St Augustine of Canterbury arrived in England in 597 along with some 40 monks who had set out from Rome to evangelise the Anglo-Saxons in England. He became the first Archbishop of Canterbury and constructed a church and monastery near where the present cathedral stands. He laboured hard and patiently and purified rather than destroyed pagan temples and customs, allowing pagan rites and festivals to be taken over into Christian feasts and retaining local customs, where possible. Although he died in 605, some eight years after arriving, his efforts were to bear fruit eventually in the conversion of England. Augustine of Canterbury is often called the ‘Apostle of England’. The inscription on his tomb states he was “sent hither by St Gregory, Bishop of Rome, being supported by God in the working of miracles, he led King Ethelbert and his nation from the worship of idols to faith in Christ!”.
St Augustine of Canterbury’s feast day in England and Wales is celebrated on 27th May.