views updated May 17 2018


Since 1969 the order's official title has been the Order of Brothers of St. Augustine or the Order of St. Augustine (O.S.A.). The order was formerly known as the Order of Hermits of St. Augustine (O.E.S.A.). The term hermits refers to the origins of the order, which arose out of the eremitical movement of the 11th and 12th centuries. In contrast to the large monastic establishments, groups of hermits living in small houses sought to live a more evangelical style of life. At the request of hermits near Siena and Pisa, Pope Innocent IV began a process of unification under the guidance of Cardinal Richard Annibaldi in December of 1243. In the Little Union, achieved in March of 1244, the hermits in Tuscany were organized into a single order that came to be known as the Hermits of St. Augustine, under a prior general were directed to adopt the rule and style of life of St. augustine.

In 1256 the Tuscan hermits were united by papal directive with several other orders: (1) the Williamites, who were followers of St. William of Malavalle (d. 1157); (2) the Gianboniti, followers of Blessed John Bono (d. 1249); (3) the hermits of Monte Favale; and (4) the hermits of Brettino. After an initial meeting at Santa Maria del Popolo in Rome, Pope Alexander IV issued the bull Licet ecclesiae catholicae on April 9, establishing the "Order of Hermits of St. Augustine." This unification of the several religious orders is known as the Great Union of 1256. Although the Williamites subsequently withdrew from the union, as did the hermits of Monte Favale, most of the Williamite houses in Germany and Hungary passed to the Augustinian Order. Of the three remaining groups, the Tuscan hermits numbered some 70 monasteries, including houses in Spain, Germany, France and England. The Gianboniti had three provinces in Lombardy and the Romagna. The hermits of Brettino were settled mostly in the Marches of Ancona. The total number of houses of the new order was between 150 and 200.

While the individual orders that came together in the Great Union had their own constitutions, no record of the initial constitutions of the combined order survives. The order followed the general structures of the mendicant orders. The entire order, governed by a prior general and assisted by his curia in Rome, was divided into provinces and directed by prior's provincial. Each province was comprised of houses, each headed by a local prior. All superiors except the local prior were elected. Supreme legislative power rested in the general and provincial chapters respectively for the entire order or province. This structure is reflected in the first extant constitutions, dating from the general chapter of 1290 in Ratisbon. The constitutions were frequently modified in subsequent general chapters, with major revisions in 1551, 1581, 1686, 1895, 1926 and 1968. The basic structures, however, have remained the same.

Pope Alexander IV and subsequent popes enriched the order with many favors, such as exemption from episcopal jurisdiction. In establishing the order as a mendicant order, the pope directed the hermits, now become friars, to works of the active apostolate, such as preaching, hearing confessions and teaching. The enduring desire for a more contemplative dimension found expression in the reform movements of the 14th, 15th and 16th centuries and in less organized ways in later periods.

Relationship to St. Augustine. The ideal proposed for unifying the groups that constituted the order was the observance of the Rule of St. Augustine (see augustine, the rule of). While other orders, such as the Dominicans, also followed the Rule, they had a more immediate figure to whom they looked as the inspiration or founder of their order. Gradually, the Hermits of St. Augustine became more identified as the followers of St. Augustine and came to be known simply as the Augustinians. In England, they were called Austin Friars. The popes also recognized the close connection of the order with Augustine. Thus in 1327 the Augustinian Hermits were given joint

custody of the tomb of St. Augustine in Pavia, where the canons regular of st. augustine were already established.

In their desire to establish a closer link with St. Augustine, the friars began to look for historical connections between Augustine and the predecessors of the order, especially in Tuscany. Within a few generations legends arose that Augustine had visited groups of Tuscan hermits on his way from Milan to Rome after his conversion. An alternative version of the story stated that Augustinians had come to Italy from monasteries of hermits established by St. Augustine in North Africa. Such legends found literary expression in the works of henry of friemar the Elder (d. 1340) and jordan of saxony (d. 1380) and were reflected in artistic depictions in Augustinian churches where Augustine is portrayed wearing the black tunic, cincture and capuche of the order's habit.

