The Hermits of Brettino - the "Brettini" (4)
In the years 1245, 1247 and 1248, papal bulls accorded the Brettini rights and privileges, and recommended them to local bishops.
Most of their foundations were in the Marches of Ancona, but others were in Umbria, where they had houses in Gubbio, Terni (these two towns still have Augustinian priories today), Orvieto, Narni, Amelia and other places.
By 1256 they had about forty-five communities. These were apportioned into at least two administrative provinces.
At the request of the members of the Order of Saint Augustine (i.e., members since 1256) in the hermitage at Brettino, the same Pope Alexander IV who had approved the Grand Union of 1256 now granted Brettino to “observe the eremitical (hermit) life in perpetuity,” i.e. not to change into a more active and apostolic life as decreed four years earlier.
This was allowed by the papal bull, Solet annuere sedes on 7th July 1260.
In addition, some new hermitages were also established. For example, in 1311 the Bishop of Terni gave to the Augustinians of the convento (monastery) of San Pietro in Tirlo (Terni) the church in Dursagnano, in an isolated part of the diocese, so that “with permission of their superiors they might lead a solitary and eremitical life there.”
These concessions need to be appreciated in the context of the observant movement that was then gaining considerable influence among the Augustinians, and more so in some other mendicant orders.
The first two of these five groups had houses outside of Italy. Counting the Williamite houses that remained with the Order of Saint Augustine after the Williamite separation in 1266, the number of "founding" communities of the Order in 1256 was at least 150 houses but no more than 200 houses.
These houses were located in at least ten countries.
The most probable list reads: Italy 148 houses, Germany 29, France 12, England 9, Hungary 7, Belgium 6, Spain 4, Portugal 3, Switzerland 2, and Austria 2.
To create the Augustinian Order, therefore, was a bigger challenge than had been the totally voluntary formation of the Franciscan and Dominican orders of friars decades previously.
Except for the Williamites, the other groups successfully welded into a permanent structure with an additional level of central governance.
For the Church, the successful supervision of the task of forming these 150-200 houses into one religious order in 1256 was entrusted to the same Cardinal Protector who had monitored the Little Union in 1244, Richard Annibaldi.
William Fieschi, the Cardinal Protector of the Boniti, died in 1256, and the Brettini had never been assigned a Cardinal Protector.
The way was clear, therefore, for Annibaldi to repeat what he was doing for the Augustinian Tuscan Hermits since 1244 on a larger scale after 1256 for the brand-new Order of Hermits of Saint Augustine. And this he did.