The person who was the greatest influence on the calling of the Augustinian Grand Union, its actual occurrence and the first twenty years of the Order of Saint Augustine immediately afterwards was not an Augustinian.
It was the Order's appointed Cardinal Protector, Richard Annibaldi, a man with an overpowering personality. It was he who shaped the legal, ascetical and liturgical form of the Order. He promoted the expansion of the Order of Saint Augustine, using his considerable powers of influence with kings and bishops, such that the Order grew to over 300 houses by the time of his death during the Order's twentieth year of existence. The Order of Saint Augustine, as an "orphan" with no individual person to call its founder as in the case of the Franciscans and Dominicans, could probably claim Annibaldi as its nearest-possible surrogate in that role.
Image (at right) Augustinian Grand Union of 1256 at S. Maria del Popolo in Rome.
This Augnet page will focus almost mainly on Annibaldi's contribution to the Order of Saint Augustine, and not cover his far greater contribution to the Church generally. Richard Annibaldi (ca. 1200-1276) was born between 1200 and 1210, and nothing is known of his childhood. He was made a Cardinal Deacon of St Angelo in Pescheria in 1237, and from 1254 until his death in 1270 held an influential position within the Roman Curia (the central agency of administration within the Catholic Church). For this position, Annibaldi would usually have been expected to enter Holy Orders, at least to the status of becoming a deacon; he never advanced to becoming a priest, let alone be consecrated as a bishop.
It should be noted here that the position of cardinal is an executive and administrative position within the church, or even solely a position of honour. It is not a sacramental office. It should also be remembered that the Pope was the ruler of public government in central Italy at that time, and that there was no clear separation between church and state in that region. For example, in 1239 Richard was appointed Rector ("governor") of Campagna and Maritima, two papal provinces south of Rome.
In that capacity, he was the chief executive officer of public government in those two provinces. As such, he had to arbitrate between factions, and negotiate in the continuous private warfare between neighbouring cities, etc. On a larger scale, he had to look after the interests of the Pope in a power struggle with the emperor, which was causing tension in Italy. Politically Italy was beginning to divide into Guelfs (for the papacy, and often comprising the city merchant class) and Ghibellines (for the emperor, and often comprising the rural nobility). (The terms Guelf and Ghibelline did not come into popular usage much before 1250.) From June 1244 until October 1251, Pope Innocent IV fled for safety to Lyon in France, and then in Perugia in 1251-1253.
Annibaldi was one of three cardinals the Pope left behind in Rome in a caretaker role and for the public government of the papal provinces. (It was Innocent IV who gave Annibaldi full authority to conduct the Augustinian Little Union in Rome during or just prior to March 1244.) As already mentioned, Richard Annibaldi was created a cardinal deacon in 1237. He stayed at the lowly level of cardinal deacon until his death thirty-nine years later. Some historians suggest that his absence of advancement to the status of a cardinal priest indicates that he never took priestly ordination.
Furthermore, some historians note that his successor as Cardinal deacon of St Angelo in Pescheria received papal dispensation and did not even become a deacon, i.e., did not take Holy Orders at all. These historians ask whether Annibaldi also may not even have been ordained a deacon. Annibaldi was a skilled diplomat and politician, and he knew to join the political interests with religious ones. He became a very wealthy person. This began with his family origins, and was built upon from the financial benefits that came from the ecclesiastical and public positions he received. While not overlooking his own self-interest, Annibaldi nevertheless aimed at the reorganisation and the restoration of the papal power in both the public and the ecclesiastical spheres of influence.
No other cardinal of the thirteenth century equalled either Annibaldi's long term in office or his political importance. Prompted by the political desire to counter-balance the influence of the Holy Roman Emperor in Italy (and especially on its papal provinces), Annibaldi was largely responsible for introducing the French dominion in Italy, which in turn led to the Avignon papacy and the harm which that did to the Church. The Popes of the day were the secular rulers of territory in central Italy, and much of their time was taken up in seeking political alliances in order to protect their territorial provinces.
Three of his relatives wore the papal tiara: his uncle Innocent III (pope 1198-1216), and his nephews Pope Gregory IX (1227-1241), who appointed him a cardinal in 1237, and Pope Alexander IV (1254-1261), who placed him in charge of the Augustinian Grand Union of 1256. In his many years as a cardinal, Annibaldi participated in nine papal administrations. He was four times a leading candidate for the papacy himself. He may have been too aged and unwell in 1276 (the year of his death) to attend the three papal elections of Innocent V (pope January to June 1276), Adrian V (July to August) and John XXI (September 1276 to May 1277).
