From its establishment in 1256, the Augustinian Order promoted learning and education among its members.
This followed the practice already established by the two major mendicant orders formed fifty years before the Augustinians, i.e., the Dominicans and Franciscans.
Saint Dominic had included in his goals "study and preaching." Since the engagement of the Order in apostolic activities was a condition of its new status as the third of the four successful mendicant Orders, the Dominicans (1216), Franciscans (1223), and Carmelites (1247), higher studies were seen as an essential prerequisite to that commitment.
Several of the early international leaders (Priors General) of the Augustinian Order were themselves outstanding scholars and authors. In 1259, a house of studies was established in Paris
by the first leader
(Prior General) of the Order of Saint Augustine, Lanfranc of Milan.
One of the first to live there was the Christian scholar of theology, Giles of Rome
He was a student of Thomas Aquinas
, the greatest scholar of the Dominican Order.
Giles of Rome was the first member of the Augustinian Order to earn the degree of Master of Theology.
A famous scholar and the author of numerous books on theology and philosophy, Giles was to become a professor at the University of Paris and in 1292 was elected as the international leader (Prior General) of the Augustinian Order.
One of the first acts of Giles was to urge each Augustinian regional superior (Provincial) to "place all your energy into preserving and advancing the study of theology, so that by means of studies, together with religious observance, our Order may grow."
The Ratisbon Constitutions
of the Order of Saint Augustine in 1290 contained much new material concerning the promotion of studies within the Order of Saint Augustine. Its thirty-sixth chapter contains the most complete plan for ecclesiastical studies for a religious order at the end of the thirteenth century.
In this plan, the Prior General in the fortieth chapter is given a mandate that is unique. It stated, "He shall see to it that study houses, which are the foundation of the Order, be duly looked after everywhere, and that general houses of study especially be promoted enthusiastically and with great care."
In consequence, significant "general study houses" (in Latin, studia generalia) were established for students from all provinces studying for advanced academic degrees.
These houses were aggregated to universities in such centres as Paris, Bologna, Padua, Rome, Florence, Cambridge, and Oxford.
They granted the academic degrees of bachelor (the first degree), licentiate (licentiae docendi) and doctor of theology (magister).
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