Pope Eugene IV, pope from 1431 to 1447, is included here so as to state definitively that he was not a member of the Order of St Augustine! This incorrect claim of his Augustinian his membership was made by the famed historian on the papacy, Ludwig von Pastor (1854 – 1928), and this mistake has been repeated on the authority of von Pastor by many others subsequently, and is still happening today.
Eugene IV (b. 1383 – d. 23 February 1447) was born in Venice in about the year 1388 as Gabriello Condulmaro, or Condulmerio, about the year 1383. He sprang from a wealthy Venetia family and was a nephew, on his mother's side, of Pope Gregory XII, who held the papacy from 1406 to 1415. Coming at an early age into the possession of great wealth, he distributed 20,000 ducats to the poor and entered the local monastery of St George. The monastery followed the Rule of St Augustine, but it was not part of the Order of St Augustine.
At the age of twenty-four he was appointed by his papal uncle to the important position of Bishop of Siena. When the people of Siena objected to the rule of a foreigner from Venice, Eugene resigned, and then in 1408 his uncle appointed him as Cardinal-Priest of St Clement. He rendered signal service to the next Pope, Martin V, by his labours as the papal legate at Picenum in the March of Ancona. Later he quelled a sedition of the Bolognesi. In recognition of his abilities, the conclave that assembled at Rome after the death of Martin V elected Eugene to the papacy in the very first round of voting.
There are reasons that may have prompted the error that Eugene IV was a member of the Order of St Augustine. For example, he chose two members of the Order of St Augustine to recite the psalms of the Divine Office with him daily, together with two secular priests. As well, he promoted the observantine movement within the Order. He had no intention of letting the Order be torn asunder by extremists of either the observants or the conventuals (non-observants) within the Order. Thus he stopped the efforts of the Augustinian Observants of Lombardy for complete independence. He consented to the opening of ab observantine house of the Order at Banada in County Sligo, Ireland in 1432, after which some other Irish houses also became Observantine. The greatest favour he bestowed upon the Augustinians was the canonization of St Nicholas of Tolentine in 1446. This process had begun more than a century previously but was delayed time and again through no fault of the Order. The impetus caused by this canonization was tremendous. It was the first-ever in the Order, and gave it great prestige. The many miracles wrought through the intercession of St Nicholas quickly spread his devotion, and the Augustinians did everything to promote his cult. Two lives of the saint, printed about 1510, are among the earliest books published in English by the Augustinians.
In the year of St Nicholas' canonization Eugene IV gave the Augustinians their greatest cardinal protector since the days of Richard Annibaldi, a Cardinal-Deacon. (There is no record that Annibaldi was ever ordained a priest.). He was William Estouteville, the Archbishop of Rouen, a blood relative of the royal house of France. Immensely rich and powerful he came within one vote of winning the papacy in 1458. Estouteville had been created cardinal by Eugene IV on 9th January 1440 and in 1452 won the love of his nation by starting the process of rehabilitation of Joan of Arc. One of the star witnesses at this trial was one of Joan's chaplains and her confessor, Jean (John) Pasquerel O.S.A..
Due to the loss of the Augustinian Avignon records of the Great Western Schism, Pasquerel has remained relatively unknown to historians of the Order although he played at least as great a role for the maid of Domremy as William Flete O.S.A. did for St Catherine of Siena. Eugene IV died in office at Rome on 23 February 1447. No member of the Order of St Augustine has ever been Pope.
For images of the shrine of St Nicholas of Tolentino O.S.A. (mentioned above), click here.