Early Britain eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 210 pages of information about Early Britain.
and ecclesiastical symbolism.  Gregory had rightly determined to try by ritual and show to impress the barbarian mind.  AEthelberht, already predisposed to accept the Continental culture, and to assimilate his rude kingdom to the Roman model, met them in the open air at a solemn meeting; for he feared, says Baeda, to meet them within four walls, lest they should practice incantations upon him.  The foreign monks advanced in procession to the king’s presence, chanting their litanies, and displaying a silver cross.  AEthelberht yielded almost at once.  He and all his court became Christians; and the people, as is usual amongst barbarous tribes, quickly conformed to the faith of their rulers.  AEthelberht gave the missionaries leave to build new churches, or to repair the old ones erected by the Welsh Christians.  Augustine returned to Gaul, where he was consecrated as Archbishop of the English nation, at Arles.  Kent became thenceforth a part of the great Continental system.  Canterbury has ever since remained the metropolis of the English Church; and the modern archbishops trace back their succession directly to St. Augustine.

For awhile, the young Church seemed to make vigorous progress.  Augustine built a monastery at Canterbury, where AEthelberht founded a new church to SS.  Peter and Paul, to be a sort of Westminster Abbey for the tombs of all future Kentish kings and archbishops.  He also restored an old Roman church in the city.  The pope sent him sacramental vessels, altar cloths, ornaments, relics, and, above all, many books.  Ten years later, Augustine enlarged his missionary field by ordaining two new bishops—­Mellitus, to preach to the East Saxons, “whose metropolis,” says Baeda, “is the city of London, which is the mart of many nations, resorting to it by sea and land;” and Justus to the episcopal see of West Kent, with his bishop-stool at Rochester.  The East Saxons nominally accepted the faith at the bidding of their over-lord, AEthelberht; but the people of London long remained pagans at heart.  On Augustine’s death, however, all life seemed again to die out of the struggling mission.  Laurentius, who succeeded him, found the labour too great for his weaker hands.  In 613 AEthelberht died, and his son Eadbald at once apostatised, returning to the worship of Woden and the ancestral gods.  The East Saxons drove out Mellitus, who, with Justus, retired to Gaul; and Archbishop Laurentius himself was minded to follow them.  Then the Kentish king, admonished by a dream of the archbishop’s, made submission, recalled the truant bishops, and restored Justus to Rochester.  The Londoners, however, would not receive back Mellitus, “choosing rather to be under their idolatrous high-priests.”  Soon Laurentius died too, and Mellitus was called to take his place, and consecrated at last a church in London in the monastery of St. Peter.  In 624, the third archbishop was carried off by gout, and Justus of Rochester succeeded to the primacy of the struggling church.  Up to this point little had been gained, except the conversion of Kent itself, with its dependent kingdom of Essex—­the two parts of England in closest union with the Continent, through the mercantile intercourse by way of London and Richborough.

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Early Britain from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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