May 27

St. Augustine of Canterbury

St. Augustine of Canterbury

When He Lived:

St. Augustine of Canterbury, also known as Augustine the Lesser, lived from around the 6th century to 26 May 604 AD.

Where He Lived:

Augustine was born in Rome, Italy. However, he is most famously associated with his mission to England, where he became the first Archbishop of Canterbury.

Notable World Events During His Time:

  • Fall of the Western Roman Empire (476 AD): Augustine’s early years coincided with the aftermath of the fall of the Western Roman Empire. This event marked a significant shift in the political and cultural landscape of Europe.
  • Byzantine-Sassanian War of 602-628: During Augustine’s life, the Byzantine Empire and the Sassanian Empire were engaged in a prolonged conflict, impacting the world’s geopolitical balance.
  • Founding of the Sui Dynasty in China (581 AD): The Sui Dynasty was established during Augustine’s lifetime, leading to the unification of China and significant reforms.
  • The Life of Muhammad and the Rise of Islam: Augustine’s lifetime saw the birth of Islam and the rise of the Islamic civilization, with far-reaching historical implications.
  • Development of the First Codified Legal Systems: Legal systems like the Byzantine Emperor Justinian’s codification of Roman law emerged during Augustine’s lifetime, impacting legal practices.


St. Augustine of Canterbury is the patron saint of England and the Anglican Communion. His legacy is closely tied to the establishment of Christianity in England through his missionary efforts. His influence extends to education, promoting learning and scholarship in early medieval England.

Road to England

Initially, St. Augustine was the prior of a monastery based in Rome until Pope Gregory the Great chose him to lead the Gregorian mission in 596. St. Augustine had a group of about 40 companions, some of whom were monks. This was a mission to Britain to Christianize King Thelberht and his kingdom. This king had married a Christian princess who was expected to have some influence over her husband.

The task of the mission was a huge one, and they felt that they were not going to succeed. At one point, he returned to Rome to ask for papal permission to return; the pope, however, did not give in but instead sent him back with letters to encourage the other missionaries.

His Works in Canterbury

They reached the main town of Canterbury in 597 and managed to convert him from Anglo-Saxon paganism to Christianity. The King gave them land and allowed them to preach freely. St. Augustine was consecrated as a bishop, and he converted a lot of the King’s subjects.

Soon after his arrival in Canterbury, St. Augustine founded the monastery of Saint Peter and Paul, which later became St. Augustine’s Abbey. At one point, he was expected to move to London, but that move never happened.

After St. Augustine established his episcopal see in Canterbury, he converted a lot of people to Christianity. Gregory claimed in one of his letters that more than 10,000 Christians had been baptized.

St. Augustine also reconsecrated a building that had been used for pagan worship so that it could be used for Christian worship.

Gregory also instructed St. Augustine on some matters, such as the consecration of temples for Christian use and the moving of feasts to days celebrating Christian martyrs. Throughout his missionary work, St. Augustine got most of his guidance from Gregory.

St. Augustine arranged the concentration of his successor, Laurence of Canterbury, who was also a member of his team on the Gregorian mission.

Relations with the Native Bishops

In 601, Pope Gregory sent more missionaries to Canterbury as well as gifts for the church. In spite of all the great work of St. Augustine, the attempts to persuade the native British bishops to submit to him were unfruitful.

Unfortunately, St. Augustine failed to extend his authority to the Christians in Wales and Dumnonia to the west. This was because the natives viewed Augustine with uncertainty, and this was worsened when St. Augustine did not rise from his seat when the British bishops were entering during one of the meetings. This, in turn, resulted in the bishops not recognizing him as their archbishop.

There were also differences between St. Augustine and the British Church, and these also contributed to his being accepted. Differences included the observance of Easter, tonsure, and approaches to ascetism and missionary endeavors.

There were also some political dimensions involved since St. Augustine’s efforts were sponsored by the king. This also contributed to the other bishops not accepting him.


His way of doing things introduced a more active missionary style to the British Isles.

There is a shrine at St. Augustine’s, Ramsgate, that is kept in his honor. His feast day is May 27, He was canonized in 1303 and is known as the patron saint of brewers, printers, and theologians.

5 Interesting Facts About St. Augustine of Canterbury

  1. St. Augustine once had a mass baptism where he baptized thousands.
    of people on Christmas Day in 597.
  2. The pope once wrote a letter to the king complimenting St.
    Augustine’s knowledge of the Bible
  3. St. Augustine regularly wrote letters to the pope, requesting
  4. St. Augustine is the founder of The King’s School in Canterbury.
    which is the oldest existing school.
  5. He is believed to have been from a well-off family.

Prayer to St. Augustine of Canterbury

O Lord our God, by your Son Jesus Christ, you called your apostles and sent them forth to preach the Gospel to the nations. We bless your holy name for your servant Augustine, first Archbishop of Canterbury, whose labors in propagating your Church among the English people we commemorate today, and we pray that all whom you call and send may do your will, bide their time, and see your glory, through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.