Not surprisingly, the period between the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648 and the French Revolution in 1789 affected the Order of Saint Augustine in the way that it affected the Catholic Church generally.
The period was a revolutionary time, jousting with ideas and the intellect more than with weapons of war. It was the point in time during which historians assert that the Middle Ages abruptly ended.
With the battlefields of the post-Reformation wars of religion falling silent after the Peace of Westphalia in 1648, the Augustinian Order went about its recovery as best it could.
Certainly by 1748 it generally was in better spirits and condition than it had been in 1648, yet in the decades that followed – up to and after the French Revolution – new forces were going to cause the closure of more Augustinian houses than the Reformation had caused.
When looking at a summary of the whole 750 years of formal existence of the Order of Saint Augustine, there is almost a pattern of some major external factor every 100-150 years that reversed the Order’s numerical growth.
Founded in 1244-1256, the Order declined numerically during the Black Death in 1347-1350 (and in its recurrence in 1361), during the Protestant Reformation beginning in 1517, and during the sequential unfolding of the Enlightenment and French Revolution and Napoleonic era from 1770 to 1815.
The Treaty of Westphalia in 1648 ended the Thirty Years’ War and the Eighty Years’ War, and marked the end of Spain and the Holy Roman Empire as major political influences in Europe.
With this, the encompassing medieval grip of religion on the mindset and politics of nations had effectively ended. Religious wars had been fought to a stalemate, and in the minds of many people religion itself was the loser.
And thus the modern – and more secular - era was born. The Treaty of Westphalia of 1648 established the relationship between nations on a basis other than their allegiance to a Catholic or Protestant affiliation.
The post-1648 world was based on a relationship of international treaties between states as secular entities. In international relations, in government and in society, church influence had waned – a consequence of the Renaissance, the divisive Reformation and the lengthy wars of religion that followed it
This was a painful adjustment that Church faced with reluctance, and even with a rearguard reaction in some instances.
Between 1649 and 1789 there were twenty popes, from Clement VIII (1592-1605) to Pius VI (1775 - 1799) inclusive. Many of them were preoccupied in a geopolitical realigning the church with the European nations perceived to be of greater assistance to the Church and to the Pope as the civic ruler of the papal states.
During this period, there were eighteen Augustinian Priors General, from Phillip Visconti of Milan in 1649-1655 to Stephen Bellisini in 1786-1797 inclusive. (This Prior General is not to be confused with Blessed Stephen Bellisini O.S.A., who lived 1774 - 1840.)
All general chapters during this time were held in Italy, and almost all of those elected as Prior General at these chapters were Italian – one notable exception was the remarkable Francisco X. Vazquez O.S.A. from Peru.
(Continued on the next page.)
Photos (at right).
Picture 1: Augustinian director of Real Colegio de Alfonso XII in the Escorial, Madrid.
Picture 2: The Augustinian director teaching a sophomore class.
Picture 3: The Augustinian director teaching a sophomore class.
For the Augnet photo gallery of Spain: Escorial (see photos at right), click here.