The Archbishop of Canterbury is the most senior bishop and leader of the Church of England as well as the symbolic leader of the Anglican Church. The Archbishop has many roles including sitting on important church boards and committees, performing coronations and other public events, and is also the bishop responsible for the Diocese of Canterbury and the larger Province of Canterbury. This position has existed since the formation of the Church of England in AD 597 and currently the archbishop is chosen by the Prime Minister of the UK. Let’s take a look at who was the first person to take this position.
Who was the first Archbishop of Canterbury?
The first Archbishop of Canterbury was Augustine of Canterbury who is also recognized as founding the Church of England. Augustine was a monk from Rome who was chosen by Pope Gregory the Great to come to Britain to bring Christianity to King Æthelberht (Aethelberht), who was the King of Kent. Augustine must have been convincing because Æthelberht became the first English ruler to convert to Christianity in AD 597. With the influence of the king it didn’t take long for other people to convert. The King provided land for a new church in Canterbury, later known as St. Augustine’s Abbey. Augustine is thought to have died in 604 AD and was succeeded by Laurence of Canterbury. Augustine was made a saint not long after his death.
From the time of the formation of the church until the 16th century the Church was under the authority of the Pope. However, during the reformation the church broke away from this authority and therefore the Archbishop of Canterbury is now the leader of an independent church.