Some legends about Augustine concern his establishing, living in or at least visiting a monastery of hermits before he left Italy.
During the 14th & 15th centuries, legends – especially those about the Order's having a direct link with Augustine - fascinated Augustinians. Many of these legends appeared in a manuscript in or about the year 1330 by an Augustinian long described as the Anonymous Florentine. For example, he reported that, at Augustine's baptism, Bishop Ambrose spontaneously sang the first verse of the great prayer, the Te Deum laudamus ("O God, we praise you"), Augustine added the second verse, and Ambrose and Augustine continued spontaneously to compose alternate verses of this great prayer of praise. The composition of the Te Deum laudamus has traditionally been attributed to Ambrose of Milan, but neither by this spontaneous manner nor by assistance from Augustine.
A number of legends reported by the Anonymous Florentine were repeated in 1334 by one of the first Augustinian historians (in the medieval understanding of the term, history), Henry of Friemar O.S.A.. Henry repeated incorrect legends about supposed actions by Augustine between his baptism in Milan and his return to Africa. Henry wrote that Augustine was baptised at the age of thirty, although from Augustine’s own words in his Confessions it can be deduced that he was in fact thirty-two years old at the time.
This back-dating of Augustine’s baptism allowed the “extra two years” in which Augustine supposedly lived with the hermits in Tuscany and gave them his Rule. In fact, Augustine was baptised in Milan at Easter 387, and was in Ostia in November. He then left Ostia for Rome – today a thirty-minute journey by suburban train - soon after Monica died there in November 387. Nine months later, he returned from Rome to Ostia in order to sail to North Africa, i.e., in August 388. When later writing his Retractions, Augustine clearly states that from Ostia he went to Rome with his friend, Evodius. His adolescent son, Adeodatus, was also with him.
One tradition says that a number of hermits came to Ostia to attend the funeral of Augustine’s mother, Monica, and that the sorrowing Augustine then accompanied them back to their hermitage in Tuscany. The tradition also states that Augustine did not record his visit to Tuscany in his Confessions because, after just writing the heartfelt passage about the death of his mother, in his sadness he forgot to mention Tuscany. In Tuscany, there was a tradition that Augustine visited the eremo (hermitage) at Lecceto. For example, the noted Augustinian theologian and writer, Giles of Viterbo O.S.A. (1469-1532), more than once wrote that Augustine founded the monastery at Lecceto, and established his Rule there. Giles lived at Lecceto in 1503, immediately before becoming Prior General of the Augustinian Order.
But the strongest legendary association of Augustine with an eremitical (hermit) site in Tuscany goes to Centocelle (or Centumcellae in Latin), a hermitage first mentioned in documents in 1243, i.e., over eight hundred years after Augustine was in Italy. There is not even agreement among historians as to where that thirteenth-century hermitage was located. Nicholas of Allesandria O.S.A., a master of theology in 1333, suggested that it stood on the rugged and isolated Tuscan coastline, and others that it in fact existed. Whereas Henry of Friemar wrote in 1334, in 1357 another German Augustinian scholar, Jordan of Saxony, in his Liber Vitasfratrum (“Book on the Life of the Brethren”), countered Henry of Friemar O.S.A., who earlier had been one of his teachers. Jordan correctly pointed out that Henry’s time frame had been historically inaccurate. It is unclear whether or not Henry had been aware of the inaccuracy; even had he been so, in the writing method of the time he may simply have been repeating what he had read.
Other legends relate to Africa. One of them holds that Augustine himself established a monastery of hermits in the woods outside of Hippo. There is even one legend that he died there, whereas in his Life of Augustine, Possidius stated that he was an eyewitness to Augustine’s death in the bishop’s house at Hippo. From the thirteenth century onwards, many of these legends were sustained by the desire of the Order of Saint Augustine to prove a number of points that were, in the light of later historical rigour, accepted to be untrue.
These claims were (1) that Augustine founded the Order of Saint Augustine in some early form that was then subsequently formalised by the Little Union of 1244 and the Grand Union of 1256, (2) that Augustine had lived in a hermit community, (3) that Augustine had founded hermit communities in Tuscany and/or Hippo, and given his Rule to them, and (4) that the Augustinians of the hermit tradition, i.e., the Order of Saint Augustine, were the “first sons” of Augustine, more so than the members of the completely distinct group called the Canons Regular of Saint Augustine.
The Augustinian Nuns’ Monastery of Lecceto near Sienna, Tuscany It is here in Tuscany that the oldest tradition lies and the roots of the Augustinians are to be found. http://www.sovicille.net/lecceto_en.htm#.VqvV2bJ96Cg AN1321