Born at Thagaste in 354 and died at Hippo in 430, Augustine is a central figure of Late Antiquity, the crucial period of the Roman Empire when Christianity underwent significant development. Of modest descent, son of a minor land-owner and a woman of great piety called Monnica, Augustine was converted to the Christian faith in 386/7 under the influence of Ambrose, having already been exposed to the milieu of platonic philosophy after having been a Manichaean «auditor» for some ten years. In Hippo, he became a priest in 391 and bishop in 395-6.
During his long career Augustine pursued incessant catechetical, political and literary activities, interrupted by numerous journeys which took him through much of North Africa and Europe.
Portrait, thought to be of Augustine, in a Lateran fresco (late 6th century)
Inscription under the fresco:
DIVERSI DIVERSA PATRES SED HIC OMNIA DIXIT
ROMANO ELOQVIO MYSTICA SENSA TONANS
«Various Fathers spoke about various things, but this one said it all, Proclaiming forcefully in the Roman tongue the mystical senses [of the scriptures] ».