Besides following the Augustinian Rule, the order looked to the theological and spiritual thought of St. Augustine for guidance (see augustinian spirituality). Though colored by the erroneous historical connection, the work of Jordan of Saxony, entitled Vitasfratrum (Life of the Brethren ), published in 1357, presents a synthesis of Augustine's monastic thought and the manner in which the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience are to be observed within the order. In accord with Augustine's emphasis on common life, Jordan structures his work on a fourfold communion: living together, oneness of spirit, sharing of temporal possessions and proportional distribution. Later commentaries on the Rule were written by Ambrose Massari of Cori (d. 1485) and Blessed Alfonso de orozco (d. 1591).

In the Middle Ages Augustinian libraries often had manuscripts of Augustine's works. Today Augustinians in Spain, Italy and the United States are publishing the entire corpus of Augustine's writings in translation. Since the Second Vatican Council the Augustinians have sponsored many seminars and lectures on St. Augustine as well as publishing studies on his teaching. Recent popes have indicated that they consider the Augustinians as entrusted with task of representing Augustine's thought and spirituality in the Church.

Because Augustine's spirituality in general and the Rule in particular are directed to the heart of religious living, namely, the love of God and neighbor, rather than to the details, Augustinians have enjoyed a certain flexibility in adapting to changing historical circumstances. The order has thus been able to incorporate or to abandon practices linked to a particular age. The order is not identified with any particular apostolate but remains available to serve the needs of the Church.

Saints and Beati . The Church has accorded the title of blessed to more than 50 Augustinians, professed friars, nuns or affiliates. Fourteen were martyrs in Japan between 1622 and 1632. St. nicholas of tolentine (d. 1305) was the first member of the order to be formally canonized (1446). St. clare of montefalco (d. 1308) was canonized in 1881. St. rita of cascia (d. 1457 and canonized 1900) is the most popular saint of the order. Others include St. John of sahagun (d. 1479 and canonized 1691); St. John stone, martyr in the reign of Henry VIII (d. 1539 and canonized in 1970); and St. thomas of villanova (d. 1555 and canonized 1658). The most recently beatified are Anselmo polanco (18811939), martyred in the Spanish civil war; Elias nieves (18821928), martyred in the Mexican persecution; and Maria Teresa fasce (18811947), superior of the monastery at Cascia. The Blessed Virgin Mary is venerated under the titles of Mother of Consolation, Our Lady of Grace, and Mother of Good Counsel. Augustinians have extended their devotion to St. Augustine to include his mother, St. monica, and others associated with him, such as St. possidius, his biographer and St. alipius, his close friend.

Scholars and Authors. From the earliest days, the order showed great concern for the intellectual development of its members. Lanfranc of Milan (d. 1264), the first prior general, established the first general house of study at Paris in 1259. Others followed at university sites such as Oxford, Cambridge, Bologna, Padua, Rome, Naples, Salamanca and Cologne. Lanfranc sent giles of rome (c. 12431316) to study at Paris under St. Thomas Aquinas. Though he generally followed his master, Giles differed from St. Thomas on several points. Giles was so highly regarded in the order that the general chapter of Florence in 1287 declared that Augustinians were to follow his teachings, past and future. He thus became the founder of the medieval Augustinian school within the order (see augustinianism and augustinianism, theological school of). Other important Augustinian theologians of the first period of the Augustinian school include Blessed james of viterbo (d. 1308), augustine of ancona (d. 1328) and thomas of strassburg (d. 1357). A new period began in the mid-fourteenth century with gregory of rimini (d. 1358). Others of this second period include Alonso Vargas (d. 1366), hugolino of orvieto (d. 1373), John Hiltalingen (d. 1378) and Augustino Favaroni (d. 1443). The Augustinians were known as defenders of the papacy. Giles of Rome, James of Viterbo, Augustine of Ancona and Augustine Favaroni wrote treatises supporting papal supremacy. Paul of Venice (d. 1429) made important contributions in logic and philosophy.

In the area of Sacred Scripture, more than 80 authors wrote commentaries on books of the Bible over a period of 300 years. In his De gestis Domini Salvatoris (The Deeds of Our Lord and Savior ), Blessed simon fidati of cascia (d. 1348) presented an original treatment of the life of Christ in a manner that differed from the usual style of commentary. Blessed Simon had forsaken the pursuit of an academic career to give himself to contemplation. In a similar spirit, William flete (d. c. 1390), declined the degree of magister in his native England and withdrew to Lecceto near Siena.

