Form III: Black History Month in the R.E. Department

Posted: 2nd October 2020

St Augustine and St Monica.

Mrs McDermott, Head of R.E., tells us of the research planned for October, Black History Month, in Form III.

‘During this month, Form III will be researching the lives of some black saints as inspirational role models. They will be sharing their findings with Priory Post during October and this week we begin with our very own St Augustine of Hippo.

We know from the cute little hippo toys that adorn the windowsills during Open Days that St Augustine has a link with Hippo; not the water dwelling animal, but the town of Hippo in North Africa. Hippo Regius was an ancient port on the coast of North Africa, located near the modern town of Annaba in Algeria.

The Banner of St Augustine of Hippo in our Chapter Room

St Augustine was born in Thagaste (now called Souk Ahras in Algeria.) His mother is St Monica and it is from her name that scholars assume she was of Berber origin. (The Berbers worshipped a god called Mon). Augustine’s father, Patricius, was a pagan who converted to Christianity on his deathbed. Augustine’s family name, Aurelius, suggests his father’s ancestors were freedmen and were granted full Roman citizenship. Augustine and his family would have seen themselves as Roman, although there are references in his writings where Augustine refers to his African heritage. For example, he refers to Apuleius as “the most notorious of us Africans,” to Ponticianus as “a country man of ours, insofar as being African,” and to Faustus of Mileve as “an African Gentleman”.

St Augustine of Hippo and his mother, St Monica, depicted in a stained-glass window in St Augustine Church in Washington, U.S.A.

To all intents and purposes, St Augustine was a thorough Roman, and we have no idea at all about his personal appearance. All the pictures and statues we have of him tell us what various artists thought he ought to look like, not what he actually did look like. However, owing to his mother’s Berber origin, this has led some to see Saint Monica as a black saint and in turn led others to discuss just what Augustine may have looked like. But one thing is for sure: this would have been a discussion that Monica and Augustine themselves would never have had: they were Roman, and that was that.’

Categories: Faith Life Priory Post Senior Whole School