“The main purpose for you having come together is to live harmoniously in your house, intent upon God in oneness of mind and heart.” (The Rule of St. Augustine, Chapter 1)
The birth of the Order
The Tuscan region of Italy is very influential for the beginnings of the Augustinian Order. Many small communities of eremites (hermits) lived in that area in the early 1200’s. Historical records show that some of those communities came together to form a federation of hermitages under one superior sometime before 1228.
In the year 1243, four friars from this federation traveled to Rome to present to the pope a request asking for the union of all heritages in Tuscany under a common rule and one prior general. On December 16, 1243, Pope Innocent IV granted the request in a papal bull entitled Incumbit Nobis. In this document he stated that the hermitages are to be united under the Rule of St. Augustine, they are to create their own constitution, and elect a suitable prior general.
This idea was formalized in March of 1244 when delegates went to Rome to write the constitution and elect the first prior general of the Brother Hermits of the Order of St. Augustine. On March 31 of that same year the pope ratified all of the chapter’s decisions. Thus the Order was born.
Also at this time there were other eremitical groups who followed the Rule of St. Augustine or the Rule of St. Benedict. Since there were so many similarities within these groups, the pope at that time, Alexander IV, had a desire to unite these smaller groups into one larger group. He felt that a unified group could best channel their spiritual forces into a more effective apostolate of preaching and pastoral care. In the month of March 1256, as many as 360 delegates met in Rome to celebrate a chapter in which this Grand Union was put into effect. In the papal bull, Licit Ecclesiae Catholicae, dated April 9, 1256, pope Alexander IV ratified this union under the name of the Order of Hermits of St. Augustine. This union was not a new Order but it was now an Order that was enlarged and enriched by the expansion of what was created in 1244.