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The Augustinians, named after Saint Augustine of Hippo (died AD 430), are several Roman Catholic monastic orders and congregations of both men and women living according to a guide to religious life known as the Rule of Saint Augustine.

The two main branches of Augustinians comprise:

  • The Canons Regular of Saint Augustine called The Augustinian Canons, or Austin Canons (austin being a corruption of 'Augustinian')
  • The Order of the Hermit Friars of Saint Augustine or O.S.A., called Augustinian Hermits, or Austin Friars

It is true that Roman Catholic Saint, Augustine of Hippo, composed no monastic rule, for the hortatory letter to the nuns at Hippo Regius (Epist., ccxi, Benedictine ed.) can not properly be considered such; nevertheless three sets have been attributed to him (texts in Holstenius-Brockie, Codex regularum monasticarum, ii, Augsburg, 1759, 121-127), the longest of which, a medieval compilation from certain pseudo-Augustinian sermons in 45 chapters, is the one commonly known as the regula Augustini, and served as the constitution of the Augustinian Canons and many societies imitating them, as, for example, the Dominicans.

The Augustinian Hermits (who are generally meant by the name "Augustinians", the order to which Martin Luther belonged) were the last of the great mendicant orders which originated in the thirteenth century. They owed their existence to no great personality as founder, but to the policy of Popes Innocent IV (1241-1254) and Alexander IV (1254-1261), who wished to antagonize the too powerful Franciscans and Dominicans by means of a similar order under direct papal authority and devoted to papal interests.

Pope Innocent IV by a bull issued 16 December, 1243 united certain small hermit societies with Augustinian rule, especially the Williamites , the John-Bonites , and the Brictinans .

Pope Alexander IV (admonished, it was said, by an appearance of Saint Augustine) called a general assembly of the members of the new order under the presidency of Cardinal Richard of Saint Angeli at the monastery of Santa Maria del Popolo in Rome in March, 1256, when the head of the John-Bonites, Lanfranc Septala, of Milan, was chosen general prior of the united orders. Alexander's bull Licet ecclesiae catholicae of Apr. 13, 1256, confirmed this choice. The same pope afterward allowed the Williamites, who were dissatisfied with the new arrangement, to withdraw, and they adopted the Benedictine rule. The new order was thus finally constituted.

Several general chapters in the thirteenth century (1287 and 1290) and toward the end of the sixteenth (1575 and 1580), after the severe crisis occasioned by Luther's reformation, developed the statutes to their present form (text in Holstenius-Brockie, ut sup., iv, 227-357; cf. Kolde, 17-38), which was confirmed by Pope Gregory XIII. A bull of Pius V in 1567 had already assigned to the Hermits of Saint Augustine the place next to the last (between Carmelites and Servites) among the five chief mendicant orders.

In its most flourishing state the order had forty-two provinces (besides the two vicariates of India and Moravia) with 2,000 monasteries and about 30,000 members. The German branch, which until 1299 was counted as one province, was divided in that year into four provinces: a Rheno-Swabian, Bavarian, Cologne-Flemish, and Thuringo-Saxon.

To the last belonged the most famous German Augustinian theologians before Luther: Andreas Proles (d. 1503), the founder of the Union or Congregation of the Observant Augustinian Hermits, organized after strict principles; Johann von Paltz, the famous Erfurt professor and pulpit-orator (d. 1511); Johann Staupitz, Luther's monastic superior and Wittenberg colleague (d. 1524).

Reforms were also introduced into the extra-German branches of the order, but a long time after Proles's reform and in connection with the Counter-Reformation of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The most important of these later observant congregations are the Spanish Augustinian tertiary nuns, founded in 1545 by Archbishop Thomas of Villanova at Valencia; the "reformed" Augustinian nuns who originated under the influence of Saint Theresa after the end of the sixteenth century at Madrid, Alcoy, and in Portugal; and the barefooted Augustinians (Augustinian Recollects or Discalced Augustinians; in France Augustins dechausses) founded about 1560 by Thomas a Jesu (d. 1582).

See also

External links

  • - Text of the Rule of St. Augustine
  • - Augustinian Canons of Stift Klosterneuburg in Austria.
  • - Order of the Hermit Friars of St. Augustine (O.S.A.), Province of St. Thomas of Villanova, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Last updated: 05-13-2005 07:56:04