he requested support for his mission from the Merovingian kings, asking them to supply Frankish clergymen to serve as interpreters for Augustine and his men. Augustine himself appears to have been ordained bishop by a Frankish bishop while on his way to Kent. The group landed in Kent in 597. Based in Canterbury, they set about their work and, by Christmas of that same year, ^thelberht and a large number of Kentishpeople had already received baptism. As the see for the bishopric, Augustine made use of a former Romano-British church in Canterbury. Like the episcopal church of Rome (today, S. Giovanni in Laterano) it was dedicated to the Saviour (Christ Church). He also founded a monastery dedicated to St Peter for the monastic cathedral clergy, which provided the basis for further work.

In 601, Gregory sent additional helpers to Kent who brought with them a very ambitious plan to renew the Britannic church according to a preconceived ideal. Augustine was to create a church province for the whole of England, with Canterbury and York as its centres. The British bishops were also to be included. Furthermore, Gregory demanded from the king that the pagan cult be suppressed and its shrines destroyed. However, a second letter that followed close on the heels of the first one amended these demands. It contains Gregory's much-quoted missionary instruction to Augustine and recommends a persuasive rather than coercive method as the right strategy. Temples were to be transformed into churches and sacrificial festivals into the days of saints and martyrs.

It is, however, doubtful whether this instruction had much impact on missionary practice. About twenty-five years later King Edwin of Northumbria converted to Christianity under Kentish influence. As a result of this, an apparently well-known centre of pagan worship in Goodmanham (East Riding) was burnt down and not replaced by a church. In early medieval mission, the destruction of pagan shrines remained commonplace. The fact that Christian churches were erected on sites that were formerly occupied by a pagan cult centre marked a disruption of traditional pagan religion and a new beginning and is thus a sign of religious discontinuity rather than continuity.

The involvement of Frankish clergy in the early Roman mission to Kent had a lasting impact. These Franks were probably responsible for bringing to England a group of elementary Christian loan words shared by the English and German languages. They include, for example, the word church (Scottish kirk, Old English cirice, German Kirche [Old High German kirihha], from the vulgar Latin *cirica).

Although Augustine's actual achievements were modest in comparison to Gregory's ambitious plans, they were still remarkable. Augustine managed

0 0

Post a comment