These were a quartet of Augustinians whose writings in the first half of the fourteenth century did much to shape the origin and identity of the Order of Saint Augustine for centuries.
They could be called the “mythmakers” of the Order of Saint Augustine for the late medieval period. To succumb to the temptation to refer to them by the modern term of “spin doctors” would be to diminish the nobility of their intentions.
Certainly, they could well be called advocates for the defence of the Augustinian Order in challenges to its origin and identity.
Chronologically, Nicholas of Alessandria occupies the second position in this list.
He wrote his Sermo de beato Augustino (“Sermon about blessed Augustine”) in Paris in 1332, and presumably preached it to the Augustinian students at the famed Augustinian studium generale (international hours of studies) there.
He obtained the degree of Master of Theology there in 1333, and attended the Augustinian General Chapter at Grasse in 1335, where approval was received for the arrangements with the Canons Regular of Saint Augustine over the shared custody of the tomb of Augustine in Pavia.
He may also have been the Nicholas of Allesandria who on 19th May 1327, together with Prior General William of Cremona O.S.A. and three others had met with a delegation from the Canons Regular of Saint Augustine to formulate the agreement that the General Chapter at Grasse then ratified in 1335.
The Sermo de beato Augustino would indicate that Nicholas of Alessandria certainly possessed the dedication and skill to present the stance of the Order of Saint Augustine in those negotiations.
The Sermo de beato Augustino has two parts. The first praises Augustine’s learning, character and service to the Church. In the second section, Nicholas reviews the history of Western monasticism.
He begins with Paul the Hermit and Anthony of Egypt, whom Augustine mentioned and admired in his Confessions.
Nicholas says that some of the followers of Anthony of Egypt moved to Italy, and it was hermits of their tradition whom Augustine was to meet there.
He then states that Augustine gained monastic experience and wrote his Rule for these hermits in Tuscany, and, after that, returned to Africa to establish monasteries there.
(Continued on the next page.)
Photos (at right).
Picture 1: Augustinian international College of St Monica, beside the Vatican.
Picture 2: Via Paolo VI, outside of St Monica's College, Rome.
Picture 3: The entrance to the Augustinian General Curia, Rome.