Number of communities, 1256 - 1356.
The Order of Hermits of Saint Augustine began with over 150 communities at the time of the Grand Union in the year 1256.
It successfully mastered the task of aligning these houses of the four amalgamating religious congregations into provinces (regional or national groupings) of the new Order of Saint Augustine.
In 1278 (i.e., twenty-three years after the Grand Union and the year of the death of the Cardinal Protector, Richard Annibaldi), the Order definitely had at least 220 communities; alternately, some Augustinian historians suggest as many as 300 houses.
(To make an accurate tally is difficult, especially because numerous small houses were constantly being opened, closed and changed in location; as well, the same house could be given a different geographical place-name on two different lists. For these various reasons, the problem of counting the same community twice is a real possibility.)
There were at least 130 houses in Italy. Further afield there as many as 28 in Germany, 16 in England, 14 in France, 9 in Spain and Portugal, 7 in Holland and Belgium, 5 in Hungary, 4 in Czech lands, 3 in Austria, and 3 in Switzerland.
Twenty years later the number of houses rose to 400, and in 1356 (i.e., another fifty years later, and by then a hundred years after the Grand Union) there were over 500 houses.
By then the Order was present in nearly all of the principal cities of Europe and in many of the smaller towns also, from Poland to Hungary in the east to Portugal and Ireland in the west.
The number of members, 1256 - 1352.
No census records exist, hence it is difficult to estimate the number of members.
Close investigation of the early documents of the Order suggest that the number of Augustinians immediately after the Augustinian Grand Union of 1256 was 2,400.
There may have been 6,000 members in 1346, i.e., about a century after the Order began.
This is based on a considered average of twelve members per community. It is estimated that three-quarters of these members were clerics (priests).
A more conservative average estimation of ten members per community would reduce the total to 5,000 members.
There is a continuing suspicion that even this estimate is more likely than not to be insufficiently conservative.
Ambrose Massari da Cori O.S.A.,
Prior General in 1476 - 1485, wrote in his Chronica
that the bubonic plague (Black Death
) that decimated Europe in the next four years took 5,084 Augustinian lives, which on the above calculations would have left only about 1,000 surviving Augustinians.
When compared to other statistics, this Augustinian death toll is incredibly high. It is seriously questioned; modern scholars no longer accept it as credible, and are inclined to think the Augustinian deaths during the plague (Black Death) were nearer to 1,000.
However, Jordan of Saxony O.S.A.
(or Jordan of Quedlinburg), who was Provincial of one of the German Provinces during the Black Death, himself recorded that 224 of his friars died. Could an Order-wide tally of only 1,000 deaths, therefore, be a little low?
These figures would mean that there were fewer members in the Order in 1350 than there had been in 1256.
(Another - but proportionally smaller - decrease in the membership of the Order happened again in the years after 1517, when the ninety-five theses of Martin Luther
lit the spark that became the Protestant Reformation. The estimated Pre-Reformation Augustinian population very early in the sixteenth century is placed at 8,000.)
Throughout these centuries, the numbers of Franciscans and Dominicans were three to four times larger than that of the Augustinians. In other words, the Order of St Augustine remained a small religious order. Like the Franciscans and Dominicans, it grew at a rate that overcame the static European population total in the decades after the Black Death, yet it did so without increasing its size relative to that of the two older and larger mendicant orders. )
(Continued on the next page.)