Wednesday, 3 June 2009

St. Augustine of Canterbury

NAME St Augustine of Canterbury

WHAT FAMOUS FOR Founder of Christianity in England

BIRTH b 6th century in Rome, Italy (sorry I can't be any more specific than that).

CHILDHOOD Nothing is known of Augustine's early life apart from that he once spent six weeks just sleeping and drinking-the first six weeks of his life.

EDUCATION When Augustine got to England he found, due to the Britons’ ignorance of Latin, he had to build schools so that people could understand what was going on in the churches. After all Latin was the HOLY language.
Augustine founded Kings School Canterbury. The oldest still existing school in Britain and maybe the world
The Benedictine Abbey he established at Canterbury became the centre of learning and scholarship for all Europe.

CAREER RECORD Augustine was a respected Abbot of St Andrew Monastery in Rome who in 595 was chosen by the Pope to convert England to Christianity
597 Landed Ebbsfleet, in Kent.
597-604 Consecrated Bishop of the English at Arles Cathedral, France. For the following seven years Augustine was the patriarch of the English Christians- indeed the first Archbishop of Canterbury.




APPEARANCE Augustine was Mediterranean looking, tall, distinguished. His lofty stature and patrician presence attracted every eye for he was "taller than any of the people from his shoulders and upwards."

FASHION Augustine habitually wore a habit. After being consecrated Bishop of the English, Pope Gregory the Great sent Augustine a cape of lamb's wool to denote he had been given jurisdiction over the whole nation.

CHARACTER A conscientious missionary and a holy risk taker. Augustine was an efficient organiser with dictatorial tendencies. At times not exactly Captain Humble, on one occasion after boasting to Pope Gregory of the 10,000 English pagans he'd converted, Augustine was warned by the pope against being led into sin through boastfulness.

FOOD AND DRINK Augustine encouraged the Britons to slaughter animals for their own food rather than sacrificing them to the devil.

LITERATURE The arrival of Catholic Christianity in Briton had a great impact on the English language. Words of Latin and Greek origins became used to express concepts and ideas that were new to Anglo Saxons. Examples of such terms are altar, angel, apostles, candle, disciples, martyr, mass, monk, pope, priest, psalm, shrine and toaster (only joking re the last one-just checking you're paying attention). Non religious terms of Latin and Greek origin that entered the English language at the time included cook, fever and school. (1)
The Bible sent by Pope Gregory the Gregory to Augustine for his English trip can be found in Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge.
The only surviving writings of Augustine are questions he asked Pope Gregory on behalf of the Anglo Saxons such as "Can expectant mothers be baptised?" He referred to the English in those writings as "uncouth"

HOBBIES AND SPORTS Augustine boasted of having put on a number of gladiatorial shows involving in total 10,000 men and 3,500 animals.

PHILOSOPHY & THEOLOGY Don't believe the stories that prior to Saint Augustine, the Britons were absolute beginners on Christianity. St Martins Church, Canterbury, was in working order before the tall Roman abbot arrived, in fact its font is reputed to be the one in which Augustine baptised King Ethelbert in. Christianity had reached Great Briton in Roman times but the invading Angles, Jutes and Saxons in the 5th century had wiped it out in the eastern half of England. The Celtic Church in Wales and the West of England remained strong. What Augustine did was to introduce the Catholic Church to England.
Here is the story of Saint Augustine's mission. In 595 Pope Gregory I spotted some Angles (British) boys who have been bought to Rome and on being told they are pagan “angli” the pope exclaimed “They are not Angles but Angels”. Inspired he instructed Augustine, who was then a respected abbot, to lead a mission to convert Britain. “Certainly do not destroy the temples of the idols that the English have”, he wisely recommended, “sprinkle them with holy water and let altars be constructed.” Augustine and his company of 40 monks from the See of St Peter and Paul got as far as Aix-en-Provence in France. So terrifying were the reports they heard of the savage Britons that the Catholic missionary returned to Rome for permission to give up the attempt. Pope Gregory would have none of this yellow streak and ordered him to carry on. They recruited an interpreter in France and finally in 597 Augustine landed in Kent at Ebbsfleet on the east coast of Kent with his 40 monks. There he met King Ethelbert, King of Kent, whose Frankish wife, Bertha was a Christian. Ethelbert was originally very suspicious of Augustine as he was brought up to believe priests practised magic. Rumour had it that Augustine could make tails grow on the backs of those who displeased him. Ethelbert met the tall Roman abbot in the open air rather than under cover to protect himself against the abbot's magic. The king listened patiently to the abbot’s sermon and promised the monks shelter and protection at Canterbury. He considered the claims of the Catholic missionary for a time before converting and on June 2nd he was baptized. Augustine sent a report of this encouraging progress to the Pope and Gregory responded by dispatching more missionaries to help with the work. By the end of the year there were around 10,000 converts and Augustine travelled to Arles in France, where he was consecrated. He established his HQ at St Martins Church Canterbury which became Canterbury Cathedral. Before Augustine's arrival, Bertha had used the church to pray daily.
In 603 a conference was planned between seven Celtic bishops who were accompanied by their learned men and Augustine to discuss whether the Celtic church should continue to follow their own traditions or those that Augustine has introduced to South East England.
A holy and prudent hermit told the bishops that they should only listen to Augustine if he is truly a man of God. If this were the case he would rise from his seat to greet them showing himself to be meek and lowly of heart rather than proud. The bishops regarded this to be good advice but when they arrived, Augustine remained in his seat. The Celts becamee angry perceiving him to be a proud man and the discussions got nowhere. (2)
The following year Augustine died. He has been unable to take his message outside the south or east of England as the Celtic Christians in the west half of Britain wanted to remain independent of this new Catholic Church. However King Ethelbert, King of Kent, was instrumental in converting the neighbouring King Sabert of the East Saxons in whose territory he built the cathedral of St Paul in London.
England was finally won over by 680, the Isle of Wight being the last area to succumb to the Catholic faith . It wasn't until 786 that the Pope sent anyone else to Briton.

HOMES Back home in Rome, Augustine lived at St Andrew monastery. On arriving in Kent, a residence was assigned to Augustine and his 40 monks by King Ethelbert at Canterbury where they devoted themselves to monastic exercises and preaching. (Canterbury was actually then known as "Cant-wara-byru").

TRAVEL On their way to England every step of the way, Augustine and his party of 40 read the terrifying stories of the cruelty and barbarity of their future hosts. Augustine was "struck with a cowardly fear." By the time they reached Aix-en-Provence in France, the stories had become so frightening that for a time they turned back before they persuaded them to proceed on.

DEATH Died 604, originally buried Canterbury Abbey. The shrine containing Augustine's body dissapeared from Chilham Church in 1541.

ACHIEVEMENTS 1. Augustine was the first Archbishop of Canterbury and made Canterbury the seat of authority for the church in England. He provided the basis from which the parish system has grown.
2. Saint Augustine's feast day is 28th May in Britain and 26the May in other countries.
3. Augustine founded the first monasteries in Britain at St Peters and St Paul and St Augustines in Canterbury.
4. Augustine bought the Benedictine order to England. A number of Oxford and Cambridge colleges have a Benedictine origin.
5. The tall Roman abbot succeeded into making many Angles into right angles.
Sources



1 The Guinness Book of Words by Martin Manser.
2. The Penguin Dictionary of Saints by Donald Attwater
3. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saint_Augustine_of_Canterbury

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