The Paris house of the Friars of the Sack
The fate of the former house (convento) of the Sack Friars in Paris is of interest here because it came into the possession of the Order of Saint Augustine. For many centuries it became the venue of the most important academic house (studium generale) within the Augustinian Order. This convento was located on what is still today called the "Quai des Grands Augustins." This Quay of the Great Augustines dates back to 1313 and is claimed to be the oldest quay (wharf area beside the River Seine) in Paris.
The effect of the Second Council of Lyons in 1275 was a prohibition of the Sack Friars to accept any further candidates. In consequence, by April 1293 their large house (convento) in Paris had only eight elderly friars remaining in the community. King Philip IV (“Philip the Fair”) of France in April 1293 made a promise to the Augustinian Prior General, Giles of Rome O.S.A. Philip promised this convento in Paris to the Order of Saint Augustine once the last of the resident Sack Friars died. Philip realised, however, that this transfer of property would occur only with ecclesiastical approval, which the King reasonably anticipated would be forthcoming.
In a ceremony in the refectory of the convento on 2 September 1293, the eight elderly Sack friars voluntary handed the keys of their convento to Philip IV, generously being willing to accept smaller accommodation. Philip then gave the keys to the Prior General based on the premise – which was very noble but not necessarily legal in church law - that the Sack Friars had received the property from the late King Louis IX to use for charitable purposes, and that they now were returning it to the Crown so that King Philip IV could reassign it to others to continue this work.
It should here have been possible for both the letter and spirit of the law to have been accommodated, but unfortunately this did not happen immediately. As an intended part of the ceremony at the convento on 2 September 1293, Philip IV immediately passed the keys over to Giles of Rome. After news had spread that the King had purported to transfer the ownership of ecclesiastical property, a group of clergy led by an official of the Bishop of Paris arrived subsequently at the convento. The archdiocesan official insisted that the Augustinians vacate the building, for the King had no authority to assign it to them.
Correctly according to the letter of the law, the official declared that as a layman King Philip IV had no ecclesiastical authority to transfer ecclesiastical property. On this point of law, the bishop’s official was correct. With the refusal of the Augustinians to vacate the property, the bishop’s men unsuccessfully resorted to the use of force. Giles of Rome O.S.A., the Augustinian Prior General, immediately sent a petition to Rome. In what appears as an impulsive and high-handed use – if not also as a complete over-use - of authority, the bishop’s official then placed the house under interdict (i.e., prohibited the sacraments from being administered there).
As if that had not been heavy-handed enough, he also issued a writ of excommunication against Giles (which technically would mean he was banished from the Christian Church, and could not be given the Sacraments by any other Christian.) To excommunicate a Prior General over a rather ordinary administrative matter was venturing into deep waters indeed. Rather than await in reasonable trepidation a decision from Rome on the matter, the bishop’s official re-considered his position, and lifted the interdict.
The Bishop of Paris, Simon Matifas de Buci, then on 29th December 1293 indicated his agreement to the Augustinian occupancy, accepting the desire of the King. Supported by letters of recommendation from both the King and the Bishop of Paris, the matter was brought to a definitive conclusion by a formal approval of Augustinian possession of the convento by Pope Boniface VIII on 13 September 1296.
Once this convento was in operation, the Augustinians sold their previous location of the Parisian studium generale (international study house of higher studies for Augustinians) at Chardonnet on 5 March 1302. Strange as it may seem, a similar predicament involving a former covento of the Sack Friars was repeated twenty-five years later. At Lamballe (France), the Duke of Brittany took back a house he had given to the Sack Friars, and gave it to the Augustinians. He was excommunicated for giving away something that no longer belonged to him, and was only released from excommunication in 1317.
The Other Friars: Carmelite, Augustinian, Sack and Pied Friars in the Middle Ages. By Frances Andrews. In 1274 the 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. Publisher: The Boydell Press, Woodbridge, Suffolk, England: 2006. ISBN 1 84383 258 5. Hardcover. 261 pp. http://www.boydell.co.uk/43832585.HTM