The Augustinian beginnings of Portugal go back to the year 1243. There are records of that time of a land purchase in Portugal signed by three Italians: Friar Lawrence (Prior Provincial), Paschasius Dareta (visitor general) and John Lombardo (Prior of Lisbon). There are indications that they were Tuscan hermits, and as such would in 1244 have been part of the Little Union of eremitical (hermit) groups in Tuscany.
An actual separate Augustinian Province of Portugal appears first in documents in the year 1482, and probably began in 1476. Prior to that eight houses of the Order in Portugal constituted a vicariate within the Province of Spain (Castile). The Province had established three new houses before 1517. The third one of these houses had begun in 1505 on the Canary Islands.
The Province never succeeded in the special task originally given to it by the Order. This was the goal of having a house in Thagaste (now in Algeria), the birthplace of St Augustine. Today, however, the Order has a house (convento) in Hippo. Thagaste in the year 356 had been the place of birth of Saint Augustine, after whom the Order is named and upon whose charism the Order was founded. In 1539 João (John) III, King of Portugal in 1521-1557, asked the Province of Spain (Castile), which had responsibility for the houses in Portugal, to send some holy and experienced leaders to the Province of Portugal. The renewal of the community life in religious orders was a goal that would soon be legislated by the Council of Trent (1545-1563). Two excellent men were sent immediately. The Prior General, Girolamo Seripando O.S.A., was in admiration of their work, which he observed when he visited Spain and Portugal in 1541. Both of these men stayed in Portugal for the rest of their lives, which in the case of Luis de Montoya O.S.A. was to be thirty-five years.
In was in 1572 that the next Portuguese monarch, King Sebastião (Sebastian), the king in 1557-1578, successfully requested the Province of Portugal to send men to minister in the outposts of Portugal in the Near East. By this time, their founding Province of Spain (Castile) had been sending men to Latin America for thirty nine years. For this purpose, a group of interested Augustinians was founded, and given a degree of autonomy. It was known as the "Congregation of the Hermits of Saint Augustine of the East Indies." Twelve men left Lisbon in March 1572, and reached Goa off the coast of India six months later. Soon twelve other groups followed. By the year 1650, thirty groups had gone to Africa and Asia. Already by the year 1638, about 240 members of the Order from Portugal had gone to the overseas military and trading outposts of their nation in West Africa, East Africa, Arabia, and Asia. ID2556 / TWO
In 1604 there were twenty-two Augustinian houses in Portugal, and in 1776 there were twenty-three. Its number of houses stayed constant, as many men joined who joined moved to the missions. This was how the Augustinian Congregation of the Indies gained members. In 1776 the Congregation had twenty-eight houses in the Portuguese East Indies. The Congregation of the Indies did not maintain any houses of its own in Portugal for the purpose of obtaining candidates. It had a far greater membership than the Province of Portugal. By the year 1638, it had 240 members from the west coast of Africa through to Macao in China.In the year 1834, the suppression of all religious houses in Portugal and its colonies immediately caused cessation of the Province of Portugal, and its priests joined the diocesan clergy.
Photos (at right): Picture 1: Augustinians at Lisbon, and friends.Picture 2: Interior of former Augustinian Church of Our Lady of Grace at Santarem in Lisbon.Picture 3: Facade of this church.The Missionary Congregation of the East Indies, having more members, continued in some of its centres for a varying number of years. In some places it still added a few local candidates to its declining numbers. Its previous houses in Kenya, Iran (Persia), Georgia, and West Pakistan had concluded - by the withdrawal of Portuguese political and commercial presence from these areas - before the suppression of 1834 and hence are not of relevance here.
Photos (above): Augustinian churches of Parish de Sao Domingos de Rana (left) and Parish of Sta Iria de Aroia(right).The missions in India, however, were still functioning in 1835. Previously in 1804 there had been nine houses of the Order there, containing 79 male members, plus a convent with 61 Augustinian Sisters, in Goa. The number of men increased to 100 in 1820, and then fell to 70 in 1830. The Augustinians were expelled from their houses in 1835, and their properties given to the diocesan bishop in each area.
After the year 1834, there was not another Augustinian house in Portugal again until recently. A report in mid-2010 stated that there were two parishes administered by the Augustinians in Lisbon, Portugal (see photos above). One of the priests there is Portuguese, and two other Portuguese nationals are studying with the Order of St Augustine in Spain in preparation for priesthood.