At a period of papal history, however, where papal and national politics exerted at least as much influence on the outcome of a papal conclave as did the talents of the candidates, Annibaldi had repeatedly to be content with the secondary role of an always-powerful lieutenant to those compromise candidates who were elected Pope instead of him. He was the main influence and promoter in the successful candidature of at least three of the nine Popes under whom he served. Some of the conclaves that elected these popes comprised of only eight or nine cardinals. For example, Pope Innocent IV, who was the Pope during the Augustinian Little Union of 1244, was elected by a conclave comprise ng ten cardinals, himself and Annabaldi included, and Pope Alexander IV of the time of the Grand Union of 1256 was elected from amidst eleven cardinals.
When in 1243, in line with the Fourth Lateran Council of 1215 regarding the reform and organisation of religious life, some hermits groups from Tuscany asked the Pope to assist them to form a single religious order, the Pope immediately consented. In the pope's name and as his delegate, Annibaldi did for practical purposes what a founder would usually do for a religious order. The Pope, who was living at Lyons in France for his own personal safety, left the implementation of the plan in the charge of Cardinal Riccardo Annibaldi, who was then a leader in the Papal Curia in Rome.
Annibaldi called for a gathering in Rome during March 1244, to which every group of hermits of Tuscany (with the exception of the Williamites, who briefly became involved later) was ordered to send two delegates with full authority to make decisions on behalf of their community. This was the so-called Little Union of Tuscan friars that was to lead to a bigger union that began the Augustinian Order. Soon after the Little Union, Annibaldi generally was at the height of his influence. He was the most outstanding personality in the College of Cardinals of his day.
Pope Innocent IV had fled to Lyons in France for his safety from June 1244 until 1251, and Annibaldi was one of the three leading Cardinals who maintained a watching brief on Rome, the so-called Patrimony of Saint Peter. When a nephew of Annibaldi became Pope Alexander IV in 1254, the papal edict calling these groupings to join the Augustinians in 1256 was something that could not effectively be avoided. Augustinian historians such as David Gutierrez O.S.A. (1980) stated directly that Annibaldi was the principal promoter of the Grand Union. He certainly was given full jurisdiction by Pope Alexander IV regarding the mechanics and execution of the Grand Union.
Annibaldi chaired the Grand Union, gave the Order its name, chose its habit, and named its first Prior General from amongst the participating congregations. Pope Alexander subsequently authorised and promulgated all the decisions Annibaldi had made "by our special mandate," as the Pope termed it in his enabling bull, Licet ecclesiae catholicae. Furthermore, by the bull Inter alias sollicitudines of 29th March 1257, the Pope appointed Annibaldi to be Cardinal Protector of the Order, granting Annibaldi the same authority as the Cardinal Protector previously assigned to the Franciscans.
The church official who had supervised the Little Union of 1244 and the Grand Union of 1256, Annibaldi now had papal authority to keep his hand on the controls of the Order of Saint Augustine. On occasion he used this power even when it went against standard practice in the Order. For example, Aldobrandus, the prior of the hermitage of St Matthew at Lepori had joined the Little Union of Tuscan hermits under the condition that he would remain Prior and receive a personal income for life. This was ratified by a General Chapter - probably that of 1244. When this agreement later was broken after the Grand Union, Annibaldi was contacted.
He insisted that the Augustinian Provincial in Pisa maintain the arrangement, and pay restitution for the income that had been denied to him. Annibaldi bluntly told the Provincial that he did not want these old men coming to him again crying over their difficulties, "a thing which would provoke us to very great anger." Presumably after the death of Aldobrandus, Annibaldi authorised the sale of St Matthew's convento, and the transfer of its remaining Augustinians to Santo Spirito in Florence. Actions such as these demonstrate that Annibaldi used his authority in relation to relatively small Augustinian matters, as he saw fit.
In the bull, the pope noted that "for some time now" the Augustinians had looked on Annibaldi "as a kindly father" and that he in turn "had embraced them with sincere love in the Lord." Annibaldi, this most influential Roman cardinal, fulfilled this task attentively until his death exactly twenty years later. He was an interested mentor and willing benefactor to the Order of Saint Augustine. His concern was not only for the male members of the Order, but also for Augustinian female religious as well. He actively promoted the convents of Augustinian nuns that existed in Germany as early as 1264.
The general chapter that had brought about the Grand Union took place in Rome at S. Maria del Popolo. Annibaldi had in 1250 obtained this monastery and church for the Augustinians by moving elsewhere its previous inhabitants - members of the Franciscan Order. The Franciscans accepted their eviction with understandable reluctance, yet they achieved nothing by their complaint against this very powerful cardinal! To the influence of Annibaldi is credited most of the papal bulls (decrees granting rights and privileges) addressed to the Order between 1243 and his death in 1276. There were at least 153 of them. Thanks partly to Annibaldi, the Order of Saint Augustine overcame the initial difficulties involved with the amalgamation of its constituent groups. Annibaldi also saw to its subsequent rapid growth beyond the Alps.