Augustinians were among the first orders to embrace the Renaissance. The first humanist of the Italian Renaissance, Petrarch (d. 1374), counted Augustinians among his closest friends. Dionysius of Borgo San Sepulchro (d. 1342) presented Petrarch with a copy of Augustine's Confessions and was himself the author of a commentary on Valerius Maximus. Another of the same circle, bartholomew of urbino (d. 1350), composed the Milleloquium sancti Augustini, in which he gathered nearly 15,000 citations of Augustine under key words. Bonaventure of Peraga (d. 1385) gave the funeral oration for Petrarch. At Santo Spirito in Florence were found Luigi Marsili (1394) and Martin of Signa (d. 1387), friend of Boccaccio. In his Rerum Mediolanensium historia (History of Milan ) Andrea Biglia (d. 1435) offers an excellent example of humanist historiography. In France Jacques LeGrand (d. 1415) combined humanism and Christian faith in his Sophilogium. In England John capgrave (d. 1464) gained renown for his Chronicle of England and Book of the Illustrious Henries. The name of Ambrogio Calepino (d. 1511) became synonymous with the word dictionary, through his lexicon. Giles of Viterbo (d. 1532) sought to interpret Platonism along Christian lines and also produced studies on Hebrew philology with a special interest in mystical cabalistic interpretations. In the 16th century Onofrio panvinio (d. 1568) composed numerous studies on Roman antiquity and the history of the Church.

In Spain Luis de leon (d. 1591), theologian and significant figure in Spanish literature, is remembered for Los nombres de Cristo (The Names of Christ ). The Portuguese thomas of jesus (d. 1582) wrote the Os trabalhos de Jesus (The Sufferings of Our Lord Jesus Christ ), while a prisoner of the Moors in North Africa. Blessed Alonso de Orozco (d. 1591) composed many treatises of a devotional nature.

An important contribution to intellectual life in Rome was made by Angelo rocca (15451620), who opened the first public library, the Biblioteca Angelica, in 1614. During his years of teaching at Erfurt in Germany, the Irish friar, Augustine Gibbon (d. 1676), composed his massive Speculum Theologicum and four disputations concerning the doctrines of Luther and Calvin. The later Augustinian school, which developed in the 17th and 18th centuries amid the controversies over the teaching of St. Augustine on grace, is best represented in the works of Henry Cardinal noris (16311704), custodian of the Vatican Library, Fulgentius Bellelli (16751741) and Gianlorenzo berti (16961766). Because of the political and social disturbances of the later 18th and early 19th centuries, a decline in studies ensued. Many valuable libraries were lost in the suppressions ordered by civil governments.

Through his experiments on peas in the monastery garden at Brno, Gregor mendel (18221884) discovered basic laws of genetics, though his contribution was not fully recognized during his lifetime. Among many fine scholars in the 20th century, one can cite Cardinal Augustine Ciasca (d. 1902), an outstanding orientalist; Angel Vega (d. 1972), historian and patrologist; Anthony Casamassa (d. 1955) and Agostino Trapé (d. 1987), patrologists. Damasus Trapp (d. 1996) is credited with having awakened a new appreciation of 14th century theologians such as Gregory of Rimini. With the establishment of the Augustinianum in Rome in 1969, the order committed itself in a special way to the study of patristics.


The first hundred years saw the consolidation of the order particularly through the work of Blessed Clement of Osimo (d. 1291) and Blessed Augustine of Tarano (d. 1309), who prepared the constitutions adopted at Ratisbon in 1290. At that time the order possessed ten provinces in Italy and one each in England, France, Provence, Germany, Hungary and Spain. By 1329 the provinces had increased to 24 through the division of some provinces and the addition of Sicily and the Oltremarina, which embraced the islands of the eastern Mediterranean. From around the mid-fourteenth century until the Reformation and Counter-Reformation the order underwent a period of decline in numbers and in observance. A important factor was the Black Death, which killed more than 5,000 friars in 13471350. During the same period, however, the order saw the rise of movements of strict observance, the first of which began at Lecceto near Siena in 1387. From these movements several congregations developed within the order during the next two centuries. Two observant groups, the Recollects in Spain and the Discalced in Italy, eventually became fully independent orders in 1912 and 1931 (see augustinian recollects).

