In 1280 Archbishop Peckham forbade the Austin Friars of Oxford to hear confessions in 1280 until they showed him by what authority they acted. In 1284 he denounced them for excommunicating and defaming the Friars Minors of Oxford who had received one of their friars, though 'it is lawful to change a vow for a better one.' In 1289 three of the Mendicant Orders held provincial chapters at Oxford, that of the Austin Friars meeting on 15th August.
Because of a land rental dispute that reached the court of the King’s Bench in 1339, the names of the community members in Austin Friars’ Priory at Oxford were recorded: “John de Saltford, prior, William de Circestre, Walter de Chaleston, William de Chedeworth, Nicholas de Abyndon, John de la Chapele, John de Ykesworth, William de Durham, Nicholas de Longevylle, John de Bristowe, Guido de Cantebrugge, John de Coleby, John filius Thomae de Bedell de Oxon, John de Stodeham, and John filius Ricardi le Cooke dictus Mek de Oxon, 'being fourteen besides the prior, other students of the same order, and servants belonging to the house.”
The first Augustinian to graduate with the magisterium (today called a doctorate of theology) at Oxford was William of Hegham (sometimes written as Hecham or Hexham), who took his degree in 1292. He became the regent of the Augustinian studium there about the year 1293, and was later the English Augustinian Provincial. Copies of some of his sermons still exist. Pope John XXII erected Cambridge as an Augustinian studium generale (an international study house), with full papal privileges in the granting of degrees in theology. This happened in 1318. The studium at Oxford must have been going for thirty years before this.
The General Chapter at Rimini in 1318 then stated that both Oxford and Cambridge were always to have two masters of theology present, as was required at the studium generale in Paris. The Chapter gave Cambridge the same recognition as the slightly older Oxford. It simultaneously paid great honour to both Oxford and Cambridge by granting them the same status as Paris. Each of the five limits (regions) of the English Province could send four students to both Oxford and Cambridge, and additionally the Austin Friars of Oxford and Cambridge could add two more friars oof their own choice. If every one of the five limits filled its quota, then each of these studia was attended by twenty-two English and Irish scholars.
Each foreign Augustinian Province could send one member according to the Constitutions of the Order ("de jure" in Latin) and the Prior General had the discrertion of adding three more students of his own choice ("de gratia nostra speciali"). In 1329 the Order numbered twenty-four provinces. If each of these and the Prior General had filled their quota not more than fifty students would have attended either Oxford or Cambridge at any one time. This number, however, was seldom if ever reached, because few of the Italian and French Provinces sent students. The average total of students in the Augustinian studium generale at each university seems to have been twenty-five to thirty. This seems like a small number, but it was large in view of the prevailing laws of all universities, which permitted only one promotion to the magisterium ("doctorate") every two years for each mendicant Order.
In higher theological education, therefore, the English Province thus enjoyed a tremendous numerical advantage over the remaining Provinces. Its members were assigned the first two places at Oxford and Cambridge, while the numerous Augustinian Provinces in Italy shared the third place available, and the remaining Provinces the fourth. Counting both English universities, this distribution gave to each of the thirteen Italian Provinces but one master apiece every thirty-nine years. To these Continental Provinces, keeping students in Oxford and Cambridge seemed a thankless waste of money. The support of an Augustinian student at Paris, Oxford or Cambridge was a considerable expense, including the financial provision for the student to have necessary manuscripts copied so that he had texts to bring back to his home Province to aid his future teaching career in the local Augustinian studium (seminary).
Foreign Provinces made, therefore, little use of the English universities except during the Great Western Schism. Only the nearby provinces of Cologne and Saxony sent a considerable number of scholars because their countries were closely connected with England either by annexation or commerce. Comparative numbers for the Augustinian priories at Oxford and Cambridge in the fourteenth century show that Oxford had about fifty students in both 1305 and 1377, while Cambridge had thirty-six in 1297, but this had doubled to seventy in 1326.
