These first five elected international leaders (Priors General) of the Order of Saint Augustine were consistent in pressing their members to take up studies as well as apostolic activities. This was a path of development that the Order of Preachers (Dominicans) had pioneered as the first mendicant order. It was also totally in accord with the changes then taking place in Europe, with the growth of universities.
This emphasis on scholarship would also have been encouraged by Cardina Richard Annibaldi, the very directive Cardinal Protector of the Order of Saint Augustine, who had been appointed by the Pope. At the gathering in Rome during March 1256 that has come to called the Augustinian Grand Union, the assembled delegates had not dared to elect a Prior General themselves. Instead, they had asked the Pope that his appointee as president of the proceedings, Cardinal Richard Annibaldi, should appoint somebody to the position. Annibaldi chose Lanfranc Settala, the General of the Gianboniti (or Zanbonini).
Lanfranc was chosen because of the great renown and deep respect he had gained both as the General of the Gianboniti (Hermits of Bother John the Good) and as a participant in the deliberations during the Grand Union. Writers have always given him the title ' Blessed ' and he certainly lies buried like a saint in St Mark's Church in Milan, although steps to have this title officially recognized have never been taken.Lanfranc is said to have been born in Milan of the noble family of the Settala or Settara, and entered the Congregation of John Bonus and received the habit at the Church of Saints James and Philip on the right side of the river Savena near Milan, where the hermits dwelt before they entered the city. The first-known secure information about him appeared in the process of canonization of John Bonus (“John the Good”), which reveal that Lanfranc was a priest and stayed with the saint in Butrioli from February to August 1241.
Between the years 1245 and 1249 Lanfranc suffered from a very abhorrent skin disease which was thought to be incipient leprosy, but was able to work as secretary to Prior General Hugo in Venice, Bologna, Ferrara and Milan. When John Bonus (John the Good) died on 23rd October 1249, Lanfranc was in Mantua and prayed at the open coffin with such devotion and confidence in the intercession of his holy founder, that on the ninth day he saw himself suddenly and so completely cured from his disease, and that not a sign of it remained on his body. This prayer of resignation is the only insight available of his inner life.
Two years later he was provincial of Lombardy and in 1254 he was responsible for the erection of the magnificent Church of Saint Mark, which has remained the property of the Order through the centuries. When the schism within his previous Order (Gianboniti ) came to an end, he was elected general and this choice characterizes him as a man who through long and bitter sickness had acquired the necessary patience to bear with the warring factions and slowly restore full harmony among them. The Pope described him as a vir utique providus et discretus ac, in spiritualibus et temporalibus circumspectus – “a man talented and discerete in both spiritual and temporal matters.”
Lanfranc the first Prior General of the newly united hermits had experience in the government of a religious order, and possessed a strong and attractive personality. A man of such character and practical ability was required at that moment, rather than a reserved person of high learning. This was because the immediate tasks were administrative and structural; in order to effect a full and complete union of these friars from four different religious sources, what had to be effected was the transfer of hermit friars from the countryside into the cities, the commitment to significant building programs, and the provision of education of the candidates of the new Order to enable it to partake in the active life of the church and fight against the heresies of the day.
The foremost task was the union of all the houses which had not sent delegates to the first general chapter and to achieve a full central government, and for that purpose he sent his vicars to the various countries. Nicolaus Crusenius O.S.A. published Monasticon Augustinianum, a lucid history of the Order of St Augustine published in Munich in 1623 that is still highly esteemed. He is the only author for the statement that Lanfranc immediately sent Italian hermits to the ultramontane establishments (i.e., houses over the Alps from Italy): Guido Salanus and later Andrew of Siena to Germany, Mark Ventonus and after him Peter of Gubbio to France, John Lombardo and Paschasius Dareta to Spain and Albertin of Verona and William of Sengham to England.
This narrative of Crusenius has statements that can be proved by other documents; it must have been based upon a source unknown to us. If we accept his account we would have to conclude that none of the ultramontane communities (i.e. houses in other parts of Europe) was represented at the first General Chapter and that Lanfranc sent delegates who were ignorant of the language, the usages and customs of these nations. It is known, however, that Paschasius Dareta and John Lombardo worked in Spain as early as 1243 and there is an early though unconfirmed report that William Sengham had joined the first Augustinians who had been sent by Lanfranc to England in 1252 (i.e., before the Grand Union) while he and they had still been Gianboniti (Zanbonini).
The uncertain history of the first vicars general as related by Crusenius should, therefore, be replaced by the more probable one, that these men were the representatives of the ultramontane houses- houses beyond the Alps, e.r., Germany, England, etc. - at the General Chapter (Grand Union) of 1256, were well acquainted with conditions in their provinces, and probably had founded many of the early houses in these respective countries. Crusenius also claims that all Italy formed one province but was almost immediately sub-divided into the provinces of Lombardy, Romandiola, March of Ancona, Pisa and Lucca. It is far more probable that the three provinces of the Gianboniti (Zanbonini) - Lombardy, Treviso and Romandiola - were retained as well as the March of Ancona, where the hermits of Brettino prevailed.
The Augustinian Hermits of Tuscany (formed in the Little Union of 1244) were sectioned into several provinces, although we find the first document of the province of Pisa only in 1259 and a year later one for the province of Siena. The provinces of Rome and Naples were no doubt in existence at the first general chapter, though we have the first indication of their existence only in 1274. France-England, Hungary, Spain and Germany formed the other provinces giving us a total of twelve provinces at the time of the Great Union. Only one copy of the signature of Lanfranc has been discovered. Since it concerns the establishment of a house of studies in Paris, then the centre of theology, it shows the zeal with which he tried to give the youth of the Order the best possible education. A few years before his death he sent Giles of Rome to that newly established house thus giving his Order the most famous theologian it ever produced.
Lanfranc was re-elected Prior General at the Augustinian general chapters of 1259 and 1262, and died in office in 1264. When the ancient Augustinian Church of Saint Mark in Milan was being restored in 1956, Lanfranc's burial site was discovered and his tomb identified by a stone which bore his name. As Prior General from 1256 to 1264, Lanfranc had been given wide powers to impose uniformity of observance and dress upon the new Order.
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