In 1517 Martin luther (14831546), a member of the observant congregation of Saxony, began the Protestant Reformation. While some of his fellow friars followed him, he was opposed by others, such as Bartholomaeus Arnoldi von Usingen (d. 1532), Konrad Treger (d. 1542) and Johannes Hoffmeister (d. 1547). The Saxon-Thuringian province and the observant congregation of Saxony collapsed during the religious and political upheaval of the 16th century. The English province was completely destroyed by Henry VIII and the Irish vicariate suffered suppressions and persecutions. A period of great renewal, however, began under the leadership of Jerome seripando, prior general (15381551). The reforms of the Council of Trent brought greater stability to the Church and the order.

The 16th century marked the beginning of extensive missionary outreach by the Spanish and Portuguese Augustinians. In 1533 the first group of Augustinians arrived in Mexico and began to work with great success among the Spanish and native populations. In 1568 an independent province was established, followed by another in 1602. The first Augustinian house in Peru was founded in 1551 and soon the order was established in other regions of the country. In the course of evangelization, some friars were killed, including Diego Ortiz, the protomartyr of Peru. From Peru the Augustinians extended their work to other areas. The Ecuadorian province was established in 1537; the Colombian in 1601; the Chilean in 1627. Augustinian friars also served other areas in Latin America and the Caribbean. The popes gave permission for pontifical universities in Quito, Ecuador in 1586; in Lima, Peru in 1608; and in Bogotá, Columbia in 1694. Alonso de la Vera Cruz (d. 1584) made important contributions to the newly founded university of Mexico. The Augustinian missionaries first arrived in the Philippines in 1543, but a permanent mission was not established until 1565. The latter expedition from Mexico was directed by Andres de urdaneta (14981568), who charted the return route that was later used by the Manila fleet. The Philippine province was founded in 1575. In the islands the Augustinians composed dictionaries and grammars as well as catechisms in the native languages. Missions in Japan began in 1602, but as a result of the persecution in which both missionaries and Japanese affiliates were martyred, the mission effort ended in 1637. From the Philippines too the Augustinians established their first house in China in 1681 and remained there until 1800. From the last quarter of the sixteenth century the Portuguese Augustinians labored in Africa in areas with Portuguese connections such as Guinea. At the mission at Mombasa, begun in 1598, three Augustinians were martyred along with a number of other Christians in 1631. Portuguese Augustinians began missionary endeavors in India as early as 1573. Missions were established in Persia (1602), Sri Lanka (1606) and Iraq (1623).

In the 17th and early 18th centuries, the order experienced a period of stability and growth. It is estimated that by 1753 the order had around 20,000 members in 1,500 houses, divided among 43 provinces and 13 congregations. But beginning with the last part of the 18th century and through much of the 19th century, suppressions by various governments greatly weakened the order in Europe. In the wake of the French Revolution, the order's five French provinces completely disappeared. The Napoleonic wars and subsequent invasions and revolutions did much to reduce the order in Italy. No general chapter was held between 1792 and 1822 or between 1865 and 1889. In Germany only two houses were left after 1803 and the Austrian province disappeared in 1812. The Portuguese province was suppressed in several stages with the definitive suppression coming in 1834. By reason of restrictive laws the major orders in Spanish lands were governed by an independent superior subject to the Spanish government. This measure affected 11 Augustinian provinces in Spain and the New World. Moreover, in Spain a series of repressive measures culminated in the suppression of all the Spanish provinces except the Philippine. In Latin America independence from Spain brought various secularizations of religious houses. This period marked the end of the Augustinian universities in Latin America: Bogotá (1773), Quito (1791) and Lima (1826).

Gradually, in the later part of the 19th century, the order recovered in Europe. Pope Leo XIII appointed Pacifico Neno first as commissary general (18811886) and then as prior general (18871889). Under his vigorous leadership and that of his successor, Sebastian Martinelli, who was later named cardinal and apostolic delegate to the United States, the Italian provinces began a long process of recovery from the suppressions and confiscations inflicted on them. In Spain the province of Castile was restored in 1881. The Spanish provinces were also completely reunited to the order in 1893. The Escorial province was founded in 1895; the province of Spain in 1926. The growth of the Spanish provinces resulted in renewed missionary effort in Latin America and in China. The Irish province, which had already sent friars to the American mission as early as 1794, began working in Australia in 1837, but a province was not founded there until 1952. In 1864 the Irish Augustinians began the restoration of the order in England. In Germany Pius Keller (18251904) brought about the establishment of the German province in 1895. Growth in Holland led to the founding of an independent province in 1895.

