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Augustine - 1st Archbishop of Canterbury

 "Your words are fair, but of doubtful meaning; I cannot forsake what I have so long believed. But as you have come from far we will not molest you; you may preach, and gain as many as you can to your religion" Greeting of King Ethelbert, Isle of Thanet, to Augustine in the Summer of 597

Details of Augustine's life are scarce. Believed to have been a pupil of Felix, bishop of Messana, he became a monk and later Prior of St Andrew's in Rome. He was sent by Pope Gregory to lead a party of around 30 monks to bring England (such as it was) under the influence of the Roman world. The journey was halted at one point, the monks losing their nerve and returning to Rome, before successfully landing at Ebbsfleet in 597. Received cautiously by the King of Kent, Ethelbert, Augustine managed to estbalish a community of monks based first at St Martin's church, later transferring to the site of the present Cathedral.

Augustine struggled to establish his authority within the British Isles and did not bring to completion Gregory's plan to form an English church based on two provinces and twelve bishops.

He died on May 26th, now remembered as his feast day, but the year of his death is uncertain, between 604 and 609. He was buried at what is now called St Augustine's Abbey.

Research by Jenny Childs and Steve Empson

Detailed biography:

Augustine (? - c604)
St Augustine or Austin, of Canterbury (Evangelizer of England - as distinct from Roman Britain; feast day 26 May in England, 27 May in the RC Church since 1969 & outside England now). 'Bishop [or Archbishop] of the English' (as consecrated); 'Apostle of the English' (originally a description of Pope Gregory).
Italian by birth.

d. May c604; some reports put it as late as 609. Buried at the Monastery of St Peter and St Paul (afterwards known as St Augustine's) Canterbury.

Ministry


Prior St Andrew's Monastery Rome ? - ?; Leader 1st Mission to England 596-597; chosen by Pope Gregory I to lead between thirty and forty monks to Kent 596, departed 596, landed Summer 597 at Ebbsfleet and received in Thanet by Kentish K Ethelbert.

Archbishop of Canterbury 597- c604; Consecrated before his 1st arrival in England, possibly with the title 'Bishop of the English', possibly  at Arles, but also possibly after becoming established in England. The pallium  - the symbol of office - was sent from Rome by Pope Gregory I in 601.

His time as Archbishop coincided with with » Kings and Queens: Kent » Ethelbert 560? -616 » East Saxons » Sabert ? -616 » West Saxons » (Ceolric 592-97) » Ceolwulf 597-611 » South Saxons » ? » Mercia » Crida or Creoda or Cearl 593-626 » Northumbria » Ethelfrid 593-617 » East Angles » ? (Redwald ? -627) » Popes » Gregory I 590-604 » (Sabinianus 604-06) »

Known writings:

helped Ethelbert to draft the earliest Anglo-Saxon written laws to survive.

Firsts:

1st Abp of Canterbury.