St Augustine


The Ebbsfleet Cross.

Augustine did not want to come to England. Even when he was more than half-way in his journey, he stopped long enough to send a despairing plea back to Rome, begging the pope to release him from his mission. England? The ends of the earth. Inhabited by war-like savages. And that was before football was invented!

Pope Gregory was inflexible, so reluctantly Augustine set out again and this time made it across the Channel to where a nervous King Aethelberht awaited him. Although Aethelberht's wife, Bertha, was a Christian from France, he was still suspicious of these strangers and fearful of their occult powers. He determined to meet them in the open air where, as everyone knew, magic had less power.

Today a memorial cross marks the spot where Augustine landed - and, possibly, where Aethelberht met him - for Augustine's mission to England produced a more lasting impact than any previous invader. Our culture, our architecture, even our ideas about right and wrong, are all down to the Christianity Augustine brought with him.

So next time you look across the peaceful fields of England and see the sun glinting off a distant spire, say a quick prayer of thanks for St Augustine, the man who reluctantly changed England from barbarism to civilisation.

Oh, and if you think I'm exaggerting, remember, it's thanks to Christianity that we are not eating horse-burgers - at least, not knowingly.