It functioned as a Benedictine monastery from its foundation in 598 until the English Reformation.
Augustine was the prior of a monastery in Rome when Pope Gregory the Great sent him as the leader of a mission (historically referred to as the “Gregorian Mission”) to (re)christianize Britain. His mission began in Kent, where St. Bertha had married the pagan King Aethelbert. Aethelbert not only supported Augustine’s mission and built a church for Bertha, but also later converted to Christianity, giving the new missionaries led by Augustine a plot of land outside the city walls on which they could build their monastery.
It seems the monastery was at first built as a burial place for Anglo-Saxon kings, but it soon became a missionary school, and over time it acquired an extensive library. Its scriptorium produced many manuscripts, thus turning the abbey, quite soon, into a center of preservation and production of knowledge. From this abbey, Christianity spread all around Southern England, marking a rebirth of the Church on the island.
Tradition tells us that after his conversion Aethelbert ordered the church to be built “in splendor,” and to be dedicated to Saints Peter and Paul. Only after the death of Augustine of Canterbury was this monastery then referred to as St. Augustine’s. Since the monastic community was dissolved after the English Reformation, the abbey was for the most part dismantled until the mid-19th century, when the building began to be used again for educational purposes. Today it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
If you’re reading this article, it’s thanks to the generosity of people like you, who have made Aleteia possible.
Here are some numbers:
- 20 million users around the world read Aleteia.org every month
- Aleteia is published every day in eight languages: English, French, Arabic, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish, and Slovenian
- Each month, readers view more than 50 million pages
- Nearly 4 million people follow Aleteia on social media
- Each month, we publish 2,450 articles and around 40 videos
- We have 60 full time staff and approximately 400 collaborators (writers, translators, photographers, etc.)
As you can imagine, these numbers represent a lot of work. We need you.
Support Aleteia with as little as $1. It only takes a minute. Thank you!