The Complete Works of the Venerable Bede

Date: 1843–1844

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Chapter XXVII the Reëstablishment of Christianity in Britain



Pope Gregory’s Interest in the Conversion of the Anglo-Saxons


In the year of our Lord 582, Maurice,3 the fifty-fourth emperor from Augustus, ascended the throne and reigned twenty-one years. In the tenth year of his reign, Gregory4 was promoted to the apostolical see of Rome, and presided over it thirteen years, six months, and ten days. Gregory, being moved by divine inspiration . . . sent the servant of God, Augustine, and with him several other monks, who feared the Lord, to preach the word of God to the English nation. But after they had undertaken the work, they were seized with sudden fear and began to think of returning home, rather than proceed to a barbarous, fierce, and unbelieving nation, to whose very language they were strangers. . . . In short, they sent back Augustine, who was to be consecrated bishop in case they were received by the English, that he might persuade the holy Gregory to relieve them from undertaking so dangerous, toilsome, and uncertain a journey. The pope, in reply, sent them a hortatory epistle, persuading them to proceed in their enterprise, and to rely on the assistance of the Almighty. The letter ran as follows:

"Gregory, the servant of the servants of God, to the servants of our Lord. Forasmuch as it would have been better not to have begun a good work, than to think of desisting from that which has been begun, it behooves you, my beloved sons, to fulfill the good work which you have undertaken. Let not, therefore, the toil of the journey nor the tongues of evil-speaking men deter you; but with all possible earnestness and zeal perform that which, by God’s direction, you have undertaken; being assured that much labor is followed by an eternal reward. When Augustine, your chief, returns, whom we also constitute your abbot, humbly obey him in all things; knowing that whatsoever you shall do by his direction will be available to your souls. Almighty God protect you with his grace and grant that I may, in the heavenly country, see the fruits of your mission. Though I cannot labor with you, I shall partake in the joy of the reward, because I am willing to labor. God keep you in safety, my most beloved sons."

1 , translated by J. A. Giles. 12 vols. in 6. London, 1843–1844. Whittaker and Company.

2 Bede, Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum, i, 23.

3 Maurice (Mauricius), Roman emperor in the East.

4 Gregory I, the Great.

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Chicago: J. A. Giles, trans., The Complete Works of the Venerable Bede in Readings in Early European History, ed. Webster, Hutton (Boston: Ginn and Company, 1926), 301. Original Sources, accessed December 1, 2023,

MLA: . The Complete Works of the Venerable Bede, translted by J. A. Giles, in Readings in Early European History, edited by Webster, Hutton, Boston, Ginn and Company, 1926, page 301. Original Sources. 1 Dec. 2023.

Harvard: (trans.), The Complete Works of the Venerable Bede. cited in 1926, Readings in Early European History, ed. , Ginn and Company, Boston, pp.301. Original Sources, retrieved 1 December 2023, from