Portal:Saints/Selected biography/18

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Statue of Æthelberht.  Interior of Rochester Cathedral

Saint Æthelberht (also Æthelbert, Aethelberht, Aethelbert, or Ethelbert) (c. 560 – 24 February 616) was King of Kent from about 580 or 590 until his death. In his Ecclesiastical History of the English People, the monk Bede lists Aethelberht as the third king to hold imperium over other Anglo-Saxon kingdoms. In the late 9th century Anglo-Saxon Chronicle Æthelberht is referred to as a bretwalda, or "Britain-ruler". He was the first English king to convert to Christianity. He was the son of Eormenric, whom he succeeded as king, according to the Chronicle. He married Bertha, daughter of Charibert, king of the Franks, thus building an alliance with the most powerful state in Western Europe at that time; the marriage probably took place before Æthelberht came to the throne. The influence of Bertha may have led to Pope Gregory I’s decision to send Augustine as a missionary from Rome. Augustine landed on the Isle of Thanet in east Kent in 597. Shortly thereafter, Æthelberht was converted to Christianity, churches were established and wider-scale conversion to Christianity began. Æthelberht provided the new church with land in Canterbury, at what came to be known as St Augustine's Abbey, thus establishing one of the foundation-stones of what ultimately became the Anglican church. Æthelberht was later canonised for his role in establishing Christianity among the Anglo-Saxons. His feast day was originally February 24, but was changed to February 25.