Henry of Friemar was a German Augustinian who lived in the first century of the existence of the Order of Saint Augustine.
He was definitely one of the most important persons of intellect in Europe as the thirteenth century gave way to the fourteenth.
He left behind him the invaluable gift of his writings on the earliest decades of the Order, as well as many other works of significance.
One of them, De origine et progressu Ordinis (“On the origin and progress of the Order (of Saint Augustine)”), was the first treatise explicitly on the defence of the origins of the Order of Saint Augustine.
He was born at Friemar, a small town near Gotha in Thuringia in the middle of the thirteenth century.
At an early age he entered the Order of Saint Augustine, and was a member by the year 1264. (The Grand Union of the Order had only happened in 1256, eight years previously.)
For higher studies he was sent to the Order’s studium generale (international house of study) connected with the University of Paris, where he obtained the highest degree of master (in Latin, magister) of theology.
Henry personally witnessed the rapid growth of the Order in Germany, and in fact had directed it. Between 1290 and 1299 he was the last person to be the Augustinian Provincial of all of Germany, until recent centuries.
This was because, by the end of his term of office in 1299, the number of Augustinian houses in Germany had increased to eighty, and Germany was made into four provinces.
He attended the Augustinian General (international) Chapter in Naples in 1300.
From 1305 to 1312 he was sent to Paris to teach in the same Augustinian studium generale at which earlier he had been a student. Later when back in Germany with the monastery at Erfurt (subsequently of Martin Luther fame), he was given various tasks by successive Augustinian Priors General in Rome.
For example in 1315 he undertook negotiations for Augustinian monasteries in Bavaria in their dealings with the city of Regensburg, and in 1318 was appointed examiner of all German Augustinian candidates for the university degree of lector.
He presided on behalf of the Prior General at Augustinian provincial chapters in parts of Germany in 1320 and 1323.
Although by then at a great age, by invitation he attended the Augustinian General (international) Chapter in Paris in 1329 – twenty-nine years after he had attended a similar chapter at Naples.
Henry was an author of books on spirituality, Biblical commentary, practical theology and the early history of the Order of Saint Augustine.
Although Henry of Friemar rightly holds a place among Scholastic theologians, he was principally a specialist of ascetical and mystical spirituality.
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