Augustin, Or Austin, Saint, archbishop of Canterbury, sometimes called the apostle of the English, born probably in the first half of the 6th century, died at Canterbury between 604 and 614. He was a Benedictine monk in the monastery of St. Andrew at Rome, when he was selected by Pope Gregory I. with other monks to convert the Saxons of England to Christianity. He landed in the dominions of Ethelbert, king of Kent, in 596 or 597, and was hospitably received and allowed to preach to the people, although the king himself firmly refused to forsake the gods of his fathers. The influence of his wife, a Christian princess, aided by the preaching of Augustin, finally prevailed, and Ethelbert was baptized, after which the efforts of the missionaries were crowned with complete success throughout the whole Saxon heptarchy. The ascetic habits of Augustin and his brethren, a reputation for miraculous power in the restoration of sight and even of life, the example of the king, and the fact that the southern races of Europe which had embraced Christianity were far before them in civilization and prosperity, made a deep impression upon the Saxon people, never very devotedly attached to their national religion, and their conversion seems to have been general; it is said that 10,000 persons were baptized in a single day.
Their temples were dedicated to the new faith and used as churches, and many of their rude festivals were converted into religious feasts, without losing their original social character. Augustin, it is said, allowed no coercive measures to be used in propagating the gospel. His success caused him to be appointed by the pope archbishop of Canterbury, with supreme authority over the churches of England. The see of York was soon afterward established, and a number of other bishoprics. Augustin wished to establish conformity of religious customs over the whole of Britain, and for that purpose appointed several conferences with the British bishops of Wales, who were successors of converts of the 2d century, and had declared their independence of the church of Rome. The conferences, however, failed of any result. A number of Welsh monks were soon after put to death, and Augustin has been charged with the deed, but on no very good authority. His relics were preserved in the cathedral at Canterbury.