|The Augustinian foundation at Oxford in 1267 came on the heels of the establishment of the Augustinian Province of England in 1265.
The Augustinian foundation at Cambridge most likely followed not long before the year 1289, and was situated approximately where Corpus Christi College stands in Cambridge today (see photo at right).
The Order of Saint Augustine (often called the Austin Friars in England) eventually occupied all the land in Cambridge between Peas Hill on the north, Pembroke Street on the south, Free School Lane on the west and Corn Exchange Street on the east. Some of the Cambridge medical schools were later built on this former Augustinian property.
Parcels of land within this area were acquired progressively from the year 1290 onwards until 1376. It was in June 1290 that Sir Geoffrey de Picheford obtained for the Austin Friars their first parcel of land within this area so that they could found a priory in memory of his son, Arnuf. Sir Geoffrey himself then died early in 1299, before he could fulfil his intention of enlarging the site.
John of Clare was the first known master of the Austin Friars at the University of Cambridge. He was attacked by the Dominicans and Franciscans when he sided with the university in a dispute with the mendicant orders there in 1302. He is probably identical with the Johannes de Anglia ("John of England") who represented the English Province at the Augustinian General Chapter in Siena, Italy in 1295.
When the Black Death in the period after 1350 caused English land values to drop, the king permitted religious Priories to expand their land holding by buy any adjacent land for sale. The Austin Friars at Cambridge were granted permission to enlarge their property by two acres.
It took the Austin Friars until 1376 to come into possession of the whole of the land between the streets mentioned above. Even then, it is possible that they left untouched some of the previous private dwellings there, and earned the rental income thus provided.
The Priory of the Austin Friars stood within St Edward’s Parish, and in 1290 the Austin Friars promised to send their servants to the parish church, and not themselves to administer sacraments to them or to any other laity.
As will be indicated in the following paragraph, a major role of the Priory was the theological education of Augustinians, and not pastoral ministry to the local population.
In 1302 the Pope granted the Cambridge Augustinians the right of burial of people on their property, and in excavations in 1908 indicated that this right had been exercised, for among the skeletal remains found there were the bones of women and children. On the property, this was a burial area separate from the site of the graves of deceased Augustinians.
On 9th June 1318 Pope John XXII erected the priory at Cambridge as an Augustinian studium generale (an international study house), with full papal privileges in the granting of ecclesiastical degrees in theology.
To have attained the necessary high academic standards for this papal recognition in the year 1318, the studium at Austin Friars Priory at Cambridge must already have been operating for a number of years before that date. (For details on the Augustinian gradation of houses of study as being local, regional or international, click here.)
The Augustinian General (international) Chapter at Rimini, Italy in 1318 then legislated that both Oxford and Cambridge were always to have two masters of theology present, as was required at the longer-established Augustinian studium generale in Paris.
The General Chapter simultaneously paid great honour to both Oxford and Cambridge by granting them the same status as Paris. As well, it gave Cambridge the same recognition as the slightly older Augustinian foundation at Oxford.
(Continued on the next page.)