Copies still remain of a version of the Augustinian Constitutions written a little over a decade before the outbreak of the Protestant Reformation.
At the time Martin Luther had joined the Order of Saint Augustine, and would thus have been formed as a friar with the guidance of this document.
It is of value to examine a part of this document for a number of reasons. Firstly, it gives insight into the preparation received by newly-joining members of the Order of Saint Augustine in Germany in the decade before the Protestant Reformation; secondly, it is generally representative of the Augustinian formation in other nations and also in previous decades; and, thirdly, it has the potential to throw some light on the thought of Martin Luther.
The author of this version of the Constitutions was a man who was Luther’s Augustinian superior also initially his supporter and mentor, Johann von Staupitz O.S.A.
Between 1504 and 1506, at the time Luther was entering the Order of Saint Augustine, Staupitz was the officially-appointed superior of the observant (i.e., reform) movement in Germany of the Order of Saint Augustine, and Luther’s community at Erfurt was under his jurisdiction.
The document re-worked the 1287-1290 (“Ratisbon”) Constitutions of the Order. Staupitz dated the preface of his work at Nuremburg on the vigil of Pentecost 1504. Possibly it was printed immediately afterwards, although papal approval was not declared until 24th March 1506.
The document was named (in an English translation of its Latin title) The Constitutions of the Order of Hermits of Saint Augustine prepared under apostolic privilege for the reformation of Germany.
There were fifty-one chapters. Of interest here is Chapter 17 on the tasks and goals of the master of novices. The master was to enforce a stipulated code of behaviour. For example, the occasions when and where to bow, genuflect and prostrate.
(Continued on the next page.)
For further reading
Franz Posset: Sola Scriptura – Martin Luther’s invention? Augustiniana, Annus 56 (2006), fasc, 1-2, pp. 123-127. Published by Institutum Historicum Augustinianum Lovanii, Belgium.