Life and Soul

Saint of the week: St Laurence (February 2)

The second Archbishop of Canterbury, Laurence was appointed in 604 after Augustine died. When the kingdom reverted to paganism a few years later on the death of King Ethelbert, Laurence was one of the few missionaries sent by Pope Gregory the Great who stayed.

Laurence had been part of the original mission launched by Pope Gregory to convert the “angels”, as he had dubbed some angelic blond-haired Angles he’d seen. Led by Augustine, the missionaries had at first succeeded in persuading the king of the most advanced Anglo-Saxon kingdom to allow some of his men to convert. Eventually the king had followed his Frankish wife, Bertha, into the faith.

Because of this, Kent soon issued its first coins and began England’s escape from the Dark Ages. Laurence’s job was to send messages between Augustine and the Pope, something that involved an absurdly dangerous journey through Francia.

The mission in Kent was so far away from civilisation that Augustine of Canterbury personally consecrated Laurence before his death, worried that any delay would destroy the English mission before it began.

During his reign Laurence founded a monastery in Canterbury, which was later re-consecrated as St Augustine’s Abbey. He died on February 2, 619 and was buried in Canterbury. His relics were moved to the new church of St Augustine’s in 1091.