Historia Ecclesiastica Gentis Anglorum


Show Summary


Landing of Augustine in Britain


Augustine, thus strengthened by the confirmation of the blessed Gregory, returned to the work of the word of God. with the servants of Christ, and arrived in Britain. The powerful Ethelbert was at that time king of Kent; he had extended his dominions as far as the river Humber, by which the South Saxons arc divided from those of the North. On the cast of Kent is the large Isle of Thanet. . . . In this island landed the servant of our Lord, Augustine, and his companions, numbering nearly forty men. By order of the blessed Gregory, they had taken interpreters of the nation of the Franks. They now sent word to Ethelbert that they were come from Rome, and brought a joyful message, which most undoubtedly assured to all that took advantage of it everlasting joys in heaven. The Kentish king, having heard this message, ordered them to stay in the island where they had landed. He gave further orders that they should be furnished with all necessities, till he should consider what to do with them. For he had before heard of the Christian religion, having a Christian wife of the royal family of the Franks, called Bertha, whom he had received from her parents upon condition that she should be permitted to practice her religion with Bishop Luidhard, who was sent with her to preserve her faith.

Some days later, the king came into the island and, sitting in the open air, ordered Augustine and his companions to be brought into his presence. He had taken precaution that they should not come to him in any house, lest, according to an ancient superstition, if they practiced any magical arts, they might impose upon him and so get the better of him. But they came furnished with divine, not with magic virtue, bearing a silver cross for their banner, and the image of our Lord and Savior painted on a board. After singing the litany, they offered up their prayers to the Lord for the eternal salvation both of themselves and of those to whom they had come.

When Augustine had sat down, according to the king’s commands, and had preached to him and his attendants there the word of life, the king answered, "Your words and promises arc very fair, but as they arc new to us and of uncertain meaning, I cannot approve of them so far as to forsake that which I have so long followed with the whole English nation. But because you have come from afar into my kingdom and, as I believe, are desirous of imparting to us those things which you consider to be true and most beneficial, we will not molest you, but will give you favorable entertainment. We will also take care to supply you with your necessary sustenance; nor do we forbid you to preach and gain as many as you can to your religion." Accordingly, he permitted them to reside in the city of Canterbury, which was the metropolis of all his dominions, and, according to his promise, besides allowing them sustenance, did not refuse them liberty to preach. It is reported that, as they drew near to the city with the holy cross and the image of our sovereign Lord and King, Jesus Christ, they sang this litany: "We beseech, Thee, O Lord, in all Thy mercy, that Thy anger and wrath be turned away from this city and from the holy house, because we have sinned. Hallelujah."

As soon as they entered the dwelling place assigned them, they began to imitate the course of life practiced in the primitive church; applying themselves to frequent prayer, watching, and fasting; preaching the word of life to as many as they could; despising all worldly things, as not belonging to them; receiving only their necessary food from those they taught; living themselves in all respects conformably to what they prescribed to others; and being always disposed to suffer any adversity, and even to die for that truth which they preached. In short, several believed and were baptized, admiring the simplicity of their innocent life and the sweetness of their heavenly doctrine. There was on the east side of the city a church dedicated to the honor of St. Martin, built while the Romans were still in the island, wherein the queen, who, as has been said before, was a Christian, used to pray. In this they first began to meet, to sing, to pray, to say mass, to preach, and to baptize, till the king, being converted to the faith, allowed them to preach openly and build or repair churches in all places. . . .

When the king was baptized, great numbers began daily to flock together to hear the word and, forsaking their heathen rites, to unite with the church of Christ. Their conversion the king so far encouraged that he compelled none to embrace Christianity, but only showed more affection to the believers, as to his fellow-citizens in the heavenly kingdom. For he had learned from his instructors and leaders to salvation that the service of Christ ought to be voluntary, not by compulsion. It was not long before he gave his teachers a settled residence in his metropolis of Canterbury, with such possessions of different kinds as were necessary for their subsistence.

1 Bede, , i, 25–26.


Related Resources

None available for this document.

Download Options

Title: Historia Ecclesiastica Gentis Anglorum

Select an option:

*Note: A download may not start for up to 60 seconds.

Email Options

Title: Historia Ecclesiastica Gentis Anglorum

Select an option:

Email addres:

*Note: It may take up to 60 seconds for for the email to be generated.

Chicago: "Landing of Augustine in Britain," Historia Ecclesiastica Gentis Anglorum in Readings in Early European History, ed. Webster, Hutton (Boston: Ginn and Company, 1926), 302–304. Original Sources, accessed July 22, 2024, http://originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=Y97MMQTEETT7V8J.

MLA: . "Landing of Augustine in Britain." Historia Ecclesiastica Gentis Anglorum, Vol. i, in Readings in Early European History, edited by Webster, Hutton, Boston, Ginn and Company, 1926, pp. 302–304. Original Sources. 22 Jul. 2024. http://originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=Y97MMQTEETT7V8J.

Harvard: , 'Landing of Augustine in Britain' in Historia Ecclesiastica Gentis Anglorum. cited in 1926, Readings in Early European History, ed. , Ginn and Company, Boston, pp.302–304. Original Sources, retrieved 22 July 2024, from http://originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=Y97MMQTEETT7V8J.