The Friars Hermits of St. Augustine or the Augustinian Order sprang from several communities in Italy which early in the thirteenth century sent colonies into Germany, Spain, and the south of France. They were among those movements towards the semi-hermit life which abounded in Italy late in the twelfth and in the fore part of the thirteenth century and were expressions of the religious awakening of those decades. In general they followed the rule ascribed to Augustine of Hippo, for, as we have hinted, this had become common among non-monastic groups devoted to religion.
It was largely through the initiative of the Papacy that a number of these bodies were brought together under a common organization. The Popes were disturbed by the multitude of new movements, some of which smacked of heresy or were in danger of becoming heretical. Quite understandably, they sought to draw them together into a structure which could meet Rome's approval and through which they could serve the Church. In 1243 Pope Innocent IV brought hermits in Tuscany under the Augustinian rule and appointed Cardinal Richard Annibaldi as their supervisor. More than any other one man, Annibaldi was responsible for the growth of the order. A Papal bull of 1256 which merged several bands of hermits into a closer union is usually regarded as the decisive landmark in making the Austin Friars an order. Before the close to the thirteenth century the Augustinians had conformed to the pattern of the Dominicans. They became a preaching order and based that preaching upon theological training and scholarship.
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