The course of studies at the Studium Generale
The course of studies adopted at the Augustinian studium generale in Paris - and generally elsewhere - broadly followed the pattern that had in previous decades been established in Paris by the two larger and earlier-founded mendicant orders, the Dominicans (Order of Preachers) and the Franciscans.
Subsequently, other Augustinian studia generale were established in association with additional universities in Europe as they were successively founded.
There were three successive levels of study, as indicated below. The full program (i.e., the section devoted to higher education) was only for the most intellectually-gifted candidates. :
The Augustinian system of education
1: A Initial Education
Elementary schooling in public schools of a candidate's home town.
Entrance into the Order at age of 14, novitiate lasting one year, followed by solemn profession.
Grammar, Logic 1 year at a studium grammaticale or studium logicale.
Philosophy: 3 years at a studium particulare (a local Augustinian house of study)
Theology: 1 [or 2] years at a studium generale provinciae (the main study house of that Augustinian Province)
Ordination to the priesthood: at the age of 22
2: Higher Education
Student: 3 years at studium generale ordinis or a studium concursorium (a multi-national Augiustinian study house)
Cursor (= teacher): 3 years of teaching at a studium provinciae in the home province
Lector (= teacher): 4 years, ending with installation as lector formatus
Opponency: 1 year
Baccalaureate: 3 years (two years for Sentences, one year for Bible)
Inception: 1 year (Licence, Vesperiae, Inception proper granting magisterium)
Master Regent at University: 2 years
The first – and most lengthy – level soon came to be done by Augustinians in a studium generale within or near the candidate’s own Province, so as to reduce the time – and the considerable expense – of study in Paris. This first level ended with a Master of Arts degree, and commonly took at least six years to complete. It followed the so-called trivium of Classical Roman education, i.e., arithmetic, grammar and rhetoric. It was of the same general style that, for example, the adolescent Augustine of Hippo had received at Carthage many centuries previously.
There was no Biblical or theological study in this first level; these subjects were introduced only after the Master of Arts degree had been attained. This second level involved five to seven years of lectures. In the latter years of these courses the student began to lecture as well. Under supervision, he instructed first on the Scriptures, and then on the four books of the Sentences of Peter Lombard (the standard theological text book of the medieval church). Finally, he took part in debates on disputed theological issues. After another four years he could present himself for examination for his licentiate (his certification to teach unsupervised), and to defend himself in debate for the title of Master (or Doctor) of Theology. A candidate had to be at least thirty-five years of age before receiving the title, which meant that he probably had already been studying and teaching for twenty years. Most masters then moved back to their home province to take charge of the regional or local studium in their home Province.
Such an extensive and demanding standard of learning and of theological education by the mendicant orders (and also later by groups such as the Society of Jesus – the Jesuits) paid great dividends for these orders. Although this high standard of learning was given to relatively few members, it provided an intellectual elite who were at the service of their order, the church and to scholarship generally. It also brought the order fine preachers. Such a high degree of learning for priests was the exception rather than the rule. When the mendicant orders began in the thirteenth century, and priests either did not frequently preach or at least did not compose sermons of their own, the minimum requirement for ordination to the priesthood – especially among the diocesan clergy – was the ability to read and speak Latin, without necessarily anything in the way of a formal education in theology at all (and with the shortage of clergy during and after the Black Death, even this standard was relaxed, and a priest might not even know much more Latin than the words of the Mass by rote.
(For diocesan clergy especially, preparation for priesthood in those days may have been little more than on-site “apprenticeship” through the steps of Holy Orders, and little by the way of formal education. The later practice of a seminary structure for an academic and formative preparation of priests only became common as a result of the reforms introduced by the post-Reformation Council of Trent between 1545 and 1563). The fact that the education received by most of the higher-educated members of the Augustinian Order (and equally so of the other mendicant orders) was “in house” in their studia generale was an important bonus in the creation of an Order’s self-identity, spirituality and its promotion of intellectual achievement. Furthermore, it was a fillip to the promotion of Augustinian aspects in those areas of theology where different schools of thought evolved, although academic freedom allowed contrary ideas to be respected.
There was an internal factor in the success of the Augustinian studium generale in Paris. It was that the number of Augustinian members and applicants with intellectual ability was high, and the quest for learning was great. The Franciscans, who like the Augustinians began predominantly as a movement of lay persons, came to recognise the important link between academic preparation and effective ministry on behalf of the church by their members. Without, however, any Franciscan tradition about "holy ignorance," the Order of Saint Augustine moved to educate its members. It proceeded energetically to equip its members for the transition from lay eremitical (hermit) community life to community living as priests who were educated to the best advantage of their Christian ministry. When the Order of Saint Augustine was officially made a mendicant order by the Pope in 1256, there was instantly a pool of an estimated 2,400 members from which men could be chosen to undertake studies. Each of the original seventeen provinces of the Order was directed to form its own studium provinciale (regional house of studies) for the training of applicants to the Order - and from 1256 to 1300 there was in Europe a surge of numbers into mendicant orders.
As well as the studium (and sometimes more than one) in each province, there came to be general study houses, i.e., inter-province ones directly under the international leader of the Order, the Prior General. The studium generale (the general study house) begun in Paris in 1259 was the first one of them. It was followed by similar houses in Bologna, Padua, Florence, the Roman Curia and Naples very soon afterwards. The Augustinian studium generale (general study house) in England at Cambridge and at Oxford are first mentioned in 1318 as by then being in full operation. By 1318 they had already been given the same privileges as had over the years been granted to the Paris study house. In 1327 the first work of Jordan of Saxony O.S.A. (also called Jordan of Quedlinburg) was published. It contained his ten lectures on verses 9-13 of Chapter 6 of Matthew’s Gospel, and was entitled Exposition of the Lord’s Prayer. Fifty-seven manuscripts of it have survived. Exposition of the Lord’s Prayer is of special interest to scholars of Augustinian theology and history because it gives a unique first-hand exposure to the type and level of Scriptural and theological instruction in an Augustinian studia generalia by a teacher (i.e., Jordan himself) who himself had graduated as a lector of a studia generalia (in his case, the one in Bologna and then the one in Paris), but who had not gone on to study additional theology to the masters or doctoral level at a university.
In other words, it shows the lecture content in a studia generalia by a teacher who himself had advanced no further academically than a studia generalia himself. In this achievement, if the Exposition of the Lord’s Prayer can be taken as a sample of the theology typically taught in an Augustinian studia generalia of that time, it offers valuable insights. Other Augustinian studia generalia subsequently began at Bruges, Cologne, Lyons, Mainz, Metz, Milan, Montpellier, Siena, Toulouse and Vienna. These general study houses offered official ecclesiastical degrees, and on the strength of their good reputation received the best graduates of the Province study houses for postgraduate education. Another series of study houses (studia) served their own localities at Aix, Bordeaux, Cahors, Esztergom, Lleida, Lisbon, Toledo and Valencia. Before 1350 local Augustinian study houses in Italy arose at Arezzo, Ascoli, Piceno, Asti, Barletta, Genoa, L'Aquila, Lucca, Pavia, Rieti, Rimini, Treviso, Venice and Viterbo. By the year 1354 there were thirty-two studia generalia of the Augustinian Order scattered throughout eastern and Western Europe. The Augustinian General Chapter at Treviso in 1321 required every Province to maintain a studia generalia to teach Scripture, the theology contained in the Sentences of Peter Lombard, and rhetoric.(Continued on the next page.)
Photo Gallery For the Augnet photo gallery on Cassiago near Milan today, as in the photos above - in Augustine’s day was it Cassaciacum? Click here.