The differences between Augustinian Canons Regular and the Order of St Augustine
The main point to be made here is that the Augustinian canons and the Augustinian friars always were (and still are) separate and different from one another.
Although both are looking back to the same person for the inspiration of their way of living, they are separate albeit parallel realities. The inspiration of the Canons was very much the general call to the reform of the life of ministers of the church in the eleventh century. It was especially influenced by the work of the Lateran Synod in Rome in the year 1059. It was thus a clerical movement. In contrast, the arising of the mendicant orders about two centuries later was generally lay inspired; it was the coming together into community of hermits who had fled to the countryside in the hope of leading in simplicity a spiritual life not weakened by the business that was happening in the emerging towns and cities.
Augustinian Canons and Augustinian Friars often coexisted in the same locality, as happened in Cambridge, England, where both groups availed themselves of the educational opportunities of the university there. The Canons had been there since at least 1100, and the Augustinian friars since 1289. Both houses were suppressed during the English Reformation. As mentioned on a previous page in this section of Augnet, soon after the mortal remains of Augustine were brought to Pavia, northern Italy in 1221, Canons Regular of Saint Augustine were invited to attend to the tomb and the church where the tomb was situated, San Pietro in Ciel d'Oro. The Augustinian friars were similarly invited to Pavia in the year 1327, and set up their house on the other side of the Church of San Pietro in Ciel d'Oro. This was once instance where the close proximity of the Augustinian Canons and the Order of Saint Augustine did cause friction, especially on issues that now seem foolish, such as which one of these groups was more likely the "true" descendant of the community of Augustine at Hippo many centuries previously. Their monastery stood on the left side of the church, and the Augustinians on the right.
Possibly with a stronger determination to claim Augustine as their father, and assisted by their influence in Rome, the Order of Saint Augustine finally won exclusive custody of the mortal remains of Augustine. (Some popular histories have called this action as the most audacious and most public example of "body snatching" in ecclesiastical history!) The Augustinians then ministered there until the year 1799, when Napoleonic armies expelled them. They have since returned to their same monastery on the right side of the church. (See the Augnet Photo Gallery Italy: Pavia. Click here.) Another way to review the once-troubled relationship between the Augustinian Canons Regular and the Order of St Augustine is to examine the literary warfare that ensued in the fourteenth century. When Henry of Friemar O.S.A. in 1334 wrote De origine et progressu Ordinis (“On the origin and progress of the Order of Saint Augustine”) as the first treatise explicitly on the defence of the origins of the Order of Saint Augustine; the Canons Regular of St Augustine (a completely separate congregation from the Order of St Augustine, both at that time and still today) were swift to raise a protest at some of its contents.
For example, the Canons Regular claimed for themselves the prerogative of being the first religious order founded by St Augustine. Their reply to the writing of Henry of Friemar O.S.A., written by a Canon Regular, carried the title Correctorium tractatus de origine et progressu ordinis fratrum heremitarum sancti Augustine, vero ac proprio titulo eiusdem (“A correction of the tract on the origin and growth of the order of brothers hermits of St Augustine..."). It was not difficult for the author to point out some serious flaws in the arguments of Henry of Friemar. On the other hand, he was no less extravagant in his own claims concerning the priority of the institution of the Canons Regular and committed the very same kind of blunders for which he had criticized in Henry. The appearance of these two opposing treatises marked the beginning of a long and heated dispute between the Augustinian Order (“hermits) and the Canons. The issue at hand was institutional machismo and “bragging rights” about Augustine, and not a contest about a quest for the historical accuracy that eacjh author purported.
That some other contemporary Augustinian authors on the subject showed more restraint and tried to bring about a reconciliation. Thus Jordan of Saxony O.S.A. deplored the dispute and declared emphatically that the contest between the two Orders should not be concerned at all with priority but with the faithful compliance with the precepts contained in the Rule of Augustine; and that, if he had a choice, he would rather prefer to be a member of that Order which distinguished itself by stricter observance than to have the certitude as to which group Augustine had given his Rule first. Also John Capgrave O.S.A., a learned English Augustinian Friar of the fifteenth century, in his Treatise of the Orders under the Rule of St Augustine stated that he had specifically written his work, Concordia, "so as to reforme charite be-twix Seynt Augustines heremites and his chanones (“to reform charity between Saint Augustine’s hermits and his canons”). The literary feud grew particularly bitter under the pontificate of Pope Sixtus IV. The Augustinian writers at the polemical forefront were Paul Olmi of Bergamo (Paulus Lulmeus Bergomensis) and Ambrose Massari of Cori O.S.A. (Ambrosias Coriolanus), Prior General of the Order from 1476 to 1485. The latter's Defensorium ordinis fratrum heremitarum sancti Augustini responsivum ad male-dicta canonicorum assertorum regularium congregationis Frisonariae, addressed to Pope Sixtus IV, appeared in Rome in about 1481.
The most prolific pamphleteer in the opposite camp was Eusebius Conradus, a Milanese Canon Regular of the Lateran Congregation. From his pen came the pamphlets Responsio adversus fratrem quondam blacteronem ordinis heremitarum,published in Milan in 1479, and Brevis annotatio in errores scribentium S. Augustinum fuisse heremitam, published in Rome in 1483. The dispute so agitated learned Christendom that, in 1484, Pope Sixtus IV felt compelled to enjoin silence on both parties with the bull, Quia apostolus praecepit. As desired, the matter then quietened.
Links The Augustinian Canons continue to exist, with Austria as an important focal point. http://www.augustiniancanons.org (Site closed for maintenance.)
Vorau Monastery and Church of the Augustinian Canons near Graz in Austria. Founded in 1163, the present monastery and church (see photo above) were built in 1660-1662. http://www.steiermark.com/en/poi/abbey-church-monastery--vorau-abbey-home-of-the-augustinian-canons_21087