This Friday, 27th May, is the Feast of St. Augustine of Canterbury (d. 604). Leader of Pope Gregory the Great’s mission to England, he decided upon Canterbury as the ecclesiastical centre of the country. He came from Italy and was a monk in Rome at St. Andrew’s monastery on the Celian Hill. In 596, he was chosen by the pope to lead an evangelistic mission to England. He left with 30 other monks, but they grew dispirited on the long journey and in Gaul decided to turn back. Gregory intervened, encouraging the monks to continue and confirming the authority of Augustine. They finally landed in Thanet on the Kent coast in 597, and were given a warm welcome by King Ethelbert of Kent, who later that year converted to Christianity. Ethelbert also offered them a house in Canterbury, from where they began their mission, spending their time in daily devotion and discipline and in the central task of preaching. Augustine returned to the continent to be consecrated Bishop and on returning to Britain, decided to establish his see in Canterbury, where he built Britain’s first cathedral. He had much success in converting the south of England and soon ‘reinforcements’ from Rome arrived to help in the work. In addition to Canterbury, Augustine also founded other Benedictine monasteries, notably in Rochester and London. He died in 604. Augustine is sometimes called the ‘Apostle to the English,’ although it seems more appropriate to honour Pope Gregory with this title, since Augustine was only really carrying out the vision and orders of his friend and superior. It was his impressive preaching, and the miracles frequently attached to his name, that made a lasting impression on the people he encountered.