During the Spanish civil war a number of Spanish Augustinians were killed by the Communists. World War II caused disruptions in the life of the other continental provinces of Europe, and the ensuing political conditions of the Iron Curtain all but destroyed the order in Poland and Czechoslovakia. One unforeseen result was the renewal of the presence of the order in Austria through friars who were expelled by the Communist government in Czechoslovakia.

The Dutch Augustinians established missions in Bolivia in 1930 and in Irian, Jaya in 1953. The Irish Augustinians began working in Nigeria in 1940. From Nigeria, favored with many native vocations, a mission has now been established in Kenya. The Irish have also sent friars to Ecuador in recent decades. Before World War II, German Augustinians had begun laboring in the United States and Canada, where the Canadian province of St. Joseph was established in 1967. The Belgian province began missions in the Congo in 1952 where the German Augustinians later joined them. In 1977 the province of England and Scotland was established. The Italian provinces, which began a mission in Peru in 1968, were united into one province by the general chapter of 1995. Members of the Spanish Philippine province founded a house of formation in Tanzania in 1976 and a seminary in Cochin, India, in 1987. The Korean mission, now supported by the Australian and Cebu provinces, was begun in 1984 by friars from England and Australia.

The American Provinces. The American provinces trace their origin to the arrival of Thomas Matthew carr (17551820) in Philadelphia in 1796. Though he had been preceded by John Rosseter (17511812) two years earlier, Carr brought with him the authorization to establish a new province. The focus of activity was Philadelphia where the St. Augustine church opened in 1801 and the St. Augustine Academy in 1811. Michael hurley (c. 17801837) was the first candidate for the order from the United States. After training in Italy, he returned to the United States in 1803 and spent all but two years in Philadelphia. A few other Irish Augustinians came, but growth was very slow and the friars' efforts were dispersed in various places. Robert Brown (17701839) labored in the southern states without any connection to the other Augustinians in the country while others served in New York. During the Nativist riots the St. Augustine church was burnt in 1844, but within four years a new and larger church was rebuilt. The establishment of Villanova College near Philadelphia in 1842 brought more friars together and attracted vocations. In 1874 the American province of St. Thomas of Villanova was established. The Augustinians accepted further parish commitments in the diocese of Philadelphia in the 1850s and in Lawrence, Massachusetts beginning in 1848. Other parishes followed in the sees of Albany (1858), Ogdensburg (1874), Havana, Cuba (1899), New York (1905), Chicago (1905), Los Angeles (1924) and Detroit (1926). In 1941 the new province of Our Mother of Good Counsel was formed from the order's houses in the Midwest. The Augustinian houses in California became the province of St. Augustine in 1968. The Villanova province made further commitments to higher education with the establishment of Santo Tomás de Villanueva in Havana (1946), Biscayne College (now St. Thomas of Villanova University) in Miami (1961) and Merrimack College, Andover, Massachusetts (1947). Villanova College became villanova university in 1953. In 1952 the Villanova province began a mission in Nagasaki, Japan. The Midwest province accepted responsibility to serve in the prelature of Chulucanas, Peru, in 1964. Both of these missions, which have been enriched with native vocations, are now vicariates within the order.

The American provinces have given four bishops to the Church. Thomas galberry, first provincial of the American province in 1874, was bishop of Hartford, Connecticut (18761878). William Jones served as bishop of San Juan, Puerto Rico (19071921). John McNabb, named prelate of Chulucanas, Peru, in 1964 and consecrated as bishop in 1967, became the first ordinary of Chulucanas when it attained the status of a diocese. Upon his retirement in 2000, Daniel Turley, coadjutor, became ordinary of Chulucanas. Joseph hickey was the first American to serve as prior general (19471953) and Theodore Tack the second (19711983).

Present State of the Order. At the beginning of the third millennium the Augustinian Order is divided into 25 provinces, one abbey, three vice-provinces and 14 vicariates and eight regions while 2,868 friars live in 465 houses. In Europe, the order is established in England, Scotland, Ireland, France, Holland, Belgium, Germany, Austria, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Italy, Malta, Spain and Portugal. In Africa, Augustinians are present in the Congo, Nigeria, Algeria, Kenya, Tanzania and South Africa. In Asia and the Pacific, the order is represented in India, the Philippines, Korea, Japan, Indonesia and Australia. The Americas have Augustinians in Canada, the United States, Mexico, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, Columbia, Venezuela, Brasil, Argentina, Chile, Bolivia, Peru and Ecuador.

