Bishop of Hippo, Teacher of the Faith


Augustine, Bishop of Hippo
Bishop of Hippo, Teacher of the Faith

Attributed to Gerard Seghers, Public Domain

Augustine, was, a most influential figure of the early church in the west. Augustine’s parents, Patricius and Monica, were ambitious for him and struggled financially to obtain the best possible education for him. While at university in Carthage, he developed a deep thirst for truth, which took him first into Manichaeism. Its beliefs were based on local Mesopotamian religious movements and Gnosticism.

In 383 Augustine moved to Rome and soon obtained a position as professor of rhetoric at what was then the western imperial capital, Milan. By this time he had become dissatisfied with the Manichaean pseudo-scientific explanations of reality. He was greatly influenced by Bishop Ambrose, who introduced him to a chain of Philosophical thinkers and thought and a more spiritualised interpretation of Scripture than he had met in North Africa.

Augustine eventually came to the conclusion that a commitment to Christianity was a total commitment to a disciplined life-style, dedicated to God. He struggled within himself over the cost of this commitment, but was eventually “converted” in 386. Abandoning the prospect of marriage and a brilliant public career, he received baptism from Ambrose at Easter in 387. Augustine resolved to return to North Africa and to live as a monk, seeking a life of contemplation and prayer.

While looking for a suitable place for a monastic community, he was made a minister by the people of the church in Hippo, and became bishop of Hippo in 395, a position he held until his death. In addition to his many responsibilities as bishop, Augustine carried on an extensive literary output in letters, treatises and sermons. He wrote at length against the Manichaeans and became embroiled in the major debates in the western church over the nature of the church. He debated with the Donatists, and the Pelagians Where Pelagius was the moral reformer urging responsibility, Augustine was the redeemed sinner who knows that it is all God’s work in us.

Augustine's Confessions is a classic spiritual autobiography, and his City of God shaped western thinking about the meaning of historical events. Augustine also wrote extensively on grace against those who looked for visible evidence in themselves or the church of their standing before God.

The most outstanding of early Christian thinkers in the western church, Augustine had a profound influence on the medieval world, and a continuing effect even beyond the period of the Reformation.

BORN: 13 November 354, Thagaste, North Africa (present day Algeria).

DIED: 28 August 430 AD, Hippo Regius, Annaba, Algeria.