Augustine was born on November 13, 354, at Thagaste (Souk-Ahras, Algeria) in Numidia, a province of North-Africa. In 386, at the age of 32, he renounced his intellectual and political ambitions, and was converted to the orthodox Christianity. He was baptized in Milan by bishop Ambrose. He returned to North-Africa, withdrew from public life, and started living at Thagaste with a group of relatives and friends, thus realising a kind of monastic project. He did not choose the solitary life of the hermit Anthony, but he wanted to live in a community.

Three years later, however, he had to give up his contemplative dream, for he was claimed by the faithful of Hippo (Annaba, Algeria) to become their priest (391) and their bishop (395/396). Nevertheless, he stuck to his monastic ideal, because he lived not only as a monk-bishop, but proclaimed also in his writings the unity between action and contemplation. Therefore, Augustinian religious life is rightly called the mixed way (
via mixta).

After Augustine's death on August 28, 430, in the besieged city of Hippo, the African bishops and religious emigrated to the European continent, where Augustinian monasticism could take root as well. The Rule of Augustine played an important role in this process. The brief text of the Rule described the essence of religious life as love of God and of the neighbour, as the union of hearts through the sharing of goods, allowing enough freedom for specific customs or constitutions.

Although the Order is usually called the Order of Saint Augustine (
Ordo Sancti Augustini, OSA), Augustine himself is not its founder, but pope Alexander IV is. This does not mean that there is no vital, spiritual relationship between Augustine and the OSA. It underlines only that it is impossible to prove a historical continuity between Augustine and the OSA. After the conquest of North-Africa by the Islam in the seventh century, Augustinian monasticism has developed in Europe. The hermitical movements of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, which constituted a reaction against the decline of the monastic ideal in the abbeys, were asked by the popes for apostolate in the growing cities. Thus the popes assigned also the Augustinian hermits to the task of apostolic care. In view of this task, pope Alexander IV proclaimed on April 9, 1256, in the bull Licet Ecclesiae Catholicaethe union of the hermits of Toscana, the Janbonites (Zambonini), the Brictinenses (Brictini), the Wilhelmites and some hermits of Saint Augustine. This union is known as the Great Union (magna unio).

The new order got the privileges of the mendicant orders and spread out fast all over Europe. In the late Middle Ages there were about 2.000 monasteries with 30.000 members. The activity of the new order consisted particularly in study and preaching. Contemplative and active life were combined, individual perfection was strived for through prayer and the practice of the vows. Sanctification of the neighbour was aimed at through an intensive wide range of apostolic activity. Local stability (
stabilitas loci) remained characteristic for abbeys, whereas mobility is typical for mendicant orders. At the moment, the Augustinian Order is represented all over the world.

The development of the website of the
Bibliographie Historique de l'Ordre de Saint-Augustinhas been financed by the Federation of North-West-Europe which is made of the provinces of Germany, of the Netherlands, of Belgium, and the Vicariate of Vienna. For further information on the Order of Saint Augustine, take a look at the homepage of the General Curiaof the Augustinians in Rome.