In addition to Villanova and Merrimack in the United States, Augustinian provinces sponsor the following institutes of higher learning: the University of San Agustin in Iloilo City, Philippines; Maria Cristina, Escorial, Spain; and the Real Colegio de Agustinos Filipinos, Valladolid, Spain. The Augustinianum in Rome is supported by the entire order and is esteemed in the scholarly world for the quality of its conferences and publications in the field of patristic studies.

The Augustinian family. The entire Augustinian Family includes cloistered nuns (see augustinian nuns and sisters), 100 aggregated congregations of men and women, religious lay fraternities and societies of St. Augustine. The order also grants individual affiliations, which include a sharing in all of the spiritual benefits of the order, to persons who have participated in the works of the Augustinians in a special manner. While preserving the traditional pious societies, the order has sought to involve the laity in the spirit and work of the order in new ways. Lay observers have been invited to attend general and provincial chapters and special congresses for the laity have been offered in Rome and in various provinces. In recent years International Youth Congresses have been held periodically with representation from many parts of the world.

Bibliography: Sources. Analecta Augustiniana (Rome 1905ff.). Augustiniana (Louvain 1951ff.). Augustinianum (Rome 1961ff.). Archivo histórico hispano-agustiniano (Madrid 1914-27); replaced by Archivo Agustiniano (El Escorial and Valladolid 1929ff.). Fontes Historiae Ordinis Sancti Augustini ; prima series, Registra Priorum Generalium (Rome 1976ff.); series altera, Epistolaria aliique fontes (Rome 1990ff.); tertia series, Bullarium Ordinis Sancti Augustini Regesta, ed. c. alonso (Rome 1997ff.). t. de herrera, Alphabetum Augustinianum (Madrid 1644; repr. Rome 1990). jordan of saxony, The Life of the Brethren, tr. g. deighan (Villanova 1993). Studies. s. arneil, Out Where the Dead Men Lie: The Augustinians in Australia 18381992 (Brookvale, N.S.W. 1992). Agustinos en América y Filipinas: Actas del Congreso Internacional, Valladolid, 1621 de abril de 1990, 2 v., ed. i. rodrÍguez (Valladolid-Madrid, 1990). a. j. ennis, No Easy Road: The Early Years of the Augustinians in the United States, 17961874 (New York 1993); The Augustinians: A Brief Sketch of Their American History from 1796 to the Present (Villanova 1985). j. gavigan, The Augustinians from the French Revolution to Modern Times, v. 4 of History of the Order of St. Augustine (Villanova 1989). d. gutierrez, The Augustinians in the Middle Ages 12561356, vol. 1, part 1 of History of the Order of St. Augustine (Villanova 1984); The Augustinians in the Middle Ages 13571517, v. 1, part 2 of History of the Order of St. Augustine (Villanova 1983); The Augustinians from the Protestant Reformation to the Peace of Westphalia 15181648, v. 2 of History of the Order of St. Augustine (Villanova 1979). a. kunzelmann, Geschichte der Deutschen Augustiner-Eremiten, 7 v. (Würzburg 19691976). r. lazcano, Generales de la orden de San Agustín: Biografías-Documentacion-Retratos (Rome 1995). b. van luijk, L'ordine Agostiniano e la riforma monastica dal cinquecento alla vigilia della rivoluzione Francese (Herverlee-Leuven 1973). Men of Heart: I Pioneering Augustinians: Province of Saint Thomas of Villanova, ed. j. e. rotelle (Villanova 1983). Men of Heart: II Noteworthy Augustinians: Province of Saint Thomas of Villanova, ed. j. e. rotelle (Villanova 1986). n. navarrete, Historia de la Provincia Agustiniana de San Nicolás de Tolentino de Michoacán, 2 v. (Mexico 1978). b. rano, Augustinian Origins, Charism, and Spirituality (Villanova 1994). f. roth, The English Austin Friars 12491538, 2 v. (New York 1966, 1961). a. ruiz zavala, Historia de la Provincia Agustiniana del Santisimo Nombre de Jesus de Mexico, 2 v. (Mexico 1984). j. r. sanders, Before All Else: the History of the Augustinians in the Western United States (Villanova 1987). a. zumkeller, Theology and History of the Augustinian School in the Middle Ages (Villanova 1996).

