æthelberht made Kent the dominant force in England during his reign and became the first Anglo-Saxon king to convert to Christianity from...

, who had been established as a sub-ruler in the region of Rochester. The grant itself is addressed directly to Saint Andrew, the patron saint of the church, a usage parallelled by other charters in the same archive.

Historian Wilhelm Levison, writing in 1946, was sceptical about the authenticity of this charter. In particular, he felt that the two separate addresses were incongruous and suggested that the first address, occurring before the preamble, may have been inserted by someone familiar with Bede to echo Eadbald's future conversion (see below). A more recent and more positive appraisal by John Morris argues that the charter and its witness list are authentic because it incorporates titles and phraseology that had fallen out of use by 800.

Æthelberht built Justus a cathedral church in Rochester, and the foundations of a nave
In Romanesque and Gothic Christian abbey, cathedral basilica and church architecture, the nave is the central approach to the high altar, the main body of the church. "Nave" was probably suggested by the keel shape of its vaulting...

 and chancel
In church architecture, the chancel is the space around the altar in the sanctuary at the liturgical east end of a traditional Christian church building...

 partly underneath the present-day Rochester Cathedral
Rochester Cathedral
Rochester Cathedral, or the Cathedral Church of Christ and the Blessed Virgin Mary, is a Norman church in Rochester, Kent. The bishopric is second oldest in England after Canterbury...

 may date from that time. What remains of the foundations of an early rectangular building, near the southern part of the current cathedral, might also be contemporary with Justus, or may be part of a Roman building.

Together with Mellitus, the Bishop of London, Justus signed a letter written by Archbishop Laurence of Canterbury to the Irish bishops, urging the native 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...

 to adopt the Roman method of calculating
Computus is the calculation of the date of Easter in the Christian calendar. The name has been used for this procedure since the early Middle Ages, as it was one of the most important computations of the age....

 the date of 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...

. This letter also mentioned the fact that Irish missionaries, such as Dagan
Dagan (bishop)
Dagan was an Irish bishop in Britain during the early part of the 7th century.Dagan is known from a letter written by Archbishop Laurence of Canterbury to the Irish bishops and abbots, in which Laurence attempted to persuade the Irish clergy to accept the Roman method of calculating the date of...

, had refused to share meals with the missionaries. Although the letter has not survived, Bede quoted from parts of it.

In 614 Justus attended the Council of Paris, held by the Frankish
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...

 king, Chlothar II. It is unclear why Justus, and Peter, the abbot of Sts Peter and Paul in Canterbury, were present; it may have been just chance, but the historian James Campbell has suggested that Chlothar summoned clergy from Britain to attend in an attempt to assert overlordship over Kent. The historian N. J. Higham offers another explanation for their attendance, arguing that Æthelberht sent the pair to the council because of shifts in Frankish policy towards the Kentish kingdom, threatening Kentish independence, and that the two clergymen were sent to negotiate a compromise with Chlothar.

A pagan backlash against Christianity followed Æthelberht's death in 616, forcing Justus and Mellitus to flee to Gaul. The pair probably took refuge with Chlothar, hoping that the Frankish king would intervene and restore them to their sees, and by 617 Justus had been reinstalled in his bishopric by the new king. Mellitus also returned to England, but the prevailing pagan mood did not allow him to return to London; after Laurence's death, Mellitus became Archbishop of Canterbury. According to Bede, Justus received letters of encouragement from Pope Boniface V
Pope Boniface V
Pope Boniface V was pope from 619 to 625.He was consecrated as pope on December 23, 619. He did much for the Christianising of England and enacted the decree by which churches became places of refuge for criminals....

 (619–625), as did Mellitus, although Bede does not record the actual letters. The historian J. M. Wallace-Hadrill assumes that both letters were general statements of encouragement to the missionaries.


Justus became Archbishop of Canterbury in 624, receiving his 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...

—the symbol of the jurisdiction entrusted to archbishops—from Pope Boniface V, following which Justus consecrated Romanus as his successor at Rochester. Boniface also gave Justus a letter congratulating him on the conversion of King "Aduluald" (probably King Eadbald of Kent), a letter which is included in Bede's Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum. Bede's account of Eadbald's conversion states that it was Laurence, Justus' predecessor at Canterbury, who converted the King to Christianity, but the historian D. P. Kirby argues that the letter's reference to Eadbald makes it likely that it was Justus. Other historians, including Barbara Yorke
Barbara Yorke
Barbara Yorke is a historian of Anglo-Saxon England.She studied history and archaeology at Exeter University, where she completed both her undergraduate degree and her Ph.D. She is currently Professor of Early Medieval History at the University of Winchester, and is a Fellow of the Royal...

 and Henry Mayr-Harting
Henry Mayr-Harting
Professor Henry Maria Robert Egmont Mayr-Harting was Regius Professor of Ecclesiastical History in the University of Oxford and Lay Canon of Christ Church, Oxford from 1997 until 2003....

, conclude that Bede's account is correct, and that Eadbald was converted by Laurence. Yorke argues that there were two kings of Kent during Eadbald's reign, Eadbald and Æthelwald, and that Æthelwald was the "Aduluald" referred to by Boniface. Yorke argues that Justus converted Æthelwald back to Christianity after Æthelberht's death.

Justus consecrated Paulinus
Paulinus of York
Paulinus was a Roman missionary and the first Bishop of York. A member of the Gregorian mission sent in 601 by Pope Gregory I to Christianize the Anglo-Saxons from their native Anglo-Saxon paganism, Paulinus arrived in England by 604 with the second missionary group...

 as the first Bishop of York, before the latter accompanied Æthelburg of Kent to Northumbria for her marriage to King Edwin of Northumbria
Edwin of Northumbria
Edwin , also known as Eadwine or Æduini, was the King of Deira and Bernicia – which later became known as Northumbria – from about 616 until his death. He converted to Christianity and was baptised in 627; after he fell at the Battle of Hatfield Chase, he was venerated as a saint.Edwin was the son...

. Bede records Justus as having died on 10 November, but does not give a year, although it is likely to have between 627 and 631. After his death, Justus was regarded as a saint, and was given a feast day of 10 November. The ninth century Stowe Missal
Stowe Missal
The Stowe Missal, which is strictly speaking a sacramentary rather than a missal, is an Irish illuminated manuscript written mainly in Latin with some Gaelic in about 750. In the mid-11th century it was annotated and some pages rewritten at Lorrha Monastery in County Tipperary, Ireland...

 commemorates his feast day, along with Mellitus and Laurence. In the 1090s his remains 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...

, or ritually moved, to a shrine beside the high altar of St Augustine's Abbey in Canterbury. At about the same time a Life was written about him by Goscelin of Saint-Bertin
Goscelin of Saint-Bertin was a Benedictine hagiographical writer, born between 1020–1035 and who died shortly after 1107...

, as well as a poem by Reginald of Canterbury
Reginald of Canterbury
Reginald of Canterbury was a medieval French writer and Benedictine monk who lived and wrote in England in the very early part of the 12th century...

. Other material from Thomas of Elmham, Gervase of Canterbury
Gervase of Canterbury
Gervase of Canterbury was an English chronicler.- Life :...

, and 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,...

, later medieval chroniclers, adds little to Bede's account of Justus' life.

External links

  • Justus entry at the Prosopography of Anglo Saxon England project
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