I retraced the steps that Augustine and his monks might have taken as they departed on the first leg of the long journey to England. This would take the monks along the road below the Palatine towards the Tiber River. (The only alternative would have been to travel by road west to to the Port of Ostia, calling at St Paul’s monastery which is on the Via Ostiense some 3 km away, but given the unstable relationship with the Lombard invaders, the River Tiber may have been the better route.)
It is not as much as a fifteen minute stroll on the Via del Cerchi to the bend in the Tiber just below Tiber Island. The west end is currently under excavation, and the boarding along the pavement shows how a redeveloped park will probably look.
The sight of the former Circus Maximus is stunning, even in its present state, making this a walk to savour and explore.
Augustine and his companions would also be accompanied by the monastic community as well as Pope Gregory to pray a blessing. A turning left and west towards the Imperial Wharfs would bring them to their ship setting sail for Ostia.
Rome’s population had shrunk to around 30,000 people clustered around three bridges: Ponte San Angelo, Ponte Fabricio, to the old Jewish Quarter, and Ponte Palatino, leading to the Forum, Palatine, and Circus Maximus.
Of the twenty monks and lay brothers who left for England, only three are known to have returned again to Rome – Augustine, Laurentius, and Abbot Peter. All of them, at the end of life’s journey were buried at the abbey outside Canterbury.