The number of Augustinian houses, 1256 - 1356. Thanks to its unusual way of beginning, the Augustinian Order started with between 150 and 200 houses. A hundred years later, it had over 500 houses and was present in nearly all of the principal cities of Europe. The Grand Union had included houses in Italy, Austria, Germany, Switzerland, Belgium, France, Spain, Portugal, Hungary, Bohemia and England. Popes and bishops then helped the Order to expand further.
Civil rulers also assisted. Albertus Magnus brought the Order to Regensburg, Germany in 1262. Rudolph of Hapsburg, Louis of Bavaria, Charles IV, Philip the Fair (France), and the kings of Hungary welcomed Augustinians into their kingdoms. In Spain, Ferdinand III, Alfonso el Sabio, Ferdinand IV, and the rulers in Leon and Castile facilitated the arrival of the Augustinians.
The two religious orders of mendicant movement commenced by Saint Francis of Assisi and Saint Dominic had the advantage of a founding figure who was himself a member of the order. In contrast, the Order of Saint Augustine was founded by a papal decree. It had no similar founding member to encapsulate its spirit and to facilitate its growth. Even so, the Order prospered on the spirit and the Rule of Augustine, a man who had died 800 years earlier.
For those interested in statistics, the early centuries of the Order of Saint Augustine are a frustration. Only shreds of numerical evidence have survived about the number of provinces and personnel in the early centuries of the Order, and some of that evidence was written down by writers who lived many generations later.
The number of Augustinian Provinces, 1256 - 1329.
The documents of the General Chapter held at Siena in 1295 (i.e., about half a century into the history of Order), allow the deduction that there were seventeen Augustinian Provinces at that time. Scholars list ten of these provinces as being in Italy: Pisa (documented as existing in 1259), Siena (1260), the Marches of Ancona (1262), Romagna (1267), Lombardy (1275), Valle di Spoleto (1281), Venetia (1287) , Fermo, Treviso, and a tenth Italian Province (probably Sicily).
There were at least six - and probably seven - provinces beyond the Alps: The Provinces were named Germany, France, Provence (i.e., a second French province), Spain (including Portugal), Catalonia-Aragon (i.e., a second Spanish province), and England. The seventh Province at that time was most likely Hungary.
Numerically at this time more than half the entire membership of the Order was Italian. It is certain that by 1329 (i.e., only thirty years later) there were 24 provinces. Germany had four provinces in 1299: Bavaria including Bohemia, Austria and further east), Saxony-Thuringia (including north Germany), Rheno-Swabia (including the German-speaking Swiss cantons and Alsace) and Cologne (including the present-day Belgium and Holland).
Photos (at left):Picture 1: Side aisle in St Augustine's Church, in the Augustinian Parish of Hammersmith. Picture 2: Outside St Augustine's Church, Hammersmith.(London).Picture 3: Priest and a family at the church in Hammersmith.
In France, there was created a third and fourth province: Toulouse-Aquitaine and Narbonne-Burgundy. Finally in the eastern Mediterranean there was the Province of Puglia and the Holy Land, which sometimes was called the Province of Cyprus. It included houses in Crete, Corfu, Cyprus and Rhodes. The Province of the Holy Land never reached Palestine. On the instruction of the pope, the Patriarch of Jerusalem in 1290 was to give to the Augustinians the house at Acre (now within the State of Israel) that previously belonged to the disbanded Friars of the Sack. Acre, however, fell into the hands of Muslim forces in 1291 before any Augustinians had reached there.
The 24 provinces of 1329 all still existed in 1357.
Number of communities, 1256 - 1356.
The Order of Hermits of Saint Augustine began with over 150 communities at the time of the Grand Union in the year 1256. It successfully mastered the task of aligning these houses of the four amalgamating religious congregations into provinces (regional or national groupings) of the new Order of Saint Augustine. In 1278 (i.e., twenty-three years after the Grand Union and the year of the death of the Cardinal Protector, Richard Annibaldi,) the Order definitely had at least 220 communities; alternately, some Augustinian historians suggest as many as 300 houses.
(It is impossible to make an absolutely accurate tally because numerous small houses were constantly being opened, closed and changed in location; as well, the same house could be have been given a different geographical place-name on two different lists and thus have been counted twice.)
