Formally, the Order of Saint Augustine (O.S.A.). A religious order formed by the union of several monastic societies following the Rule of Saint Augustine, in imitation of the monastic community established by Saint Augustine of Hippo among his clergy in 391. The original branches were
- Hermits of the Holy Trinity in Tuscany
- other houses in Italy
These were united in 1256 through the efforts of Pope Alexander IV, and monasteries were soon established in Germany, France, and Spain. At the period of its greatest prosperity, in the 15th century, the Order had 42 provinces and two vicariates numbering 2,000 monasteries and about 30,000 members.
Several reformed congregations known as “Regular Observants” were instituted about this time. The most important of these were the Hermits Recollects of Saint Augustine, a reform begun in Spain in 1438, established in 1588, and formed into a distinct order in 1912, and the German or Saxon Reformed Congregation, recognized in 1493 and comprising many important convents in Germany afterwards affiliated with the Lombardic Congregation. Augustinians were established in the United States in 1796.
After the 16th century the Order lost numbers of monasteries as a result of the Reformation. Most of the French houses were destroyed during the French Revolution, losses resulted from the secularization of religious houses in Germany, Austria, and Italy, and in 1835 nearly all the houses in Spain were suppressed. The Philippines also suffered losses due to the political disturbances of 1896, and the Order was suppressed in 1864 in Russia and in 1860 in Mexico where it was later re-established though suppressed with other religious in 1926.
The work of the order is cure of souls, including missions, and the advancement of learning through teaching and scientific study. They conduct academies, colleges, seminaries, and missions in Italy, Spain, Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Czech Republic, Malta, England, Ireland, Australia, China, Philippines, Colombia, Peru, Brazil, Argentina, Ecuador, Chile, Cuba, and the United States. The general mother-house is in Rome, Italy. Monasteries of women following the Rule of Saint Augustine have existed as independent communities since the 11th century. In 2004 there were over 2,800 members of the Order, over 2,100 of them priests.