The second Prior General
At the chapter at Perugia in 1265, which was the one after the death of Lanfranc, Guido of Staggia was elected as the second leader (Prior General) of the Order. He was Prior at the convento at Vallebuona, Italy in 1243-1250, when the convento belonged to the amalgamated hermits of Tuscany founded by the Little Union of 1244. His abilities were such that after the Grand Union of 1256 he was sent to Germany to unify and further expand the pre-1256 Augustinian houses over the Alps from Italy.
From 1256 to 1264 he had been the first Augustinian Provincial of Germany, where he helped to establish new Augustinian houses in over thirty cities. There he had to struggle against the former Williamites, who soon after 1256 were intent upon withdrawing from the Grand Union. (The Williamites, one of the constituent groups at the Augustinian Grand Union of 1256, already had houses in Germany before 1256.) The problem was complicated by the fact that in some cases former Williamite houses had been sold and new properties purchased with the income raised; what was to happen in such cases?
Supported by church authorities in Rome and Germany, Lanfranc was largely successful in this struggle. All but three of these German houses subsequently remained Augustinian when most of the other Williamite houses withdrew from the Augustinians and re-established a separate Williamite Order. Before he had been sent to Germany, Guido of Staggia had been a member of the Augustinian Hermits of Tuscany (who were formed at the Little Union of 1244), and had been one of sixty superiors (priors) attending at a chapter in 1251. He was in office as Prior General from 1265 to 1271, and is thought to have died in 1288.
The third Prior General
The third international leader (Prior General) was Clement of Osimo, and apparently he came to the Augustinians in 1256 as a member of the Hermits of Brettino. It can be conjectured as to how co-incidental it may have been that the first three leaders (Priors General) came from the three largest of the five separate groupings that came together to form the Augustinian Order at the Grand Union in 1256: Lanfranc of Milan from the Gianboniti, Guido of Staggia from the Order of Saint Augustine of Tuscany, and Clement of Osimo from the Hermits of Brettino.
Photos (at right)Picture 1: Student of the Escolania (choir school) of the Escorial, Spain. Picture 2: Students of Colegio de Alfonso XII, Escorial, Spain. Picture 3: Augustinian Director (headmaster) of Colegio de Alfonso XII.
On 9th July 1272 Clement of Osimo wrote a letter, which still exists, that accepted the property given to the Order by a benefactor in Tuscany, the site of the first Augustinian foundation in San Gimignano. This land was at Racciano, about five kilometres outside of San Gimignano. (The present Augustinian monastery in San Gimignano is located on a second site.)
The fourth Prior General
Clement of Osimo resigned at the general chapter of 1274, and was replaced by Francis of Reggio Emilia, who was re-elected in 1277 and 1281, and died in 1283. It has often been conjectured that Clement resigned because of the sometimes-autocratic control over the Order of Saint Augustine by its Cardinal Protector, Richard Anniibaldi.
The Third Prior General returns
Clement of Osimo was on 28th May 1284 unanimously re-elected as Prior General after being out of office for ten years. He was again re-elected in 1287 and 1290. Richard Annibaldi had died in 1276, hence was no longer present during Clement's return to office of Prior General. In fact, Clement did not have to contend with a Cardinal Protector at all until 1288. In that year, one of the first acts of Nicholas IV (pope from 1288 to 1292 and the first Franciscan to become pope) appointed Cardinal Bernard de Languissel (who died three years later on 23rd July 1291), the Archbishop of Arles (France), to the position.
Clement is said to have had as his administrative focus, “Ut Ordo unus sit,” (which is Latin for “that the [Augustinian] Order be one.” He strove for this goal by insisting upon the uniform use of the Augustinian habit assigned at the Grand Union by the Pope and Cardinal Annibaldi, and by introducing a common set of Augustinian liturgical books for use during community prayer and worship. During his second period in office he also was part of landmark developments such as being the principal author of the early Constitutions of the Order, and developments in the provision of education for persons joining the Order - this was a continuation of the emphasis upon learning for members of the Order.
Photos (at left)
Picture 1: Augustinian priest teaching at Colegio de Alfonso XII, Escorial Palace, Spain. Picture 2: Students of Colegio de Alfonso XII, Escorial Palace, Spain. Picture 3: Madrid students visiting Colegio de Alfonso XII, Escorial Palace, Spain.
The fifth Prior General
The fifth Prior General was Giles of Rome, who was elected in 1292. He had been one of the first students at the Order's very first studium generale (international house of studies), which was located in Paris. It was associated with the University of Paris, where from 1269 to 1272 Giles had Saint Thomas Aquinas as his teacher and study director. Giles was the first member of the Augustinian Order to earn the degree of Master of Theology.A famous scholar and the author of numerous books on theology and philosophy, Giles was a professor at the University of Paris before being elected as the Prior General in 1292. An early advocate of studies, one of the first acts of Giles was to urge each Augustinian provincial superior to "put all your energy into preserving and advancing theological studies."
Statistically, of the first eight leaders (Priors General), all but one were Italian. It has also been estimated that in the fourteenth century more than half the membership of the Order was Italian. The Order of Saint Augustine became one of the great missionary orders in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. It was less touched, however, by the missionary spirit in the Middle Ages than were the orders founded by Francis and Dominic, whose orders admittedly had been founded fifty years ahead of the Augustinians.In the fourteenth century, however, some members of the Order were working in Armenia (now Iran)A list of Priors General. For the page in Augnet containing a list of every Prior General of the Order, and their dates of Office, click here.