Augustine, St

views updated May 21 2018

Augustine, St (d. c.604). Prior in the pope's own monastery, Augustine was chosen by Gregory the Great to lead an evangelistic mission to the Anglo-Saxons. On the journey, his companions sent Augustine back to Rome to express their growing apprehension. Gregory returned him with messages of encouragement, and his authority confirmed as their abbot. In 597 they landed on Thanet in Kent, where Æthelbert was the most powerful king south of the Humber, and his Frankish wife Bertha was a Christian. Fearing witchcraft, the superstitious Æthelbert received the monks outdoors. Impressed by their sincerity, he supplied them with food, a house in Canterbury, shared use of an old Roman church with Bertha, and permission to preach. Bede records that the simplicity of their lives and their comforting heavenly message led some to conversion, and Æthelbert himself was ultimately baptized. Augustine returned to Arles, in Gaul, for episcopal consecration, after which he is said to have converted thousands. He established his see in Canterbury, where he built his church, and outside the walls founded the monastery of SS Peter and Paul (St Augustine's).

Augustine turned to Gregory for instructions on organization, management, and discipline. Gregory advised tolerance of irregularities committed in ignorance, recognized the difficulty of eradicating old customs immediately, and suggested adapting existing festivals and temples for Christian worship. He supplied more personnel, books, relics, and furnishings for the churches, sent an archbishop's pallium for Augustine, and a plan for the organization of all England.

Augustine is perhaps overshadowed by Gregory, perceived apostle of the English, who conceived and directed the mission. Yet Gregory's letters reveal a diligent servant who faced enormous difficulties in securing a new church based on orthodox Roman lines. Although he failed to win the co-operation of British clergy in his few available years, Augustine established Christianity, and introduced to an illiterate Germanic society the influence of Mediterranean civilization, through Latin learning and classical architecture. With him, Æthelbert produced the first written law code, providing for matters secular and ecclesiastical. With Æthelbert's crucial support, he consecrated two bishops, establishing sees at Rochester in Kent and in East Saxon London. To secure continuity, he consecrated his successor, Laurentius, before he died. Although the church suffered early set-backs, it was rooted in Kent where Augustine, first archbishop of Canterbury, established his see and provided training for those who would continue his work.

Audrey MacDonald


views updated May 18 2018

Augustine male forename, name of two saints.
St Augustine of Canterbury (d. c.604), Italian churchman. Sent from Rome by Pope Gregory the Great to refound the Church in England in 597, he was favourably received by King Ethelbert, who was afterwards converted, founded a monastery at Canterbury and became its first bishop, but failed to reach agreement with the existing Celtic Church over questions of discipline and practice. His feast day is 26 May.
St Augustine of Hippo (354–430), Doctor of the Church; his early life was marked by a series of spiritual crises, and he is known for a famous prayer in his Confessions, ‘Give me chastity and continency—but not yet.’ Augustine was baptized by St Ambrose in 386 and henceforth lived a monastic life. He became bishop of Hippo in North Africa in 396. His writings, such as Confessions and the City of God, dominated subsequent Western theology. His feast day is 28 August.

The Augustinians are a religious order observing a rule derived from the writings of St Augustine.

Augustine of Canterbury, Saint

views updated May 29 2018

Augustine of Canterbury, Saint (d.604) First Archbishop of Canterbury. He was sent from Rome in 596 by Pope Gregory I, at the head of a 40-strong mission. Arriving in Kent in 597, Augustine converted King Ethelbert and introduced Roman ecclesiastical practices into England. This brought him into conflict with the Celtic monks of Britain and Ireland whose traditions had developed in isolation from the continent. The Synod of Whitby (663) settled disputes in favour of Rome. His feast day is May 28 (May 26 in England and Wales).

Augustine of Canterbury, St

views updated May 09 2018

Augustine of Canterbury, St (d. 604 or 605). Missionary to England and first archbishop of Canterbury. He was sent by Pope Gregory in 596 to re-establish the church in England. A few months after his landing in 597, Christianity was formally adopted by King Ethelbert of Kent. About 603 he attempted but failed to reach an agreement with the Celtic Church on matters of discipline and practice. At Canterbury, he helped to establish the monastery of Sts Peter and Paul, where the first ten archbishops were buried.

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Saint Augustine of Canterbury

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