Commemorated on February 25
In 597, a party of forty missionary monks, led by St Augustine
of Canterbury (May 28), was sent to Britain by the holy Pope Gregory the Great,
to bring the blessed Gospel of Jesus Christ to the English people. Aethelberht,
who had been King of Kent for thirty-six years, received the monks favorably,
allowed them to preach in his kingdom, and invited them to establish their
headquarters in Canterbury, his capital city, which already contained a small,
ruined church dedicated to St Martin of Tours in Roman times.
The king himself was converted and received holy Baptism at the hands of St
Augustine; a crowd of his subjects followed his example. When St Augustine was
consecrated bishop, Aethelberht allowed him to be made Archbishop of Canterbury
and gave his own palace to serve as a monastery. The king worked steadily for
the conversion of the neighboring kindoms, and in 604 established an episcopal
see in London. Unlike some Christian rulers, he refused to see anyone converted
Saint Aethelberht reposed in peace in 616, after reigning for fifty-six years.
He was buried in the Church of Saints Peter and Paul, which he had established.
Many miracles were worked at his tomb, where a lamp was kept lit perpetually
until the monastery was disbanded by the protestants in 1538.