Javascript is currently disabled. This site requires Javascript to function correctly. Please enable Javascript in your browser!

Saint Augustine of Canterbury

Saint Augustine of Canterbury
  • Century: 7th Century
  • Patronage: -
  • Feast Day: May 27th

St. Augustine of Canterbury was born in the early 6th century, and was a Benedictine Monk who became the first Archbishop of Canterbury in the year 597.  He is considered the “Apostle to the English” and a founder of the English Church.  Augustine was a Prior of a Monastery in Rome when Pope Gregory the Great chose him in 595 to lead a mission, known as the Gregorian mission to Britain.  King Ethelberht converted to Christianity and allowed the missionaries to preach freely, giving them land to found a Monastery outside the city walls.  St. Augustine was consecrated as a Bishop and converted many of the King’s people, including thousands during a mass Baptism on Christmas Day in 597.  Pope Gregory sent more missionaries in 601, along with encouraging letters and gifts for the Churches.  Roman Bishops were established at London and Rochester in 604, and a school was founded to train Anglo-Saxon Priests and Missionaries.  Augustine also arranged the consecration of his successor, Laurence of Canterbury.  Archbishop Augustine died in 604 and was soon revered as a saint by the people of Canterbury.  

The Roman Legions withdrew from the province of Britannia in 410, and the people of the province were left to defend themselves against the attacks of the Saxons.  Before the withdrawal, Britannia converted to Christianity and produced the ascetic Pelagius.  In 595, Gregory chose Augustine, who was the Prior of the Abbey of St. Andrew’s in Rome, to head a mission to Kent.  The pope selected Monks to accompany Augustine and sought support from the Frankish royalty and clergy in a series of letters, which still survive in Rome Today.  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 St. Augustine in Kent, as King Ethelberht was unlikely to mistreat a mission, which visibly had the support of his wife’s relatives and people.  The Franks appreciated the chance to participate in a mission that would extend their influence in Kent.  St. Augustine was successful because of his knowledge of the Bible and his administrative abilities, from managing the Abbey of St. Andrews.  

In 604, St. Augustine founded two more Bishoprics in Britain.  Two men who had come to Britain with him in 601 were consecrated, Mellitus as Bishop of London, and Justus as Bishop of Rochester.  St. Augustine, with the help of the King, “recovered” an early Church built by Roman Christians in Canterbury.  Archaeological evidence supports the Church being uncovered just south of the present Canterbury Cathedral.  St. Augustine had failed to extend his authority to the Christians in Wales and Dumnonia to the west.  The King’s School in Canterbury claims that Augustine was its founder, which makes it the world’s oldest existing school.  Before his death, Augustine consecrated Laurence as his successor to the Archbishopric, to ensure an orderly transfer of office.  It was in 604, St. Augustine died, and soon after he was venerated as a saint.  

Practical Take Away

St. Augustine of Canterbury was born in the early 6th century, and was a Benedictine Monk who became the first Archbishop of Canterbury in the year 597.  He is considered the “Apostle to the English” and a founder of the English Church.  Augustine was a Prior of a Monastery in Rome when Pope Gregory the Great chose him in 595 to lead a mission, known as the Gregorian mission to Britain.  King Ethelberht converted to Christianity and allowed the missionaries to preach freely, giving them land to found a Monastery outside the city walls.  St. Augustine converted many of the King’s people, including thousands during a mass Baptism on Christmas Day in 597.  Pope Gregory sent more missionaries in 601, along with encouraging letters and gifts for the Churches.  Roman Bishops were established at London and Rochester in 604, and a school was founded to train Anglo-Saxon Priests and Missionaries.  Augustine also arranged the consecration of his successor, Laurence of Canterbury, to ensure a smooth transition. St. Augustine of Canterbury died in 604 and was soon revered as a saint by the people of Canterbury.