Francia was just a watery channel away from the island of Britain. This is the first place on our world map and in our long series where I cannot say “Jews had already been there.” In fact there is no evidence Jews would come to England until shortly after the Norman conquest in 1066 CE. So the story I tell today is setting the stage for those later Jewish English communities. There are no Jews in this post. There are pagan Celts and all manner of Christian Germanic tribes.
The Angles and Jutes came from the Jute Peninsula shared by modern Germany and Denmark. The Saxons hailed from northern Germany. These three Germanic tribes were the strongest invaders; the British natives and Celts called them collectively “Anglo-Saxons”. The Frisians are still an indigenous group living in Germany and the Netherland, numbering at about 360,000. They speak three distinct, mutually unintelligible languages, two of which are endangered.
In the 6th century the King of Kent Æthelbehrt married Frankish Princess Bertha. He was a pagan, she was a Catholic, could I make it anymore obvious? As condition of their marriage she got to bring her Frankish bishop Liudhard along and freely practice her faith. The king granted both, and didn’t go back on his word after the wedding. Bertha and Liudhard restored an old Roman era Christian church, but the bishop didn’t make many converts. He died of natural causes in 595 CE.
Queen Bertha had been in steady communication with Pope Gregory I. That was the kind of pen pal royalty had, especially Catholic royalty. As we have gone over before, Pope Gregory was a politically shrewd man. King Æthelberht was a star on the rise. He had overlordship over the other kingdoms south of the river and well established trade with his wife’s family in the Frankish kingdoms.Gregory had been thinking of sending a mission to Kent since 595. When news of Liudhard’s death reached him in 596, there was a hope for Gregory to get his own bishop in at Kent, not a Frankish bishop.
The man he chose was a priest named Augustine.