The Initium sive processus Ordinis Hermitarum santi Augustini (“The Beginning and Development of the Order of Hermits of Saint Augustine”), written in 1331 by an Augustinian described henceforth as the Anonymous Florentine, stated: Pope Alexander, from his love of blessed Augustine, [who] appeared to him in a vision with a large head, but small body, in the first year of his pontificate increased the Order as much in members as in privileges, bringing together into this Order the Brictinenses, the Brethen of Favali, the followers of Friar John Bonus, and the Williamites, granting the Order privileges as never before to any other religion."
If this dream was considered a “legend” in 1357 it had to be no more than a hundred years’ old.
Jordan went one step further by adding that in this dream Augustine told Alexander IV to “draw my Order together.” Thus, said Jordan, the primary inspiration for the Augustinian Grand Union came not from Pope Alexander IV, but from the long-dead Augustine of Hippo himself.
In making this distinction between the status antiquus and the status modernus of the Order of Saint Augustine, Jordan intended to provide a defence against the ban of the Fourth Lateran Council against orders formed after the year 1215. He provided evidence of the Order's antiquity and continuity.
He was suggesting that the Grand Union was not the beginning of the Order (of Hermits) of Saint Augustine, but merely an ecclesiastical and papal confirmation of the ancient Order, and additionally its commissioning to preach and teach in the cities - an apostolate that Augustine himself had initiated by allegedly establishing a hermitage with an apostolic mission within the city of Hippo, distinct from his monastery of clerics established in the church grounds at Hippo.
In summary: During the century that separated the Grand Union of 1256 from Jordan’s Vitasfratrum of 1357, the Order of Saint Augustine moved rapidly from being a number of separate eremitical groups to an international religious order whose members believed they were the true heirs of Augustine of Hippo, and the group most formed in his identity of community life and apostolate.
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Eric L. Saak, The Creation of Augustinian Identity in the Later Middle Ages, Augustiniana, Annus 49 (1999), fasc, 1-2 & 3-4. Published by Institutum Historicum Augustinianum Lovanii, Belgium.
For an article by Eric Saak written for this Augnet web site and published here permission, click here.
Eric L. Saak, High Way to Heaven: The Augustinian Platform Between Reform and Reformation, 1292-1524, published in 2002 by Brill Academic Publishers, ISBN 90041 10992. 886 pages.
Photos (at right).
Picture 1: Top of facade of Augustinian Church of Sant'Agostino, Rome.
Picture 2: Madonna of Childbirth in Church of Sant'Agostino, Rome.
Picture 3: Facade of Augustinian Church of Sant'Agostino, Rome.
For the Augnet photo gallery of Italy: Sant'Agostino (see photos at right), click here.