[k. a. gersbach]


views updated May 18 2018


Augustinians, a Roman Catholic religious order of priests and brothers named after the fifth-century bishop and saint Augustine of Hippo. The Order of the Hermit Friars of St. Augustine, as it is formally known, adopted Augustine's "rule" at the time of their founding by the Holy See in 1256. Classified as a mendicant order, members are known as friars; they are governed by an elected prior-general, who resides in Rome, and are organized throughout the world into regions called provinces, each governed by an elected prior-provincial. By the fourteenth century, the Aug-ustinians were established in most parts of Europe. Later they expanded into Africa, Asia, and America, within the extensive colonial empires of Portugal and Spain. In addition to preaching and missionary activity, they engaged in many types of ministry, including higher education, writing, and patristic studies. Among their better known friars are Giles of Rome (ca. 1245–1316), Martin Luther (1483–1546), St. Thomas of Villanova (1486–1555), Luis de León (1527–1591), and Gregor Mendel (1822–1884).

On 7 June 1533 seven Spanish Augustinians, led by Francisco de la Cruz, arrived in Mexico City, where they established a large church and friary, San Agustín, which was to be the core of a new Augustinian province and the principal center of their activity in Latin America and, eventually, the Philippine Islands. Augustinian expansion in New Spain (Mexico) was rapid. By the end of the sixteenth century, the number of Augustinians, including both Spaniards and criollos, exceeded 600 friars, located in some seventy-two missions throughout central Mexico, extending from San Luis Potosí in the north to Oaxaca in the south. The growth in the region of Michoacán was especially notable, resulting in the creation of a second Mexican Augustinian province in 1602. The two administrative regions, the provinces of Mexico and Michoacán, continue to exist, and among their churches are several imposing historic monuments, some still occupied by Augustinian friars. Worthy of particular attention for art and architecture are the friaries of Acolman, Cuitzeo, Morelia, and Yuriria. The friary of San Agustín in Mexico City, however, no longer exists; its large church was confiscated in the nineteenth century and converted into the national library in 1884.

The leading Augustinian figure in colonial Mexico was Alonso de la Vera Cruz, a sixteenth-century missionary, educator, writer of philosophical texts, canon lawyer, and administrator. Educated at the University of Salamanca, he was one of the founders and principal lecturers of the University of Mexico, established in 1553. Like his friend and associate Bartolomé de Las Casas, Fray Alonso was keenly interested in defending the rights of the native Indians, a goal he pursued in two of his series of lectures, Relectio de dominio infide-lium et iusto bello and Relectio de decimis (in The Writings of Alonso de la Vera Cruz, edited and translated by Ernest Burrus, 1968–1976). His teachings met with opposition, especially from the archbishop of Mexico, Alonso de Montúfar, who denounced him to the Inquisition. Recalled temporarily to Spain in 1562, Fray Alonso defended his views successfully, was regarded favorably by Philip II, and was therefore able to influence legislation aimed at removing abuses of the Indians. His interest in the native peoples was not merely academic, for he was an active missionary who spoke Tarascan, the language of Michoacán, and advocated full incorporation of the Indians into the sacramental life of the Catholic Church.

Another prominent sixteenth-century Augustinian was Andrés de Urdaneta, the mariner-turned-friar who is credited with discovering the eastbound route across the Pacific Ocean from Manila to Acapulco. Employed by the crown as a navigator, he also led the first group of Augustinian missionaries to the Philippine Islands in 1564–1565. Another early friar was Agustín Farfán, a physician who published the first medical handbook in Mexico, Tratado de medicina (1579). Two seventeenth-century authors of note were the historians Juan de Grijalva and Diego Basalenque.

Before the middle of the seventeenth century the Augustinians were to be found in most parts of the Spanish Empire. An extensive development took place in Peru, where the foundations of a new province began at Lima in 1551. The province of Peru was the base from which were organized the provinces of Quito, Ecuador (1573), New Granada (Bogotá, Colombia, 1575), and Chile (Santiago de Chile, 1595), as well as missions in the regions later known as Bolivia and Argentina. The Peruvian missions of the colonial period were grouped principally in the areas of Lima, Trujillo, and Cuzco, and their history has been recorded by two able seventeenth-century chroniclers, Antonio de la Calancha and Bernardo de Torres. A noted Augustinian in the more recent history of Latin America is Diego Francisco Padilla. A patriot and pamphleteer in the independence movement in Colombia, he was a member of the first junta of the revolutionary government in 1810.

