Laurence of Canterbury

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Laurence (sometimes Lawrence or Laurentius, died 2 February 619 AD) was the second Archbishop of Canterbury from about 604 to 619. He was a member of the Gregorian mission sent from Italy to England to Christianize the Anglo-Saxons from their paganism, although the date of his arrival is disputed. He was consecrated archbishop by his predecessor, Augustine of Canterbury, during Augustine's lifetime, in order to ensure continuity in the office. He attempted unsuccessfully to resolve differences with the native British bishops by corresponding with them about points of dispute. Laurence faced a crisis following the death of King Æthelberht of Kent, when the king's successor abandoned Christianity; he eventually reconverted. Laurence was revered as a saint after his death in 619.


Early life

Laurence was part of the Gregorian mission originally dispatched from Rome in 595 to convert the Anglo-Saxons from their native paganism to Christianity; he landed at Thanet, Kent, with Augustine in 597,[1][2] or, as some sources state, first arrived in 601 and was not a part of the first group of missionaries.[3][4] He had been a monk in Rome before his travels to England,[1] but nothing else is known of his history or background.[5] The medieval chronicler Bede says that Augustine sent Laurence back to Pope Gregory I to report on the success of converting King Æthelberht of Kent and to carry a letter with questions for the pope. Accompanied by Peter of Canterbury, another missionary, he set off some time after July 598, and had returned by June 601.[6] He brought back with him Gregory's replies to Augustine's questions, a document commonly known as the Libellus responsionum, that Bede incorporated in his Ecclesiastical History of the English People.[7] Laurence is probably the Laurence referred to in the letter from Gregory to Bertha, queen of Kent. In that letter, Gregory praises Bertha for her part in the conversion of her husband, details of which Gregory says he received from Laurence the priest.[8] It is known that Laurence returned to England with Mellitus and others of the second group of missionaries in the summer of 601, but there is no record of Peter being with them.[9]

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