John of Basel O.S.A. (Johann Hiltalinger, and also in Latin known as Johannes Angelus) was born at Basel in 1315 – but some historians propose a later date.
After joining the Augustinian Order he was a lector in the Order's studium generale (the Augustinian study house for candidates to the Order) in Avignon before going to the famed Augustinian studium in Paris to lecture on the Sentences of Peter Lombard in 1365-1366.
While still in Avignon, John wrote to a former teacher in Paris, Jordan of Quedlinburg O.S.A. (also known as Jordan of Saxony) to ask him how one was to know whether one was a true son of Augustine. Jordan responded to his query by writing his major work, Liber Vitasfratrum (“A Book about the Life of the Brothers”), and by dedicating it to John. Fortuitously, John’s question resulted in a classic work of insights into Augustinian spirituality, Augustinian life, and the early history of the Augustinian Order.
Because the Avignon Papacy had begun in 1309, wherein the Popes lived at Avignon in France, rather than in Rome, the studium generale in Avignon was, therefore, the studium curiale, the study house attached to the Augustinian General Curia, which had been required by the Pope to follow him from Rome to Avignon.
John then went to study at the Augustinians’ most prestigious studium, that of Paris, where, as the next step on his path to the magisterium (i.e., in today’s terminology, a doctorate in theology), he taught the Sentences of Peter Lombard in 1365-1366. He was promoted to the magisterium at the University of Paris in 1371. He then taught at the Augustinian studium generale in Strasbourg in 1371 – 1377.
Also during 1371-1377 he led the Rheinish-Swabian Augustinian Province as its Provincial, which was an indication of the esteem with which he was held. In another recognition of his abilities, at the General Chapter that was held at Verona in May 1377 he was elected to the two offices of Procurator General of the Order and First Counsellor of the Augustinian Curia that constituted the Prior General’s official advisors. John thus moved to Rome.
These were heady and robust days in which to hold office. The Prior General was Bonaventura Badoer of Padua (General in 1377-1385), a famous theologian and intimate friend of Petrarch, whose funeral sermon he preached. Bonaventura was so zealous in his support of Urban VI that St Catherine of Siena procured his creation as Cardinal Priest of St Cecilia in 1378.
Bonaventura continued to fill the office of General because it was impractical to hold a new election in the early days of the Great Western Schism; on 31st July 1385 he was murdered by a bowman (an archer) attached to Francis Carrara, a leading nobleman of Pavia who resented the vigour with which Badoer defended the Pope's rights.
(Continued on the next page.)