They also had remained closer in practice to a life of poverty and begging (in comparison, by 1275 the Franciscans were being regarded as being quite powerful and political in promoting the material and ecclesiastical interests of their order). The Sack Friars had thereby attracted much lay support from kings as well as from the general populace for their adherence to their “first fervour,” and there was public dismay from various levels of society in response to the edict for their dissolution.
As one source describes it, “The Franciscans' power affected the way in which they were regarded - not only by those on whom that power was exerted, but also by those who had given them that power in the first place. In a book on Louis IX [of France], William Jordan notes that as the traditional mendicant orders became more staid and sophisticated in the course of the thirteenth century, Louis sought out those offshoots of the great orders which seemed more effectively to be preserving the original fervour of the movements, and this certainly included the Sack Friars.
According to this line of argument, had the other mendicant orders been willing to let the dissolution happen for the expediency of ecclesiastical politics, and then had participated in the spoils of the dismemberment? Were the Sack Friars the sacrificial lamb offered to appease the bishops of the Church, with the two larger mendicant orders (the Franciscans and Dominicans, both heavily involved in the Council of Lyons and exempted by it from any decree of dissolution) a party to it - whether reluctantly or otherwise? Or was the dissolution simply a good administrative step in ecclesiastical housekeeping? Were there, in fact, too many mendicant orders, especially small ones? Were the mendicants, in fact, too successful - to the point of becoming overly plentiful? Neither option is totally true – nor totally false.
By the dissolution, the bishops of the church possibly felt that their concern about the multiplication of new mendicant orders had been heard, Rome gained some income from the resulting property sales, and the remaining religious orders selectively acquired former houses of the Sack Friars at strategic locations. But why were the Sack Friars chosen – or, at least, the only sizeable mendicant order chosen - for dissolution? Whereas the Augustinians fended off the threat of the Second Council of Lyons with historical arguments and political influence, the Sack Friars – probably more “other worldly” in their psychology – offered no organised resistance to the will of the Council. For example, the Augustinian Prior General attended the Second Council of Lyons in 1275, but there is no certain indication that the Prior General of the Sack Friars did so. As well, the Augustinians had a powerful Cardinal Protector in the person of Richard Annibaldi (although too ill to attend the Council), whereas the Sack Friars had no Cardinal Protector.
Once the dissolution began, in some instances whole communities of Sack Friars switched across to other religious orders. Others Sack Friars made use of the concession of being allowed to operate and live in their priory (convento) until the last occupant died. Sometimes the remaining Sack Friars in a geographical region amalgamated into one of their houses. In this way, in England at least twelve of their houses lasted to dates beyond the year 1300. Some of the Friars entertained the vain hope that the Council’s decision to disband their religious order would be reversed, but this never happened. They were correct, nevertheless, in their belief that there was no intrinsic reason why their order had been dissolved. The last Sack Friar probably lived until at least 1328, which was fifty-three years after the fateful decision of the Council of Lyons in 1275. Outside of the consequences of military conflict, the dissolution of the Sack Friars led to one of the largest and most protracted multi-national corporate property sales in the medieval church. In 1275 they had as many as 120 houses, in comparison with an estimated minimum of 220 houses the Augustinians then had in Western Europe and Hungary. Their former houses in France, England, Italy, Germany, Holland, Belgium, Spain, Italy and the Holy Land became vacant between 1275 and 1328.
Although the disposition of these Sack priories was ultimately in papal hands, local bishops and kings and religious orders added their influence and preferences to the proceedings. The Popes sometimes applied the proceeds from the sale of these properties of the Sack Friars to papal funds for the Holy Land and for the Holy See. But it was the other religious orders that generally benefited more than did Rome through the dissolution of the Sack Friars. For example, in 1317 the French king successfully petitioned the Pope that the houses of the Sack Friars in the dioceses of Reims, Orleans and Tours be allowed to go to the Order of Saint Augustine. At Lamballe (France), the Duke of Brittany took back a house he had given to the Sack Friars and gave it to the Order of Saint Augustine. He was excommunicated for allegedly giving away church property (i.e., something that no longer belonged to him), and was only released from excommunication in 1317.
In Verdun, the convento of the Sack Friars was handed to the Augustinians sometime between 1282 and 1319, and in Liege sometime between 1290 and 1331. The acquisition of former houses of the Sack Friars gave the Augustinians accommodation for as many as fifteen new communities in France, a house in Barcelona (Spain) in 1295 and another in Esslingen (Germany) in 1325. In 1342 the Austin Friars (in England the popular name of the Order of St Augustine) received permission from Pope Clement VI to take over a convent at Stamford, Lincolnshire, England, which had formerly been occupied by the Friars of the Sack.
It should not be thought, however, that every convento of the former Sack Friars was quickly disposed of and reoccupied once its last Sack Friar died. It is a known fact that some houses stood vacant for extended periods of time because no immediate use for them was found. Consider the disposition of the convento (house) of the Sack Friars at Canterbury, England. Records indicate that King Edward I gave its Sack Friars three shillings for three days' food in 1289 and again in 1297, suggesting that only three friars remained there at those times (after the suppression of the Order initiated by the Council of Lyons in 1274 forbade any further recruitment of candidates). The convento closed - probably with the death of the last local Sack friar - sometime before 1314, when the building was resumed by the king and was immediately rented from him by the City of Canterbury for over a century. In 1514 it was granted to a layman.
In conclusion, one historical correction is offered here. One definite historical error about the Sack Friars was initiated by the Augustinian historian, Jordan of Saxony O.S.A. (also known as Jordan of Quedlinberg c. 1299 - c. 1380). Writing before 1357 (i.e., only sixty-two years after the Second Council of Lyons), Jordan stated that the Sack Friars had joined the Order of Saint Augustine at its Grand Union in 1256. This is totally inaccurate, but unfortunately is a mistake that has often been copied and perpetuated by later historians. This particular error by Jordan is additionally surprising in that he was himself a graduate of the Augustinian studium generale that was established in the former Sack Friars convento at the Quai des Grands Augustins in Paris for three years in about 1320-1322.
On the next page is a coverage of the tribulations involved in transferring the Paris convento of the former Sack Friars to the Order of Saint Augustine.(Continued on the next page)
For further reading
In 1275 the Second Council of Lyons decreed the end of various "new religious orders." The book mentioned below deals comparatively with how four orders responded and reacted to this threat of suppression. Two orders, i.e., the Augustinians and Carmelites survived this challenge, but the other two orders, i.e., the Friars of the Sack and the Pied Friars, were forced to disband:
The Other Friars: Carmelite, Augustinian, Sack and Pied Friars in the Middle Ages. By Frances Andrews, Woodbridge, Suffolk, England: The Boydell Press, 2006. ISBN 1 84383 258 5. Hardcover. 261 pp. http://www.boydell.co.uk/43832585.HTM