In this identity the myth and the vision outlined by Jordan of Saxony O.S.A. (also called Jordan of Quedlinburg) in his Vitasfratrum was the most detailed contemporary description of the Order’s identity throughout the late Middle Ages. It had two purposes. Firstly, it was to be a defence of the Order against its opponents. For this purpose, it gives a detailed and fundamental discussion of voluntary evangelical poverty and the mendicant way of life. Secondly, it is an attempt to establish the Augustinian Order as an apostolic form of life, and to show the inner and historical connection between this apostolic activity and the Augustinian form of religious life.
At the same time, it wishes to elaborate the general norms of religious observance and discipline in the spirit of the Rule of Augustine and the Augustinian Constitutions. Thus the Liber Vitasfratrum served as a general directory in the work of reform by the Priors General of the Augustinian Order, and it is no wonder that they called upon Augustinians to study it and to adopt its principles. Jordan saw the Order of Saint Augustine as attempting more than living according to the ideal of Augustine; indeed, he saw it as commissioned to perpetuate the Christian mission of Augustine.
To Jordan and to subsequent Augustinians in the later Middle Ages, Augustine was not only the origin of the Order of Saint Augustine in a way that was unique among all orders in the Augustinian tradition, but also very intimately bound with its identity and its very purpose for existing. For the fourteenth-century Augustinians, as much as a person who lived in the fourth and fifth centuries could be imagined as commencing a religious order that was actually constituted in the year 1256, Augustine was seen as a founder of the Order of Saint Augustine in parallel to Francis of Assisi as founder of the Order of Friars Minor (Franciscans), and Dominic de Guzmán as founder of the Order of Preachers (Dominicans).
Photos (at right) Picture 1: Top of facade of Augustinian Church of Sant'Agostino, Rome. Picture 2: Madonna of Childbirth in Church of Sant'Agostino, Rome. Picture 3: Facade of Augustinian Church of Sant'Agostino, Rome.This very specific conviction was one that had not existed in the minds of the participants of the Augustinian Grand Union of 1256; at least, there certainly is no evidence that it did. This conviction arose and was positively reinforced as part of the Order's response to the suspected threat of its existence as a result of the Second Council of Lyons of 1274. Almost in parallel to the Augustinian term of the totus Christus being Christ and the Church, the Order of Saint Augustine was commissioned to fill what was lacking in the body of Augustine.Augustine, the man and bishop of Hippo, was elevated to Augustinus, the head of the Order of which Jordan and his confreres were the members.
Four fourteenth-century Augustinian authors
The previous four Augnet pages refer constantly to four particular fourteenth-century Augustinians. They are the Anonymous Florentine (an Augustinian Prior at Santo Spirito, Florence in 1317, and writing in 1330), Nicholas of Alessandria O.S.A. (a Master of Theology in 1333), Henry of Friemar O.S.A. (1245 – c. 1334), and Jordan of Saxony O.S.A. (alias Jordan of Quedlinburg O.S.A.), who lived c. 1299 – c.1380.
This page asks whether these Augustinians knew each other, and or even if possibly they met one another. Seeing the Anonymous Florentine, Nicholas of Alessandria and Henry of Friemar wrote within approximately four years of each other in 1330, 1332 and 1334 respectively, what is the chance that they met? The Anonymous Florentine was – probably in the year 1330 - the author of Initium sive processus Ordinis Hermitarum santi Augustini (“The Beginning and Development of the Order of Hermits of Saint Augustine”). There is nothing to suggest that the Anonymous Florentine met the other two Augustinians mentioned, but it is difficult to investigate the matter in the absence of even the former Augustinian’s name.
From the writing of the other three, it is evident, however, that they were familiar with the writing of the Anonymous Florentine. In contrast, it is highly probable, however that Nicholas of Alessandria and Henry of Friemar met, even if there was as much as fifty years’ difference in their age. Henry had been a student of the Order in his late adolescence in 1264, which was just eight years after its Grand Union. Especially as a former Provincial and a General Chapter delegate Henry would have known first-hand many of the twelve Augustinians who were Priors General between 1256 and his time in Paris in 1329.
Photos (at right) Picture 1: Pulpit at Augustinian Church of Sant'Agostino, Rome. Picture 2: Main altar at Augustinian Church of Sant'Agostino, Rome. Picture 3: Looking at the main altar of the Church of Sant'Agostino, Rome.
At the age of eighty-four years, Henry was present at the Augustinian General Chapter in Paris in 1329, at which was discussed the negotiations with the Canons Regular of Saint Augustine about the co-custody of the tomb of Augustine in Pavia by these two religious Orders. Nicholas of Alessandria, who was studying for his Masters of theology at Paris until 1333, was possibly part of these negotiations from the beginning. If Nicholas and Henry did not meet in the large Augustinian convento in Paris when both were there in 1329, they certainly would have known of one another through their common interest in the action of Pope John XXII in 1327 regarding co-custody of the tomb of Augustine at Pavia. As well, Henry had a copy of Sermo de beato Augustino (“Sermon about blessed Augustine”) by Nicholas in 1332, or otherwise both must have copied from a common source now lost and unknown. The easiest solution would be that Henry extracted liberally from Nicholas’ material of 1332 when writing his longer De origine et progressu Ordinis (“On the origin and progress of the Order (of Saint Augustine)”) during the closing years of his life in 1334.
As to the final Augustinian in this quartet of writers of the mid-14th century, Jordan of Saxony O.S.A., he certainly knew Henry of Friemar O.S.A., who had taught him in Paris. Additionally, when Jordan was writing his Liber Vitasfratrum in Erfurt in 1357, Henry was living there as an old man, and was possibly a party to what Jordan was composing. Earlier in 1343, Jordon had also compiled for the Augustinian studium generale (international house of study) in Paris his large manuscript, Collectanea Augustiniana (“The Augustinian Collection.”) This work had also repeated materials from the writings of his three Augustinian predecessors referred to above.
Footnote: Reference should also be made here to an un-named Augustinian prior (religious superior) at Santo Spirito in Florence who wrote immediately before any of the four friars listed above. He wrote Vita aurelii augustinini hipponensis episcopi ("A Life of Aurelius Augustine, Bishop of Hippo") sometime between 1322 and 1331. He wrote that Ambrose baptised Augustine and gave him a religious habit; he says that Augustine then joined a group of Tuscan hermits, giving them a mode of life that he then took back to Africa after his mother's death. Other than for Augustine's baptism by Ambrose in Milan and Monica's death at Ostia, all the remaining above activities are myth, and not historical.
Photo Gallery For the Augnet photo gallery on the Church of Sant’Agostinoi n Rome (including the above pictures), click here.
Possidius: Life of Augustine
Weiskotten’s English translation (1919) of Possidius’ Life of St. Augustine. http://www.tertullian.org/fathers/possidius_life_of_augustine_02_text.htm or go to: https://archive.org/details/PossidiusAug
Possidius was a friend of Augustine, and his biography is a unique eyewitness source for the life of the saint. Another English translation can be found by scrolling down the alphabetical listion to the name Possidius:http://www.tertullian.org/fathers