There were at least 130 houses in Italy. Further afield there were as many as 28 in Germany, 16 in England, 14 in France, 9 in Spain and Portugal, 7 in Holland and Belgium, 5 in Hungary, 4 in Czech lands, 3 in Austria, and 3 in Switzerland. Twenty years later the number of houses rose to 400, and in 1356 (i.e., another fifty years later, and by then a hundred years after the Grand Union) there were over 500 houses. By then the Order was present in nearly all of the principal cities of Europe and in many of the smaller towns also, from Poland to Hungary in the east to Portugal and Ireland in the west.
The number of members, 1256 - 1352.
No census records exist, hence it is difficult to estimate the number of members. Close investigation of the early documents of the Order suggest that the number of Augustinians immediately after the Augustinian Grand Union of 1256 was 2,400. There may have been 6,000 members in 1346, i.e., about a century after the Order began. This is based on a considered average of twelve members per community. It is estimated that three-quarters of these members were clerics (priests). A more conservative estimation of there being an average of ten members per community would reduce the total to 5,000 members. There is a continuing suspicion, however, that even this estimate is more likely than not to be insufficiently conservative.
Ambrose Massari da Cori O.S.A., Prior General in 1476 - 1485, wrote in his Chronica that the bubonic plague (Black Death) that decimated Europe in the next four years took 5,084 Augustinian lives, which on the above calculations would have left only about 1,000 surviving Augustinians. When compared to other statistics, this Augustinian death toll is incredibly high. It is seriously questioned; modern scholars no longer accept it as credible, and are inclined to think the Augustinian deaths during the plague (Black Death) were nearer to 1,000. However, Jordan of Saxony O.S.A. (or Jordan of Quedlinburg), who was Provincial of one of the German Provinces during the Black Death, himself recorded that 224 of his friars died. Could an Order-wide tally of only 1,000 deaths, therefore, be a little low? These figures would mean that there were fewer members in the Order in 1350 than there had been in 1256.
(Another - but proportionally smaller - decrease in the membership of the Order happened again in the years after 1517, when the ninety-five theses of Martin Luther lit the spark that became the Protestant Reformation. The estimated Pre-Reformation Augustinian population very early in the sixteenth century is placed at 8,000.) Throughout these centuries, the numbers of Franciscans and Dominicans were three to four times larger than that of the Augustinians. In other words, the Order of St Augustine remained a small religious order. Like the Franciscans and Dominicans, it grew at a rate that overcame the static European population total in the decades after the Black Death, yet it did so without increasing its size relative to that of the two older and larger mendicant orders.
The Order of Saint Augustine would have justified the expectations that Alexander IV (Pope 1254 - 1261) and Cardinal Richard Annibaldi would have anticipated for it during the hundred years after the Grand Union of 1256. It had joined with enthusiasm in the evangelisation of the emerging cities of Europe, fostered intellectual life in the new universities, and produced members of notable sanctity such as Nicholas of Tolentino O.S.A.. During the first century of the Order of Saint Augustine, at least eighty-two of its members are known to have become bishops, usually as an auxiliary bishop (i.e., an assistant to the bishop in charge of a diocese.) Over half of these bishops were appointed in Italy, and the remainder in Germany, France, Spain and England.
It was over a century before a member of the Order of Saint Augustine was appointed as a cardinal of the Church. The person in question was Bonaventure Baduario O.S.A. of Padua. He was born in Peraga (near Padua), Italy, in 1332, and for that reason is sometimes called Bonaventure of Peraga. He joined the Order of Saint Augustine in the city of Padua. He occupied the office of Prior General in 1377 and 1378. He was later named cardinal-priest of Saint Cecilia, the first of his Order to have received the honour. He was killed in Rome during 1386 by an arrow, probably in retaliation for his defense of the rights of the Church. Later he was beatified, i.e., declared a Blessed of the Church.(Continued on the next page.)
13th Century Augustinian Monasteries. Text by Fr. Brian Lowery, OSA, Ph.D, and uploaded by the Augustinians in California, USA. An excellent overview, with illustrations. http://osa-west.org/ancient-osa-monasteries.html