Encyclopædia Britannica, Ninth Edition/Augustine (2.)

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1691274Encyclopædia Britannica, Ninth Edition — Augustine (2.)


AUGUSTINE, or Austin, St, the first archbishop of Canterbury, was originally a monk in the Benedictine convent of St Andrew at Rome, and was educated under the famous Gregory, afterwards Pope Gregory I., by whom he was sent to Britain with forty monks of the same order, to carry out the favourite project of converting the English to Christianity. The missionaries set out with much reluctance, for the journey was long and perilous, and on the way they endeavoured to persuade the Pope to allow them to return. His orders, however, were peremptory; they proceeded, therefore, on their journey, and at last landed, some time in the year 590, on the isle of Thanet. Having sent interpreters to explain their mission to King Ethelbert, whose queen, Bertha, was a Christian, they received from him permission to preach and to make converts. He treated them with great favour, held a public conference with them, and assigned them a residence at Durovernum, now Canterbury. His own conversion to the Christian faith, which took place shortly afterwards, had a powerful influence with his subjects, who joined the new church in great numbers. Augustine, seeing the success of his labours, crossed to France, and received consecration at Aries. He then despatched messengers to the Pope to inform him of what had been done, and to propose for his consideration certain practical difficulties that had arisen. They brought back the pallium, with which Augustine was consecrated as first archbishop of Canterbury, and certain vestments and utensils for the new churches. Gregory also gave most prudent counsel for dealing with the new converts, strongly advising the archbishop to make the change of faith, so far as ceremonial went, as gradual as possible, and not on any account to wound the feelings of the people by destroying their temples, but rather to consecrate them afresh, and use them for Christian worship. Augustine passed the remainder of his life principally at Canterbury, where he died, probably in 607, on the 26th May. See Lives of the English Saints, No. III. 1847, and Mrs Jameson's Legends of the Monastic Orders.