In the Steps of Augustine in France


Pilgrimage is a spiritual journey to a sacred site. The word ‘pilgrim’ is from Latin –  peregrines, ( per= through + ager =field, land), meaning a stranger or foreigner on a journey. 

The Yearning

“Pilgrims are persons in motion – passing through territories not their own – seeking something we might call completion, or perhaps the word clarity, a goal to which only the spirit’s compass points the way” – Reinhold Niebuhr

” The centre of me is always searching for something beyond what the world contains, something transfigured and infinite – the beatific vision – God … It fills every passion that I have- it is the actual spring of life within me.” – Bertrand Russell

The Preparation

“Who to Rome goes, Much labour, little profit knows. 

For God, on earth though long you sought him. You’ll miss in Rome unless you brought him.”

The Journey

“The practice of soulful travel is to discover the overlapping point between history and everyday life, the way to find the essence of every place every day: in markets, small chapels, out-of-the-way parks, craft shops. Curiosity about the extraordinary in the ordinary moves the heart of the traveller intent on seeing behind the veil of tourism.” – Phil Coussineau  (The Art of Pilgrimage)

“Did not our hearts burn as he talked to us on the road?” St Luke 24:32

“We come to God not by navigation but by love” – Augustine of Hippo

Prayer and Meditation on the Way

“Prayer is when we talk to God; meditation is when we listen to God.” – Anon

The Arrival

“The sense of treading ground made holy by past events is crucial. The experience of the pilgrim in actually walking in the way of others enables them to become a participant in all that has happened. The pilgrim becomes one with all who have gone before” – Martin Robinson

“Place works on the pilgrim … that’s what pilgrimage is for.”

Pilgrimages and Miracles of Healing

“Miracles are not contrary to nature, but only contrary to what we know about nature.” – St Augustine of Hippo 

The Return

“Keep the pilgrim spirit always. Now go, and live your lives without fear.”

  – Santiago cathedral, bishop’s blessing and dismissal.

“You arrive where you started and know the place for the first time.” – TS Eliot

“One cannot always be a stranger. I want to return to my homeland , and make all my loved ones happy. I see no further than this. ” – Albert Camus



A quest of some kind often underlies most our motivations. These could be religious or secular, and our destinations as diverse as the tomb of the Prophet or Elvis Presley’s Graceland. The earliest Christian pilgrimages were undertaken to the places, or last resting place, of extraordinary individuals, merely to be in the presence of their bones and relics. A piece of a garment, a cross, a bone    somehow brought the seeker into contact with the holy, the numinous. Or a pilgrimage may be in memory of someone, or to sort out one’s life, or simply for the pleasure of the journey itself. 

There are no bone relics in France associated with Augustine the first Archbishop of Canterbury, but there are many places – stretching from Rome to Canterbury – that have associations with his missionary journey to the Anglo-Saxon peoples of England.  

That is the main purpose for this pilgrimage guide – to help us follow in his footsteps, to stand where he stood, perhaps to see what he saw, to think his thoughts after him, and discover what may be helpful for our own journey today. Our main aim of this particular quest was to follow St. Augustine s as he journeyed through ancient Francia (now present-day France) on his way to England, and to learn what we can about the journey undertaken in AD 596-7.

It seemed that this would not only bring to life our own understanding of events that took place over 1,400 years ago, but also that this exploration might be helpful to others who follow some or all of Augustine’s journey through sixth-century France. We divided the journey into a number of smaller, more manageable stages to describe what Augustine and his companions from Rome might have seen as he and they journeyed from the south to the north of ancient Francia. On the way, historical details of the period helped to enrich our understanding of events.

Another aim was to assess the possibiity of mapping a new pilgrimage route through France, based on Augustine’s journey, and also assess the potential for a group of pilgrims following this route, perhaps starting from Rome. Lastly, we aimed to explore more about pilgrimage by following this route and reflecting on it as the journey unfolded. This is what we discovered.


In the Steps of Augustine – Francia

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Pilgrimage doesn’t end on the shores of France! The journey continues from Richborough fort to Canterbury on the ancient Saxon Way, and beyond. Read on below.


Augustine of Canterbury pilgrim guide – ILLUSTRATED

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Rob retired in 2014 from his post of Director of Licensed Ministries in Canterbury Diocese. His current interests are: leading programmes in missional leadership, writing, research, painting and travel. He is a founder member of a 'new monastic' community, the Companions of Augustine of Canterbury, drawing on the inspiration of Augustine's mission to England in 597.