These pages deal only with southern France, which is defined here as that part of present-day France roughly south of a line drawn from Geneva to La Rochelle, i.e. the half of France underneath the red line across the map of France hereunder. The Order was also active in northern France (Normandy), but this is not yet included in these pages. Incidentally, it was from Normandy that the Augustinian Order was invited to England, and opened its first English friary at Clare in Suffolk.
The Order was always stronger in southern France than in the northern half of the country; its number of houses in the south were boosted by the acquisition of houses from the Sack Friars after their gradual dissolution as a consequence of the Council of Lyons in 1275. In southern France, between six and eight Augustinian foundations were made before 1275; this compares with at least 113 Franciscan, 45 Dominican, 22 or 23 Carmelite, and 31 Sack Friars convents. By 1300, this total had risen only to sixteen; during that quarter century, the number of Carmelite foundations rose to 39.
But by 1350 there were 44 Augustinian houses in the south of France; in the first half of the fourteenth century, the Order made 28 new foundations, as compared with 18 Carmelite, 15 Dominican, and a mere six or seven Franciscan foundations. The Augustinians had become the most rapidly growing of the mendicants in this area. This slowness of development of the Order in southern France in the thirteenth century is shown by the fact that in the six towns that had, by 1275, houses of all the four major mendicant orders, the Augustinians were the last to be established in five — Aix, Avignon, Marseille, Montpellier and Toulouse; only in Narbonne, where they preceded the Carmelites, did they achieve third place.
And by 1275, there were twelve other towns that had convents of the other three orders but not of Augustinians Agen, Bayonne, Bordeaux, Cahors, Carcassonne, Clermont, Figeac, Limoges, Montauban, Nimes, Perpignan, La Rochelle. A second aspect of Augustinian expansion in southern. France is notable. Down to 1275, of eight foundations, five were made in towns already possessing three mendicant convents, two in towns that already had two such houses, and one (Grasse) in a town that had but a single convent hitherto. This is merely to say that the Order tended to put its houses into the larger urban centers.
Of the eight foundations between 1275 and 1300, five (Agen, Bordeaux, Cahors, Carcassonne, Limoges) were in towns with three houses of friars, and a sixth (Draguignan) already had one. But two (Castellano, Puget-Theniers) were made in relatively small towns in which no friars had previously settled. From 1300 onwards, the Order displayed an increasing tendency to found its new houses not in the larger towns where other orders of friars had established themselves, but in smaller centers as yet untouched by the mendicant movement.
Of the 28 houses founded between 1300 and 1350, fourteen were put into towns of this type (Barjols, Cremieu, Ennezat, Lisle-sur-Tarn, Mas-Saintes-Puelles, Montflanquin, Montagnac, Pernes, Saint-Geniez, Saint-Rome-de-Tarn, Saint-Savinien, Saverdun, Seyssel, La Voulte). None of these towns was of much size; Saint-Rome-de-Tarn, for instance, was counted at 322 hearths in 1341, Lisle-sur-Tarn at 103 in 1375, and Montagnac at 154 in 1378. Of the fifteen additional foundations made by the Augustinians between 1350 and 1450, fourteen came in towns with no other house of friars: The late Arthez, Beaure-paire, Caudies, Domme, Fiac, Fleurance, Geaune, Marquefave, Mezin, Montluel, Montrejeau, Morestel, Saint-Pierre-d'Albigny, Thonon.
This is a rather striking phenomenon. It is not to be explained on such simple ground as that the larger urban centers had been settled so that the Order had to turn to smaller towns; at the end of the medieval period there remained in southern France nine towns with Franciscan, Dominican and Carmelite convents only (Albi, Bergerac, Clermont, Condom, Lectoure, Millau, Orange, Le Puy, Vienne), and not less than thirty-three towns that had houses of two other mendicant orders but not of Augustinians. There were, in short, sufficient larger centers in which the Order could have made foundations. The explanation is probably at least as much social and economic as religious.
One other geographical aspect of Augustinian expansion in southern France is of some interest. The fifteen houses founded before 1300 were extraordinarily localized; they formed a line running along the Mediterranean coast from Nice to Narbonne, and curving thence upwards to Bordeaux — only the house at Limoges, a major trading centre, fails to fit that pattern.
The twenty-eight foundations made between 1300 and 1350 are much more widely scattered, though showing tendencies to cling to the major trade routes, and to more dense settlement of the areas already penetrated before 1300. But the fifteen foundations made between 1350 and 1450 show a new and distinct localization; five of them were made in the small area east of the Rhone between Grenoble and Geneva, and seven others were made in the extreme south-west, between the Garonne and the Atlantic, south of the 44th parallel. Both these patterns of expansion may have been consciously undertaken, but for different reasons.
Drawings (at left)Picture 1: Drawing of a Knight TemplarPicture 2: Drawing of a Friar of the Sack
This may be partly explicable in military terms — this was the century of the Hundred Years' War — but it probably reflects other social, economic, and demographic developments. A study of all the foundations of all the orders of friars from this point of view still has to be undertaken. As explained above, the first and oldest Augustinian houses in France were in the area of Provence (southern France.) It is now time to examine the growth of the Augustinian Order in the northern half of France. During the time that James de Orte O.S.A. was Prior General (1308-1311) the Augustinian houses in the territory of Toulouse and Aquitaine were formed into a province. When the so-called Province of France (with its motherhouse in Paris – but not embracing all of France) came into existence is uncertain, but it certainly happened before 1261. The eventual fourth province in France, i.e., the Province of Narbonne and Burgundy, did not yet exist in 1317 but is known to have existed by the year 1329.
Taking into consideration the whole of the territory that is called France today, it can be stated that in the fourteenth century, France evolved her two Augustinian provinces into four, and established at least thirty-nine additional houses. Her great leader was Giles of Rome O.S.A., who had been educated in Paris and who was regarded as a Frenchman. Principally through his influence, better and more spacious quarters were gained in a number of French cities through the acquisition of houses formerly belonging to the Friars of the Sack or to the Knights Templars. (The Knights Templar were a military religious order, founded around 1129 in association with the Crusades, and disbanded very much against their will in 1312.)
The well-deserved reputation of Giles reputation as the outstanding professor of the University of Paris also gave the Augustinian studium generale (general study house) in this city such pre-eminence that for seventy years every important doctor of the Order gained his magisterium (doctorate) there. The Grand Couvent (“Grand Convent”), as the Augustinian house on the Quai des Augustine in Paris was later known, was so large that in 1316 it could send 150 men to the celebration of the feast of St Louis.
(Continued on the next page.)AN4824