Pope St Gregory appointed Augustine, a monk, to lead a mission to the Anglo-Saxon Kingdom of Kent in Britain to bring the King and his people to Christianity. This was necessary because the already Christian British kingdoms had been pushed far into the west by the pagan Anglo-Saxons. The King, Ethelbert, had already married Bertha, a Christian princess; it is possible they were invited. They arrived in Britain in 597 on the Isle of Thanet. St Augustine may have been ordained bishop before this. The King became a Christian and 1000’s were baptised probably on Christmas Day 597. St Augustine founded the monastery of Sts Peter and Paul outside the walls of the city.
St Augustine was made metropolitan bishop in 601. The planned removal of the see to London never happened, probably because London was in Essex and King Ethelbert’s nephew was king and he too became a Christian. London and Rochester both had bishops by 604. Before his death that year St Augustine had also appointed Lawrence his successor at Canterbury.
The British churches do not seem to have made any attempt to covert the Saxons before St Augustine came. That may be because the Saxons spent so much time slaughtering them. St Augustine’s attempt to unite the churches failed. One senses the great cultural divide betwen them. When they met the British expected St Augustine to get up from his throne to greet them. But St Augustine didn’t budge an inch all the while expecting the British to bow down to his authority and power and that of Rome behind him. St Gregory believed that the British should submit and that their bishops obey St Augustine. In addition there were the ‘usual’ issues of the date of easter, tonsure and other matters. St Gregory put the English mission directly under himself.
St Augustine was buried within the Abbey church. The place is still marked.