Augustine (2)

Augustine (or AUSTIN), first archbishop of Canterbury, was a monk of the Benedictine monastery of St. Andrew, at Rome, and was sent by Pope Gregory, who had been prior of that convent, soon after his accession to the papal throne, as a missionary into England, together with forty companions, also Benedictines, A.D. 596 (Bede, Hist. Eccl. 1, 23). Augustine and his company became discouraged, and Augustine was dispatched back to Rome to obtain the pope's leave for their return; but Gregory disregarded his remonstrances, and, providing him with new letters of protection, commanded him to proceed. Augustine and his companions landed late in 596 in the isle of Thanet, whence they sent messengers to Ethelbert, king of Kent, to inform him of the object of their mission. Ethelbert's queen, Bertha, daughter of Cherebert, king of the Parisii, was a Christian, and by the articles of her marriage (as early as 570) had the free exercise of her religion allowed her. Ethelbert ordered the missionaries at first to continue in the isle of Thanet, but some time after came to them and invited them to an audience in the open air. Although he refused at first to abandon the gods of his fathers, he allowed them to preach without molestation, and assigned them a residence in Canterbury, then called Dorobernia, which they entered in procession, singing hymns. After the conversion and baptism of the king himself, they received license to preach in any part of his dominions, which Bede assures us (c. 25) extended (probably over tributary kingdoms) as far as the river Humber, and proselytes were now made in remarkable numbers. — In 597, Augustine, by direction of Pope Gregory, went over to Aries, in France, where he was consecrated archbishop, and metropolitan of the English nation, by the archbishop of that place; after which, returning into Britain, he sent Lawrence, the presbyter, and Peter, the monk, to Rome, to acquaint the pope with the success of his mission, and to desire his solution of certain questions respecting church discipline, the maintenance of the clergy, etc. which Bede (1. 1, c. 27) has reported at length in the form of interrogatories and answers. Gregory sent over more missionaries, and directed him to constitute a bishop at York, who might have other subordinate bishops, yet in such a manner that Augustine of Canterbury should be metropolitan of all England. Augustine now made an attempt to establish uniformity of discipline in the island, and, as a necessary step, to gain over the Welsh bishops to his opinion. For this purpose a conference was held in Worcestershire, at a place since called Augustine's Oak, where the archbishop endeavored to persuade the prelates to make one communion, and assist in preaching to the unconverted Saxons; but neither this, nor a second conference, in which he threatened divine vengeance in case of non-obedience, was successful. After Augustine's death, Ethelfrid, king of Northumberland, marched with an army to Caerleon, and near twelve hundred monks of Bangor were put to the sword. In the year 604 Augustine consecrated two of his companions, Mellitus and Justus, the former to the see of London, the latter to that of Rochester. He died at Canterbury, probably in 607, but the date of his death is variously given from 604 to 614. The observation of the festival of St. Augustine was first enjoined in a synod held under Cuthbert, archbishop of Canterbury (Gervase, Act. Pontff. Cantuar. Script. 10, col. 1641), and afterward by the pope's bull in the reign of Edward III. See Bede, Hist. Eccl. lib. 1 and 2; Gregorius, Epistolc, 1. 7, ep. 5, 30; 1. 9, ep. 56; Joan Diacon. Vita S. Greg.; Stanley, Memorials of Canterbury (London, 1855); Acta Sanctorum, Mensis Maii, 6, 378; English Cyclopcedia; Neander, Ch. Hist. 3, 11-18; Smith, Religion of Ancient Britain, ch. 10. SEE ENGLAND, CHURCH OF.

 
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