The Augustinian known to history only as the Anonymous Florentine is credited with composing the earliest extant history of the Order of Saint Augustine.
This person was definitely an Augustinian friar, and should not be confused with other persons when the same term, Anonymous Florentine, on other occasions refers to unidentifiable musicians and painters, etc.
What this Florentine Augustinian wrote has survived as pages 57 to 62 of a larger manuscript of 133 pages.
This 133-page manuscript was produced in the fifteenth century, and hence the writing from the Anonymous Florentine therein was copied from earlier fourteenth-century manuscripts that are no longer extant.
The writing of the Anonymous Florentine is entitled Initium sive processus Ordinis Hermitarum santi Augustini (“The Beginning and Development of the Order of Hermits of Saint Augustine”).
This material fills seven pages in a modern printed book (see source listed below). It contains only twenty-nine numbered paragraphs (then called chapters).
Based on internal evidence in what he wrote, the Anonymous Florentine probably produced his document no later than 1330, although the manuscript mentioned above was a copy produced well over a century later.
Had it been composed in the twenty-first century, this writing by the Anonymous Florentine would barely be called history. Most of its few pages focus on the time from Augustine in the fifth century to the time of the thirteenth century, and even suggests Augustinian indications in the lives of central figures in the Old Testament of the Bible.
The document then lists a number of deceased members who were remembered for their holiness, and for miracles worked by God in association with them. This Legendary of Augustinian Saints devotes nine lines to its briefest entry, and a maximum 106 lines to Augustine of Tarano O.S.A.
All that can be gleaned about the author of this document is that he belonged to the Augustinian Province of Pisa, Italy, and seems to have been from the city or duchy of Florence. He refers to having himself studied at the Augustinian studium generale (international house of studies) at Genoa.
The author had been the Prior (appointed leader) of the Augustinian convento of Santo Spirito in Florence around the years 1317 and 1322.
His writings reveal him as an enthusiastic disciple of Saint Augustine and a zealous member of the Order of Saint Augustine. In fact, he said that he had written his document to edify younger Augustinians on the prevailing ethos and spiritual origins that the Order had about itself, and upon the holiness expected of its members.
He admitted that he had written his work so that “the young brothers, who have not known the saints in the flesh, may, on hearing even this little about them, be motivated to imitate them.”
Possibly the writing of the Anonymous Florentine is more of historical value for being the oldest extant document with the intention of offering some history of the Order, and as an insight into what “history” was to the fourteenth-century mind.
Rather than consciously attempt to be objective, clinical and “factual,” history was then openly used to reinforce desired attitudes and positions that often were based on legend rather than on historical fact.
(Continued on the next page.)