Speculum 69 (1):1-17 (1994)

By comparison with the Irish mission to Northumbria, the mission of Augustine to Kent can seem unexciting. One modern historian has even had occasion to ask “whether Augustine was quite the unimpressive figure which is usually depicted.” This impression is created even though, or perhaps because, the mission of Augustine is among the best-evidenced acts of evangelization in the early Middle Ages. Given the involvement of Gregory the Great and the direct interest of Bede, as well as the more tangential interest of the anonymous author of the Life of Gregory the Great, written at Streoneshealh in Northumbria, it is not surprising that the story of Augustine's mission should be among the best known in Anglo-Saxon history. Nevertheless, there are difficulties in the traditional narrative, as has long been recognized. Despite the vindication of certain aspects of Bede's account, his overall interpretation of the mission still gives cause for concern. At the same time the letters of Gregory the Great continue to provide the opportunity to reassess the context in which the mission must be understood. Further, certain aspects of Gregory's theology allow an insight into Augustine's approach to mission, and may ultimately explain why he can appear so much less interesting than his Irish counterparts. It is, therefore, worth considering these issues yet again
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DOI 10.2307/2864782
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