Augustinian presence at Gubbio in the Umbria region of Italy actually began between the Tuscan Little Union of 1244 and the Augustinian Grand Union of 1256. On 1st October 1250 Pope Innocent IV offered an indulgence of forty days to anyone who contributed to the building of a church and convento in Gubbio by the Hermits of Brettino, one of the groups living the Rule of Augustine who were part of the Little Union of Tuscan hermits in 1244.
A man named Iacomellus gave the Hermits of Brettini (the Brettini) a house, vineyard, woods and various lands. Building began in 1251 and the church, located just outside the Porta Romana, was completed by 1292. In 1258, two years after the Augustinian Grand Union, Pope Alexander IV donated money to the Augustinians of Gubbio. A papal bull of Pope Nicholas IV (the first Franciscan to become Pope) in 1292 seems to confirm that an Augustinian church and convento (monastery) had been completed there.
Above: Town plan of Gubbio. The Augustinian church is shown just outside the Roman gate (called the Porta Romana, or sometimes the Porta Sant'Agostino) in the city wall at the right edge of the image.This Augustinian church is mentioned in documents pertaining to the widening of the town walls in 1302. This stands to reason because the church is just outside the walls near the ancient Roman gate. The Augustinian church is mentioned in a record of the celebrations for the feast of Saint Catherine in 1339. Side chapels are mentioned as being constructed in 1341 and later. To the eternal gratitude of historians, the Augustinian General Chapter of 1345 required all Augustinian communities to keep an inventory of their property. Gubbio listed nine chalices, gilded and silver crosses, three wooden crosses for funerals, six silk chasubles, a chest with reliquaries, and a set of tools for making altar breads.
The church and convento had twenty-one books for celebrating the Divine Office and religious services. Three years later in 1344 there is reference to an Augustinian community of twenty members. Because of the Black Death in 1347-1350 that number fell to 15 in 1362, and subsequently increased once more - to 18 in 1365 and 1369, and to 20 in 1370. (The bubonic plague - "Black Death" - killed an estimated 25 million in Europe, a third of the population.)
Image (above): St Augustine lands back at Carthage from Ostia. A fesrco by Nelli Ottaviano, in 1422, Italy. In fact Augustine had no habited community at that point in time.
Modifications and beautification of the interior of the church occurred on various occasions during the following centuries. On 20th August 1854 the church was solemnly blessed by Cardinal Guiseppe Pecci, the Bishop of Gubbio. The extensive Augustinian convento (monastery) was built progressively, and some of its parts go back to the seventeenth century. Today the convento has the traditional internal open-air cloister. The cloister (patio, clausura) has one side of the church forming one of its four sides, and the buildings of the convento its other three sides.
In 1869 the Augustinian convent was suppressed by government forces, and the friars expelled. They moved into a nearby house, and conducted their ministry from there. The government sold the convent. It was bought by a family in Genoa named Degola, who sold it in 1897 to another person in Genoa, Giacomo Sciallero Carbone. In 1901 an Italian Augustinian, Giacomo Belgrano O.S.A., raised money in the United States to purchase back the property for 20,000 Italian lire. (Because most other Augustinian houses in Italy are still rented from the government even today, Gubbio has long been an exception in Italy by being in Augustinian ownership.) In 1905 an Augustinian novitiate was established at the Gubbio convent, and Giacomo Belgrano O.S.A. was made Master of Novices. This Augustinian church (now also a parish church) and monastery are a busy centre of ministry, although there are only two priests resident there because the paucity of Augustinian numbers in Italy and in the First World generally. The convento still has its own vineyard and olive grove on the side of the hill that comprises the rear section of the property.Photo GalleryFor the Augnet gallery on the Augustinian history of Gubbio, click here.
LinksKey to Umbria: Gubbio. The history of the church of St Augustine and its art works. For the expanse and significance iof its artwork, this church should be better known.http://www.keytoumbria.com/Gubbio/S_Agostino.html
Gubbio. A photographic coverage of this small town with a lengthy Augustinian history. Unfortunately this website does not show St Augustine’s Church. http://www.paradoxplace.com/Perspectives/Italian%20Images/Montages/Umbria%20&%20Le%20Marche/Gubbio.htm
Blessed Peter of Gubbio O.S.A. A brief biography, located on the web site of Augustinian Friends U.S.A. http://www.augustinianfriends.org/saints/peterofgubbio.htm