How many Augustinians undertook higher studies at Cambridge and Oxford? A survey of the data in A.B. Emden's two biographical registers of the universities at Oxford and Cambridge offers some light on this subject prior to the year 1500. These two monumental works, A Biographical Register of the University of Oxford to 1500, 3 vols. (Oxford, 1957-1959) and A Biographical Register of the University of Cambridge (Cambridge, 1963), include notices of some 434 Augustinian friars. (This number was arrived at by reducing the combined total of 212 at Cambridge and 224 at Oxford by the twenty-two whose names were either repeated in the Oxford volumes — Abyndon, de Venezia, de Lucca, Hervy, and Schwarzenberg — or whose names occur in the registers of both universities — Berewyck, Newbigging, Herford, Godwick, Owenby, Cressall, Constant, Colchester, Marpes, Benit, Sharyngton, Thomas Penketh, Galyon, Curteys, Thwaytes, Rose, Toneys.)
Of these, 135 received the magisterium, the doctorate in theology. The proportion completing the degree reached nearly fifty per cent in the generation immediately prior to that of John Capgrave O.S.A. (thirty-five of seventy-six English Austin Friars between 1360 and 1400). In addition, none of the 66 foreign Augustinian friars — primarily Italian and German — appears before 1358 (i.e., effectively before the Great Western Schism closed to them the option of attending the Augustinian stadium generale in Paris), and there are only seventeen of them at Oxford or Cambridge after the beginning of the fifteenth century (when even some English Augustinians had begun attending new universities in southern Continental Europe).
This is shown by the statistics of the number of foreign Augustinian students in England during 1378 – 1393. There were a total of fifty-seven of these foreign students, of whom twenty-five attended Oxford and twelve went to Cambridge, while the remaining twenty studied in other English Augustinian houses. Of the twenty-give at Oxford, there were thirteen Germans, eight Italians, two French, one Spaniard and one Portuguese. During these same years, nine English Augustinians studied aboard: two in Florence, two in Padua, and one each in Lucca, Pavia, Venice and Veruculi. By 1427 Augustinian attendance at both Oxford and Cambridge had dropped, and Englishmen were able to take the places there that previously had been reserved for foreigners. As an institution, the University of Oxford had lost much of its former greatness by this time, and by 1438 scarcely had a total of one thousand students in attendance.
The Augustinian communities in both Oxford and Cambridge were roughly equivalent in size to the Carmelite houses there and rather smaller than those of the Dominicans and Franciscans; this is probably a fair reflection of the Augustinian status as the 'third' order of mendicants. By way of comparison with the other mendicant orders, the following number of friars were known to be resident in Oxford priories in January 1317: 90 Dominicans, 84 Franciscans, 43 Augustinians and 45 Carmelites. By 1376 the numbers were 70 Dominicans, 103 Franciscans, 49 Augustinians and 57 Carmelites. Because of its convenient location in relation to the main body of university buildings, the Augustinian church and community house (priory) at Oxford served as a School of Theology for the university until 1480 (when the university erected its own building). As well, the Augustinian refectory and chapter house served as classrooms for the School of Liberal Arts until the suppression of religious orders in England in 1535. This convenient double use of the Augustinian buildings was planned that way, and gave the Augustinians income.
The noted historian of the mid-twentieth century, Aubrey Gwynn S.J., suggested that too much should not be made of this accidental prominence of the house of the Austin Friars at Oxford. It did not mean that the Austin Friars were a dominant feature in the life of the university, because, by the time of the arrival in Oxford of the Order of Saint Augustine in 1267, the Franciscans and Dominicans were already well established there.
Furthermore, the absence of any outstanding names during the first century of the Order in England, strengthens the position that the Order had a quiet beginning at Oxford. At the Augustinian General Chapter held at Padua, Italy in 1359, the Augustinian who was elected Prior General from 1359 to 1368 was Matthew of Ascoli O.S.A.. He is thought to have obtained his doctorate while attending the Augustinian studium generale at Oxford. The two English Augustinian delegates at the General Chapter in Padua returned to England with a multitude of benefits and privileges for the English Province, no doubt facilitated by the new Prior General's first-hand knowledge of the English Province.
(Continued on the next page.)