Aust Pilgrimage

1 day pilgrimages, South West England

Aust Pilgrimage – Bristol Cathedral to St John’s Church, Aust – 1 day, 14.5 miles. Starts at Bristol Cathedral, over Purdown Hill, through University of West of England, to the village church of Aust, right next to the mouth of the River Severn.

According to the late Bishop Moorman “Gregory’s only unwise step was in giving Augustine authority over the British bishops who had kept the flame [of Christianity] burning during the years when the rest of England reverted to heathenism.” These bishops met Augustine at “a place still known to the English as Augustine’s Oak, which lies on the border between the Hwiccas and the West Saxons” – a place now associated with Aust.

The meeting was not an entirely happy one and a second meeting was arranged. Before they saw the Archbishop on this occasion, the bishops were told by a hermit that “if he [Augustine] is a man of God [they should] follow him.” But how were they to know that, they asked? The hermit told them: “if Augustine is meek and lowly in heart it shows he bears the yoke of Christ himself, and offers it to you. But if he is haughty and unbending, then he is not of God, and we should not listen to him.”

The bishops then asked once more how they were to know this? “Arrange that [Augustine] and his followers arrive [at the meeting place] first … [the hermit told them]. If he rises courteously as you approach rest assured that he is the servant of Christ and do as he asks. But if he ignores you and does not rise, then, since you are in the majority, do not comply with his demands.” (Bede op cit II.2 – Penguin Classics edition)  When the bishops met with Augustine, the Archbishop remained seated! Consequently differences between the Celtic and Roman churches were not resolved until the Synod of Whitby in 664.

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