The life and works of Saint Augustine of Hippo

Saint Augustine is one of the most controversial saints. He is one of the most referenced theologians when discussing the Immaculate Conception, the idea that, while all who were born since the time of Adam and Eve, Saint Mary, Christ Mother, was not. Saint Augustine is also notable for his many writings, and like Saint Constantine his pagan upbringing.


Saint Augustine's mother, Saint Monica, was a Christian and, though her husband was a respected pagan, demanded a Christian education for her son. In spite of this upbringing Saint Augustine did not immediately take to Christianity and was slated to become a forensics expert. In fact early in life he suffered a medical crisis and was to become baptized out of custom rather than his beliefs and refused baptism when he recovered before receiving the sacrament. While studying at Carthage Augustine confessed to many non-Christian practices, including siring a son out of wedlock.


In 373 Augustine determined that, though he loved rhetoric as a skill, his passion was for philosophy. To this end this he studied ascetics; monastic life. It was at this time he began to contemplate his mother's beliefs and consider Christianity anew.   He was baptized into the faith in 387.


Among Saint Augustine's many writings are those that attempt to qualify the notion of Original Sin. For a number of theological reasons it is confusing how Saint Mary could be born with Original Sin, and yet be the birthplace of literally God (Theotokos in Greek being literally the Mother of God). This culminated in a view now referred to as the Immaculate Conception, which it is critical to note, refers not to Christ birth, but to that of his mother Saint Mary.

The Immaculate Conception

Some of Saint Augustine's works can be considered to imply that Saint Mary was born 'different' than other humans and without 'Original Sin'. Additionally being educated in forensics and traditional Greek logic much of his work is legalistic, and specific to a degree which most traditional Christian work was not; rather deferring to the 'mystery' of faith. None of his works explicitly state this view however, and latter authors such as Saint Thomas Aquinas more fully articulated this idea.


Saint Augustine lived in northern Africa during a time of Roman Colonization. During the life of Saint Augustine these Roman colonies were taken over by a group called the Vandals, from whom the term vandalism derives today. The Vandals were a Christian group but professed a different view of Christology (the theories regarding whether Christ was divine, and how). Because of this they were very critical of existing Christians in these Roman colonies, and essentially treated them as heretics. His efforts to preserve the Library at Hippo are considered by many as the reason why even after attacking and burning most of the city the Vandals left the Library there in tact. Saint Augustine became martyred, while reading penitential Psalms during this siege.