The BrettiniYet when the rapid expansion of the Brettini demanded a more energetic collection of alms, this difference of opinion came into the open. In 1240 Pope Gregory sent no less than four mandates to the bishops of the March of Ancona to force the Gianboniti (Zanbonini) and all other hermits similar to them to wear either a white or black habit, but the bishops did not bother the Brettini because the Pope had not mentioned them by name.
When the rapid expansion of the Brettini demanded a more energetic collection of alms, this difference of opinion came into the open. In 1240 Pope Gregory sent no less than four mandates to the bishops of the March of Ancona to force the Gianboniti (Zanbonini) and all other hermits similar to them to wear either a white or black habit, but the bishops did not bother the Brettini because the Pope had not been mentioned them by name.
When the letters — despite their sharp language — had failed to bring the desired results, Rome realized that the majority of hermits in the March of Ancona was not constituted by the Gianboniti (Zanbonini) but by the Brettini, and demanded of them an immediate change of habit. The prior general of the Brettini, Andrew of Francavilla, however, demanded a hearing in this matter and when it was refused, he did not budge from the Papal Curia. This annoyed Pope Gregory so much that he forgot the usual calm language used in official documents and sharply criticized such effrontery, but in the end he gave in and demanded only such a change in their habit which would distinguish it from that of the Franciscans, and no longer insisted on either a white or black habit, long sleeves and the wearing of the staff. It was the wearing of the staff in particular to which all hermits objected, because it made the populace regard them as robbers.
Pope Innocent IV did not continue the policy of his predecessor, but favored the Brettini in every respect. Between 1247 and 1252 he granted indulgences to at least fifteen of their houses in order to support their building program and in various disputes as with the Franciscans over Mount Geoffrey or the bishop of Bologna over St Mary Magdelene's in Valle Petrae he decided in favor of the Brettini. The pope also approved their Constitutions and renewed their many privileges. The only decision against their wishes concerned their intention to leave Brettino, which both the citizens of Fano and probably some of the brethren themselves opposed. Pope Alexander IV resumed the question of habit in February 1256, when he commanded the bishops of the March of Ancona to excommunicate all who would not obey, but even after the Great Union had to give them another chance by setting as final date the feast day of All Saints on 1st November 1256 and then extended it to Easter 1257. This was the last reference from papal sources about the stubborn fight of the Hermits of Brettino for their habit, which they had probably worn before the Franciscan Order had been founded. For the Brettini, after their participation in the Grand Union they had to lay aside their former habit and use that of the Order of St Augustine which they had just joined.
In the years 1245, 1247 and 1248, papal bulls accorded the Brettini rights and privileges, and recommended them to local bishops. Most of their foundations were in the Marches of Ancona, but others were in Umbria, where they had houses in Gubbio, Terni (these two towns still have Augustinian priories today), Orvieto, Narni, Amelia and other places. By 1256 they had about forty-five communities. These were apportioned into at least two administrative provinces. At the request of the members of the Order of Saint Augustine (i.e., members since 1256) in the hermitage at Brettino, the same Pope Alexander IV who had approved the Grand Union of 1256 now granted Brettino to “observe the eremitical (hermit) life in perpetuity,” i.e. not to change into a more active and apostolic life as decreed four years earlier. This was allowed by the papal bull, Solet annuere sedes on 7th July 1260.
Some other hermitages were also kept. This was how Augustine of Tarano O.S.A. (alias Augustine Novello O.S.A.), once he ended his term as Prior General in 1300, was able to retire to the hermitage of San Leonardo da Lago near Siena. In addition, some new hermitages were also established. For example, in 1311 the Bishop of Terni gave to the Augustinians of the convento (monastery) of San Pietro in Tirlo (Terni) the church in Dursagnano, in an isolated part of the diocese, so that “with permission of their superiors they might lead a solitary and eremitical life there.” These concessions need to be appreciated in the context of the observant movement that was then gaining considerable influence among the Augustinians, and more so in some other mendicant orders
The first two of these five groups had houses outside of Italy. Counting the Williamite houses that remained with the Order of Saint Augustine after the Williamite separation in 1266, the number of "founding" communities of the Order in 1256 was at least 150 houses but no more than 200 houses. These houses were located in at least ten countries.The most probable list reads: Italy 148 houses, Germany 29, France 12, England 9, Hungary 7, Belgium 6, Spain 4, Portugal 3, Switzerland 2, and Austria 2.
To create the Augustinian Order, therefore, was a bigger challenge than had been the totally voluntary formation of the Franciscan and Dominican orders of friars decades previously. Except for the Williamites, the other groups successfully welded into a permanent structure with an additional level of central governance. For the Church, the successful supervision of the task of forming these 150-200 houses into one religious order in 1256 was entrusted to the same Cardinal Protector who had monitored the Little Union in 1244, Richard Annibaldi.
William Fieschi, the Cardinal Protector of the Boniti, died in 1256, and the Brettini had never been assigned a Cardinal Protector. The way was clear, therefore, for Annibaldi to repeat what he was doing for the Augustinian Tuscan Hermits since 1244 on a larger scale after 1256 for the brand-new Order of Hermits of Saint Augustine. And this he did.
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