Aleteia logoAleteia logo
Tuesday 21 September |
The Feast of Saint Matthew the Apostle
home iconArt & Culture
line break icon

The great abbey of St. Augustine marked the rebirth of Christianity in England

Abbey of Saint Augustine

Miles Banbery | Flickr CC BY-NC 2.0

Daniel Esparza - published on 11/02/19

It functioned as a Benedictine monastery from its foundation in 598 until the English Reformation.

Built in the year 598 by the famous missionary St. Augustine of Canterbury, the “Apostle to the English,” one of the fathers of the English Church and the first bishop of Canterbury, the Abbey of St. Augustine marked the rebirth of Christianity in Southern England.

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.


Read more:
Canterbury stained glass discovered to date back to 12th century

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.


Read more:
A brief (and slightly biased) history of Christianity in Britain

ArchitectureCatholic historyChurch HistoryEngland
Support Aleteia!

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 every month
  • Aleteia is published every day in seven languages: English, French, 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!

Daily prayer
And today we celebrate...

Top 10
Domitille Farret d'Astiès
Attacked with acid as a baby, Anmol Rodriguez overcomes and inspi...
Esteban Pittaro
Argentine “Mother Teresa” was a former model and actress who embr...
Philip Kosloski
Your body is not a “shell” for your spirit
Our Lady of La Salette
Philip Kosloski
How Our Lady of La Salette can give us hope in darkness
Cerith Gardiner
12 Habits of Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati that every young adult...
Visalia CHURCH
J-P Mauro
The largest Catholic parish church in the US will soon be in Cali...
Zelda Caldwell
A pilgrimage to Paris’ Chapel of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal
See More
Get Aleteia delivered to your inbox. Subscribe here.