|Orthodox Outlet for Dogmatic Enquiries||Biographies|
The Holy Hierarch Augustine,
Archbishop of Canterbury (†604)
A first approach to the indigenous Orthodox Saints and Martyrs of the Ancient Church who lived and who propagated the Faith in the British Isles and Ireland during the first millennium of Christianity and prior to the Great Schism is being attempted in our website in our desire to inform our readers, who may not be aware of the history, the labours or the martyrdom of this host of Orthodox Saints of the original One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church of our Lord."The Church in The British Isles will only begin to grow when she begins to venerate her own Saints" (Saint Arsenios of Paros †1877)
ST AUGUSTINE was from Italy, and a disciple of St Felix, Bishop of Messana. St Gregory Dialogus, Pope of Rome, chose him to lead a mission of forty monks to evangelize the people of Britain. They arrived at Ebbsfleet (on the isle of Thanet) in Kent in 597.
King Ethelbert, whose Frankish wife Bertha was a Christian, welcomed them. They were allowed to base their mission at the ancient church of St Martin in Canterbury, which was restored for their use. This church had been built during the Roman occupation of Britain, and the queen often went there to pray. At first, the king was reluctant to give up his pagan beliefs, but he promised not to harm them, and to supply them with whatever they needed. He also promised that he would not prevent them from preaching Christianity. St Augustine later converted the king to Christianity, along with thousands of his subjects.
St. Bede says that St Augustine was consecrated as Archbishop of Britain by Archbishop Etherius of Arles (others say that it was his successor St Virgilius of Arles who consecrated St Augustine). Returning to Britain, he committed himself to the work of evangelizing the country with renewed zeal.
St Augustine built a church dedicated to Christ the Saviour, the predecessor of the present cathedral at Canterbury, consecrated on June 9, 603 (according to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle). He also founded the monastery of Sts Peter and Paul east of the city. Here St Augustine, the Archbishops of Canterbury, and the Kings of Kent were buried. The monastery, now in ruins, was later known as St Augustine's Monastery.
The saint was instrumental in founding the dioceses of Rochester and London. In 604 he consecrated St Justus and St Mellitus as bishops for those Sees. St Augustine also helped the king draft the earliest Anglo-Saxon laws, and founded a school in Canterbury.
Known in his lifetime as a wonderworker, St Augustine fell asleep in the Lord on May 26, 604. He was laid to rest at the entrance of the unfinished church of Sts Peter and Paul. When the church was dedicated in 613, his holy relics were placed inside. An epitaph was composed for his tomb. In part, it reads: ‘Here lies the Lord Augustine, first Archbishop of Canterbury, sent here by blessed Gregory, bishop of the city of Rome, who with the help of God, and aided by miracles, guided King Ethelbert and his people from the worship of idols to the Faith of Christ.’
St Bede gives detailed information about St Augustine's mission to Britain in his History of the English Church and People (Book I, 23-33. Book II, 1-3).
The feast of St Augustine is kept on the twenty-sixth day of May.
Article published in English on: 7-8-2009.
Last update: 7-8-2009.