Until the year 1360 the title of Doctor in Theology (then better known by the Latin word, magisterium
) could only be obtained by Augustinians at Paris
A house in these cities was therefore of great importance to a religious order for a sound education in theology, especially for those who would then be appointed to teach the next generation of candidates to the Order.
The English Augustinians were fortunate that two of these three universities were located in their province.
The university in Oxford came as a natural growth, and was not founded by anyone in particular.
At that time there were already important universities, notably at Bologna in Italy (1088) and in Paris (1150).
In Oxford public lectures were given by various scholars and, by the thirteenth century, these gradually became organised following the model of Paris. The first-know Regent of Oxford University was an Augustinian, William of Hegham O.S.A., in office from 8th June 1292 to 25th January 1293.
Oxford soon became renowned for its legal studies and met the approval and support of both church and state. In the 13th century the university quickly attracted various religious orders.
To the credit of the Augustinian Province of England
, the placing of houses in Oxford (1267 or 1268) and Cambridge (before 1289) was a project of the local Augustinians in England, whereas the studium
in Paris was a decision of the General Curia
of the Order.
The Augustinian foundation at Oxford in 1267 came on the heels of the establishment of the Augustinian Province of England in 1265. Records show that the earliest Augustinian foundation at Oxford (very briefly in 1267 and/or 1268) was “an obscure house neare the Publique sehooles”, at a precise location no longer known. It was hired by a small band of Augustinian brethren from Austin Friars in London
; before long, however, they attracted the charity of rich benefactors and moved to a more permanent site in Oxford, as indicated hereunder.
As to English Augustinian houses, following London in importance was Oxford. It was a studium generale
(Augustinian study house under the direction of the Augustinian Prior General) second only to the one in Paris
and founded only ten years’ later. In 1283 Giles of Rome
, the earliest master and greatest scholastic of the Order, received his doctor's biretta in Paris.
Nine years later, in 1292, William of Hegham, the first known Augustinian doctor of Divinity at Oxford, was master regent at Oxford University. The briefness of the interval indicates a zeal for learning among the English Augustinians and shows vigorous enterprise, even though the English studium generale never produced a line of theologians to rival that begun by Giles at the French capital.
Records exist of the donation of two parcels of land to the Austin Friars in the Parish of St Peter outside the East Gate of Oxford in 1266-1267, but nothing eventuated there after, with the patronage of King Henry III, a friary was founded in 1268 outside the South Gate, at a site where Wadham College now stands.
(Continued on the next page.)