Saints and Holy People

Find out about their lives and how they changed the world

Saint Augustine of Canterbury (d. 605)

Saint Augustine of Canterbury (d. 605)

Patron saint of England

Feast day: May 27

Saint Augustine of Canterbury and 40 Benedictine monks were sent by Pope Saint Gregory the Great to spread the Good News to the Anglo-Saxons in England. When they reached Gaul (northern France) and heard of the ferocity of the Anglo-Saxons, they returned to Rome to seek counsel from the Pope. Gregory assured them that they would be fine, and they once again departed.

The group landed in the territory of Kent, which was under the control of the pagan King Ethelbert and his Christian queen. The party was kindly welcomed and succeeded in converting the king to Christianity. Augustine was ordained a bishop in France and established his see in Canterbury. He established a church and monastery near the present Canterbury cathedral.

Unfortunately, Augustine was not always successful in his endeavors. He faced difficulties uniting the Anglo-Saxon Christians with the original Briton Christians, who had been driven into western England by the Anglo-Saxon invaders. In addition, he could not convince the Britons to give up specific Celtic customs. Yet in his missionary endeavors he followed the wise counsel of Pope Gregory: purify rather than destroy pagan temples and customs; let pagan rites and festivals be transformed into Christian feasts; retain local customs.  Even though Augustine made limited progress during his lifetime, his efforts eventually led to the conversion of England.

He is now known as the "Apostle of England."

(Image by NN, public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)