Cardinal Annibaldi also helped the Order’s expansion through direct influence and his political connections. Within Italy, for example, he gave the Order the Benedictine monastery “de Gestinga” in the Diocese of Arezzo, and in 1265 obtained for them the convento of St Nicholas in Spoleto. As well, he saw to the founding of an Augustinian convento in Molara near Frascati, where his residence - a family castle - was located, Augustinian General Chapters were held there in the castle, with him as president, in 1274 and 1275. He was by then aged and arthritic, and conducting the general chapters there allowed Annibaldi to exercise his presidential role.
Annibaldi was as a papal diplomat courted by King Henry III of England and was able, as a result of this friendship, to secure advance the Augustinian Order in England. Much was also due to the influence of Richard Annibaldi, their Cardinal Protector whose powerful position in the Roman Curia had early attracted the attention of the English Court. King Henry III seeking the archbishopric of Canterbury for his uncle, Boniface of Savoy, enlisted the Cardinal's aid in December 1243. He needed him again in his ambitious plans for the Crown of Sicily, which he sought to procure first for his brother Richard of Cornwall and then for his son Edmund. Richard Annibaldi often used such occasions to advance the interests of his family and to promote the expansion of the Augustinian Order.
It is significant that the foundations of the Order at Clare in 1249, London circa 1253, and Oxford in 1267 took place at a time when the services of Annibaldi were greatly in demand. One of the king's most travelled and experienced diplomats, Richard Earl of Gloucester, began the Augustinian foundation in Clare, and a blood relative of the king's, Lord Humphrey of Bohun, High Sheriff of England, made the foundation in London.
It was probably as a result of the protection of Annibaldi that the Order of Saint Augustine received favourable treatment at the Second Council of Lyon in 1275. There it avoided the fate of suppression which dissolved some other orders of the mendicant movement, including the Sack Friars who were not much numerically smaller than the Augustinians. The uniform policy of the first four Augustinian Priors General regarding the promotion of study by Augustinians and Augustinian candidates may also have been enhanced by the support of Annibaldi.
The Cardinal was a personal friend of Saint Thomas Aquinas, the greatest of the Dominican scholars. Aquinas spent Christmas 1271 at Annibaldi's palace at Molara, Italy. Like the Dominicans were doing, Annibaldi conceivably may have wished the Augustinians to respect and promote learning. By intention of the Church, the structure and documents of the Order of Preachers ("the Dominicans"), which began almost fifty years before the Order of Saint Augustine, was the prototype for the formation of the other mendicant Orders throughout the thirteenth century.
There are letters still extant on the topic of their spiritual welfare that were sent by Annibaldi to the Prior General and to the German Augustinian Provincial in 1266. Exactly the same directives are found verbatim (word for word) in letters from Innocent IV in 1245 to the ministers general and provincials of the Order of Friars Minor on behalf of Franciscan nuns.
Annibaldi died in 1276, probably at the age of seventy-six years, and was buried in the cathedral of the city of Rome, the Basilica of Saint John Lateran, where his tomb still remains. He was probably the most outstanding cardinal of his era, and the Order of Saint Augustine was blessed by his interest and support in its formative decades – even though for the Order his involvement was not without some angst. He was the personification of church authority to the Order of Saint Augustine from its Little Union in 1244 until the end of the term of office of the fifth Prior General in 1276 (i.e., the year of Annibaldi died).
At the end of his life Annibaldi saw the Order of Saint Augustine well established in all parts of Europe. Its inner transformation had taken root, and the name hermits now applied in name only because the Augustinians were by then active in a range of church ministries. Furthermore, the laws and Constitutions which were to govern them for the next 300 years had received their final form in 1274 under the guidance of Annibaldi and through the efforts of the Prior General at the General Chapter at Ratisbon, Clement of Osimo O.S.A. He had reason to sense a bright future for the Order, especially with the splendid discipline and great sanctity that flourished within in at that time.
Annibaldi was for thirty-four years an effective advocate, mentor, driving force and point of continuity for the Order. This certainly had a positive impact on the growth of the Order. It advanced it from about sixty communities that joined at its first official beginnings in 1244 to between 180 and 200 houses that either had been joined to the Order or else had been begun by the Order by the time of the Grand Union of 1256, and thence on to possibly 300 houses by the time of Annibaldi's death in 1276 - a period of only thirty-two years.
For further reading
Cardinal Richard Annibaldi. By Francis Roth O.S.A. This is a long article that appeared in English in successive issues of the scholarly historical periodical, Augustiniana, of the Augustinian Historical Institute of Louvain, Belgium in 1952-1954. AN4305