The Augustinians, like all the older religious orders, went into severe decline in Latin America in the nineteenth century. Liberation from Spain and the accompanying wars and confiscations, often anticlerical as well as anti-Spanish, greatly reduced the numbers and influence of the friars. In the twentieth century, however, there has been a recovery, accomplished in part with the help of friars from western Europe, especially Spain, and from the United States. In 1990 the Augustinians were active in nearly every country of Latin America, most notably in Mexico and Peru. Mexico had two provinces entirely composed of native-born friars, and Peru had four major mission areas, composed chiefly of foreign-born friars. Besides Mexico, full-fledged Augustinian provinces existed in Colombia, Ecuador, and Chile, and the number of friars in Brazil and Argentina also was considerable. As of 1988 the total number of Augustinians in fourteen countries of Latin America was 714.

See alsoCatholic Church: The Colonial Period .


For the general history of the Augustinians see History of the Order of St. Augustine, 4 vols. (1979–1989); and Roberto Jaramillo, comp., Los Agustinos en América Latina: Pasado y presente (1987).

Specialized studies include Gregorio De Santiago Vela, Ensayo de una biblioteca ibero-americana de la Orden de S. Agustín, 8 vols. (1913–1931); Avencio Villarejo, Los Agustinos en el Perú, 1548–1965 (1965); Ernest Burrus, The Writings of Alonso de la Vera Cruz, 5 vols. (1967–1975); Manuel Merino, ed., Crónicas agustinianas del Perú, 2 vols. (1972); Nicolás P. Navarrete, Historia de la provincia agustiniana de San Nicolás de Tolentino de Michoacán, 2 vols. (1978); Alipio Ruiz Zavala, Historia de la Provincia agustiniana del santísimo Nombre de Jesús de México, 2 vols. (1984); Arthur Ennis, Augustinian Religious Professions in Sixteenth Century Mexico (1986).

Additional Bibliography

Carrasco Notario, Guillermo. Los Agustinos de Chile y el desarrollo económico y social de Cuyo. Santiago: Coedición de la Viceprovincia Agustina de Argentina y de la Provincia Agustina de Chile, 1997.

Costales, Piedad Peñaherrera de., and Alfredo Costales Samaniego. Los agustinos, pedagogos y misioneros del pueblo, 1573–1869. Quito: IEAG: Abya Yala, 2003.

Lazcano González, Rafael. Bibliografíia missionalia Augustiniana: América Latina, 1533–1993. Madrid: Editorial Revista Agustiniana, 1993.

Rea, Alonso de la., and Patricia Escandón. Crónica de la orden de N. Seráfico P.S. Francisco, provincia de S. Pedro y S. Pablo de Mechoacán en la Nueva España. Zamora: Colegio de Michoacán: Fideicomiso Teixidor, 1996.

                                Arthur J. Ennis O.S.A.


views updated Jun 27 2018

Au·gus·tin·i·an / ˌôgəˈstinēən/ • adj. 1. of or relating to St. Augustine of Hippo or his theological doctrines.2. of or relating to a religious order observing a rule derived from St. Augustine's writings.• n. 1. a member of an Augustinian order.2. an adherent of the doctrines of St. Augustine.


views updated May 11 2018

Augustinians. Augustinian or Austin Friars, a Christian religious order drawn together from disparate orders of hermits in 1256. It was based on the Rule of St Augustine, with a constitution drawn from the Dominicans. The Rule (Regula Sancti Augustini) appears to have been drawn up by one of Augustine's followers, perhaps during his lifetime. Among those adopting the Rule were Canons Regular, Premonstratensians, and Dominicans. The Rule was also adopted by Orders for women (e.g. the Augustinians of the Assumption of Mary, known as Assumptionists, Bridgettines, Salesian Sisters, and Ursulines).


views updated May 17 2018

Augustinian Name of two distinct and long-established Christian orders. The order of Augustinian Canons was founded in the 11th century. Based on the recommendations of Saint Augustine, its discipline was milder than those of full monastic orders. The mendicant order of Augustinian Hermits or Friars was founded in the 13th century and modelled on the Dominicans.

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