Augustine of Hippo (354-430) was born on 13th November. He was born in Thagaste which today is known as Souk Ahras in Algeria, but then was part of Roman Africa. He travelled and studied in north Africa and Italy, where he was heavily influenced by Ambrose of Milan. In 395 he was made a bishop of Hippo (known today as Annaba in Algeria). It was during his time as bishop of Hippo that he wrote Confessions, an autobiographical work which traces his conversion to Christianity, and outlines many of his interpretations of the Gospels and church doctrines. In Confessions Augustine provides one of the earliest descriptions of an emotional response triggered by hymn singing. It comes in a passage describing his baptism:
How I wept during your hymns and songs! I was deeply moved by the music of the sweet chants of your Church. The sounds flowed into my ears and the truth was distilled into my heart. This caused my feelings of devotion to overflow. Tears ran, and it was good for me to have that experience.
A prayer attributed to Augustine – ‘O thou, who art the light of the minds that know thee‘ – was paraphrased by Timothy Dudley-Smith. This version of Augustine’s prayer which begins ‘Light of the minds that know him, may Christ be light to mine!’ appears in many hymnals.