Augustine of Canterbury

Augustine is the first entry in this list of archbishops of Canterbury
Augustine is the first name in this list of the archbishops of Canterbury (London, British Library, Cotton MS Tiberius B V/1 f.21r)

Biography

Augustine of Canterbury was an early Christian missionary to the kingdom of Kent and the first archbishop of Canterbury. 

Augustine spent most of his life as a churchman in Italy. He was a monk, probably at the church of St Andrew on the Coelian Hill in Rome. In the late 590s, he was sent by Pope Gregory the Great (590–604) to the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Kent. Gregory wanted to convert the pagan Anglo-Saxons to Christianity, and so he dispatched to England a group of about 40 missionaries, led by Augustine, along with books, relics and other materials. 

The missionaries arrived in Kent in 597 and were greeted by King Æthelberht. Æthelberht’s wife, Bertha, came from the region near Paris and she was already a Christian. In time, Æthelberht and his court were also converted to Christianity. Augustine and his associates may have influenced the creation of Æthelberht’s law-code, especially as related to its protection for churches. 

Augustine also constructed or adapted buildings to be used as churches, including one on the site of present-day current Canterbury Cathedral. He also started to build a monastery dedicated to St Peter and St Paul. Augustine died before it was completed, on 26 May 604, and was buried there. It became associated with his saint’s cult, and the church came to be known as St Augustine’s, Canterbury. 

Augustine of Canterbury should not be confused with the earlier, North African bishop, St Augustine of Hippo (died 430), who wrote the Confessions, the City of God and other hugely influential theological works.

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