Tuesday, 27 September 2016
Kent, birthplace of the church – and advertising?
A wonderful, evocative book review in yesterday’s Sunday Times newspaper that I can only quote directly:
“In AD597, a ship landed on the coast of Kent. On board were 40 or so Italian monks, led by one Augustine, the future St Augustine of Canterbury. These men had been sent by Pope Gregory the Great as the first official mission to the Anglo-Saxons, and Augustine’s conversion of King Ethelbert of Kent around AD600 marks the true beginning of Christianity in England. The missionaries established a new cathedral at Canterbury and Augustine became its first Archbishop.
Justin Welby the 105th Archbishop of Canterbury is his direct linear successor.
In AD601 when it was clear that Augustine’s mission had been a success, Pope Gregory sent the Archbishop a parcel of books for use by the fledgling English Church. Among then was a small illuminated gospel book, containing the four New Testament Gospels in Jerome’s Latin translation. This manuscript a little faded by 1,400 years of use stands at the head of Christopher de Hamel’s spectacular Meetings with Manuscripts book.
For, wonder of wonders, St Augustine’s gospel book survives today, in the library of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge. It is, writes de Hamel: “probably the oldest non-archaeological artefact of any kind to have survived in England””
Quite astonishing also that it was in effect the first advertisement in England – promoting the Church and Christianity - that still survives.
“…de Hamel, the librarian of Corpus Christi College, describes bringing the Gospels to Canterbury Cathedral in February 2003 for the enthronement of Rowan Williams as Archbishop (the book is used for the swearing of the oaths of office). As de Hamel entered the nave, the congregation was singing the Welsh hymn “Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise”, he was holding the Gospels of St Augustine open on a cushion. The parchment leaves of the manuscript are extremely fine and of tissue thinness and they picked up the vibrations and they hummed and fluttered in time with the music. At that moment it was as if the 6th century manuscript on its cushion had come to life and was taking part in the service.”
How astonishing that here in East Kent nothing exists to commemorate St Augustine beyond a small stone cross near the landing site at Pegwell Bay. The latter a UNESCO and SSSI site along with The White Cliffs of Dover just around the headland, and the 3 UNESCO sites in Canterbury.
And the nearby Roman ruins of the fort at Richborough.
While Pegwell Bay is contaminated by the ruins of the old hovercraft site and dumped coal ash still not cleared away along with the rubble of the demolished Richboro power station.
Surely the Landings site, a version of the Jorvik attraction at York, with Caesar and St Augustine and Hengist and Horsa and Wellington and Hitler, should be brought back to life?
Even the Gospel book of St Augustine manuscript book brought back home and put on display in Canterbury after 1,400 years?
And all the more apt with the 950th anniversary of the 1066 Battle of Hastings and recreation of the 300 mile march of King Harold from the victory over the Vikings at Stamford Bridge to Hastings:
A narrow defeat by William the Conqueror that ended the reign of the Anglo-Saxons and ushered in the Norman Conquest, and first delineations of Britain with the Bayeux Tapestry, and Domesday Book.
* July Updates: http://sincerityagency.blogspot.co.uk/2016/07/misc-articles-updates-july-2016.html
* Working on a misc issues: Magellan Anniversary - Spain and LatAm, Almeria Universities links and Kent-Thai orchids
* Also Solomon Islands cruise ships
* Benelux strategy: Panasonic and Phillips - DNA bathroom mirror
* One Essex Court and Inns fraud: Grabiner, Glick, Hollingworth, Leavor etc