Kent Day (Feast Day of Saint Augustine of Canterbury) Date in the current year: May 26, 2024

Kent Day (Feast Day of Saint Augustine of Canterbury) May 26 is the feast day of Saint Augustine of Canterbury, the first Archbishop of Canterbury who is considered a founder of the English Church. It is widely regarded as the unofficial county day of Kent.

Kent is a ceremonial and non-metropolitan county in South East England. It is one of the so-called home counties surrounding Greater London. Unlike some other historic countries of England, Kent retained its county status following the commencement of the Local Government Act of 1972. The administrative, political and economical center of the county is Maidstone.

Due to its closeness to the continent, Kent was one of the first regions of England to be conquered first by the Roman Empire and then by Germanic tribes. In the mid-590s, Pope Gregory I appointed Augustine, the then prior of Saint Andrew’s Abbey in Rome, as the head of the mission to Kent to convert Anglo-Saxons.

Forty missionaries led by Augustine arrived in Kent in 597. King Ethelbert of Kent permitted them to settle and preach freely in Canterbury. Although the king wasn’t a Christian when the missionaries arrived, his wife Bertha was, so Ethelbert certainly wasn’t opposed to Christianity, which was one of the reasons the pope chose Kent for the mission.

Augustine successfully converted most of Ethelbert’s subjects to Christianity by the end of 597, however, it is unclear when the king himself was baptized. According to legend, Etlhelbert converted to Christianity the very next day after his first meeting with Augustine, but some researchers believe that it took him several months to convert. It is clear that the king had been converted by 601 because his baptism is mentioned in Gregory’s letter dated that year.

In addition to preaching and converting Anglo-Saxons to Christianity, Augustine restored an old Roman Church in Canterbury, reconsecrated a number of buildings that had been used for pagan worship, founded Saint Peter and Paul’s Abbey, which was renamed Saint Augustine’s Abbey after his death, and established several dioceses and a missionary school.

The Diocese of Canterbury, founded by Augustine upon his arrival in Kent, was the first see of the Church of England. It is here that England’s oldest cathedral is situated. The Canterbury Cathedral was founded by Augustine in 597 and rebuilt under Archbishop Lanfranc of Canterbury in the 11th century.

Saint Augustine died on May 26, 604. He was originally buried in the portico of the abbey he had founded, but his body was later exhumed and reburied in the abbey church. Sadly, his shrine and remains were destroyed in 1538 during the Dissolution of the Monasteries.

Unlike some other historic counties of England, Kent does not have an official county day, but Saint Augustine’s feast day is often treated as unofficial Kent Day. Other historic counties that celebrate the feast days of their patron saints as county days are Devon (Saint Petroc), Dorset (Saint Wite), Durham (Saint Cuthbert), Orkney (Saint Magnus), Oxfordshire (Saint Frideswide), Shropshire (Saint Milburga), and Sussex (Saint Richard of Chichester).

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