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The History of Kent

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Canterbury Cathedral Saints

Saints who were cannonised due to their connection with Canterbury:



St Augustine
St Aethelberht
St Mellitius
St Dunstan
St Alphage
St Anslem
St Thomas Becket


Augustine of Canterbury (c. 530AD - 26 May 604)was a Benedictine monk who became the first Archbishop of Canterbury in the year 598AD. He is considered the Apostle to the English, and a founder of the English Church.

Augustine was the prior of a monastery in Rome when Pope Gregory the Great chose him in 595AD to lead a mission, usually known as the Gregorian mission, to Britain to convert the pagan King Aethelberht of the Kingdom of Kent to Christianity. Kent was probably chosen because it was near the Christian kingdoms in Gaul and because Aethelberht had married a Christian princess, Bertha, daughter of Charibert I the King of Paris who was expected to exert some influence over her husband. Before reaching Kent, the missionaries had considered turning back but Gregory urged them on and, in 597AD, Augustine landed on the Isle of Thanet and proceeded to Aethelberht's main town of Canterbury.

King Aethelberht converted to Christianity and allowed the missionaries to preach freely, giving them land to found a monastery outside the city walls. Augustine was consecrated bishop of the English and converted many of the king's subjects, including thousands during a mass baptism on Christmas Day in 597. Pope Gregory sent more missionaries in 601, along with encouraging letters and gifts for the churches, although attempts to persuade the native Celtic bishops to submit to Augustine's authority failed. Roman bishops were established at London and Rochester in 604, and a school was founded to train Anglo-Saxon priests and missionaries. Augustine also arranged the consecration of his successor, Laurence of Canterbury. The archbishop died in 604 and was soon revered as a saint.


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Aethelberht (c. 560AD - 24 February 616) was King of Kent from about 580AD or 590AD until his death. In his Ecclesiastical History of the English People, the 8th Century monk Bede lists Aethelberht as the third king to hold imperium over other Anglo-Saxon kingdoms. In the late 9th Century Anglo-Saxon Chronicle Aethelberht is referred to as a bretwalda, or "Britain-ruler". He was the first English king to convert to Christianity.

He was the son of Eormenric, succeeding him as king, according to the Chronicle. He married Bertha, the Christian daughter of Charibert, king of the Franks, thus building an alliance with the most powerful state in contemporary Western Europe; the marriage probably took place before Aethelberht came to the throne. The influence of Bertha may have led to the decision by Pope Gregory I to send Augustine as a missionary from Rome. Augustine landed on the Isle of Thanet in east Kent in 597AD. Shortly thereafter, Aethelberht was converted to Christianity, churches were established, and wider-scale conversion to Christianity began in the kingdom. Aethelberht provided the new church with land in Canterbury, at what came to be known as St Augustine's Abbey.
Aethelberht’s code of laws for Kent, the earliest written code in any Germanic language, instituted a complex system of fines. Kent was rich, with strong trade ties to the continent and, it may be that Aethelberht instituted royal control of trade. For the first time following the Anglo-Saxon invasion, coins began circulating in Kent during his reign.

Aethelberht later was canonised for his role in establishing Christianity among the Anglo-Saxons, as were his wife and daughter. His feast day originally was 24 February, but was changed to 25 February......
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Mellitus (died 24 April 624AD) was the first Bishop of London, the third Archbishop of Canterbury, and a member of the Gregorian mission sent to England to convert the Anglo-Saxons. He arrived in 601AD with a group of clergymen sent to augment the mission, and was consecrated as Bishop of London in 604. Mellitus was the recipient of a famous letter from Pope Gregory I known as the Epistola ad Mellitum, preserved in a later work by the medieval chronicler Bede, which suggested the conversion of the Anglo-Saxons be undertaken gradually and integrate pagan rituals and customs. In 610, Mellitus attended a council of bishops in Italy, and returned to England bearing papal letters to some of the missionaries.

Mellitus was exiled from London by the pagan successors to his patron, King S’berht of Essex, following the latter's death around 616. King Aethelberht, Mellitus' other patron, died at about the same time, forcing him to take refuge in Gaul. Mellitus returned to England the following year, after Aethelberht's successor had been converted to Christianity, but he was unable to return to London, whose inhabitants remained pagan. Mellitus was consecrated as Archbishop of Canterbury in 619. During his tenure, he was alleged to have miraculously saved the cathedral, and much of the town of Canterbury, from a fire. After his death in 624, Mellitus was revered as a saint......
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Dunstan (c. 909AD - 19 May 988) was an Abbot of Glastonbury Abbey, a Bishop of Worcester, a Bishop of London, and an Archbishop of Canterbury, later canonised as a saint. His work restored monastic life in England and reformed the English Church. His 11th Century biographer, Osbern, himself an artist and scribe, states that Dunstan was skilled in 'making a picture and forming letters', as were other clergy of his age who reached senior rank.

Dunstan served as an important minister of state to several English kings. He was the most popular saint in England for nearly two centuries, having gained fame for the many stories of his greatness, not least among which were those concerning his famed cunning in defeating the Devil......
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Aelfheah (c. 954AD - 19 April 1012), officially remembered by the name
St Alphege within the Church, and also called Elphege, Alfege, or Godwine, was an Anglo-Saxon Bishop of Winchester, later Archbishop of Canterbury. He became an anchorite before being elected abbot of Bath Abbey. His perceived piety and sanctity led to his promotion to the episcopate, and eventually, to his becoming archbishop. Aelfheah furthered the cult of Saint Dunstan and also encouraged learning. He was captured by Viking raiders in 1011 and killed by them the following year, after refusing to be ransomed. Aelfheah was canonized as a saint in 1078. Thomas Becket, a later Archbishop of Canterbury, prayed to him just before his own murder in Canterbury Cathedral......
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Anselm of Canterbury (c. 1033 - 21 April 1109), also called of Aosta for his birthplace, and of Bec for his home monastery, was a Benedictine monk, a philosopher, and a prelate of the church who held the office of Archbishop of Canterbury from 1093 to 1109. Called the founder of scholasticism, he is famous as the originator of the ontological argument for the existence of God.

Born into the noble family of Candia, he entered the Benedictine order at the Abbey of Bec at the age of twenty-seven, where he became abbot in 1079. He became Archbishop of Canterbury under William II of England, and was exiled from England from 1097 to 1100, and again from 1105 to 1107 under Henry I of England as a result of the lay investiture dispute.

Anselm was proclaimed a Doctor of the Church in 1720 by Pope Clement XL.....
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Thomas Becket (c. 1118AD - 29 December 1170), was Archbishop of Canterbury from 1162 until his murder in 1170. He is venerated as a saint and martyr by both the Roman Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion. He engaged in conflict with Henry II of England over the rights and privileges of the Church and was assassinated by followers of the king in Canterbury Cathedral. Soon after the death of Thomas Becket, Pope Alexander canonized him......more


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