The Impactful Augustinian Order

One of the major Catholic religious orders to emerge in the Middle Ages was the Order of St. Augustine, known simply as the Augustinians. Founded in the 13th century on the principles espoused by the 5th century theologian Augustine of Hippo, this community of monks, nuns and priests left an indelible mark on Christianity through their educational institutes, preaching, and social work.

Origins of the Augustinian Order

Founding by Augustine of Hippo

The Augustinian Order’s philosophical and theological foundations were shaped by Augustine of Hippo, an influential Christian thinker and Bishop of Hippo Regius in Roman Africa. His writings on grace, free will and doctrinal matters formed the basis for the Augustinians’ worldview.

Spread across Europe

From its birth in 1244 AD in Italy, the Augustinian movement spread rapidly via new monasteries established throughout Europe over the next centuries. Hermit communities devoted to prayer, study and missionary work sprang up across Italy, France, Germany, England and elsewhere on the continent.

Beliefs and practices

Theology and doctrine

Rooted in Augustine’s intellectual and spiritual legacy, the Augustinians placed emphasis on scripture, theology, predestination and maintaining correct doctrine. Their teaching aimed to disseminate church tradition appropriately.

Daily life and worship

A typical day involved prayer services, Mass, lectio divina (reading scripture), manual labor, study and individual contemplation – all following a rhythm of work, study, worship and rest in a monastic setting focused on community life and devotion to God.

Role in history


From the 13th century, the Augustinians established schools, universities, scriptoriums and libraries which educated clergy and laypeople alike. Many Augustinian colleges and halls at European universities still thrive as centers of learning today.

Impact during Reformation period

During the upheaval of the Protestant Reformation, the Augustinians staunchly defended Catholic theology against Martin Luther and other reformers. However, they also wished to see renewal and reform from within the Church.


Drawing on the writings of Augustine of Hippo, the Augustinian Canons Regulous promoted a balanced Christian way of life through their monasteries, missionary work, preaching and educational institutions over the centuries. While their influence perhaps peaked in the Middle Ages, the Augustinian legacy of scholarship, worship and pastoral care still endures today through their continued community work around the world.


What was the distinctive dress of Augustinian monks and nuns?

Augustinians wore a white tunic with a black cloak and cincture belt, symbolizing their commitment to humility, purity and temperance.

What is lectio divina and why was it important to the Augustinians?

Lectio divina referred to meditative, prayerful reading of scripture which aimed to apply God’s word to one’s spiritual life. It was a daily practice for Augustinian study, reflection and nourishment of faith.

What kind of education did Augustinian schools provide?

Augustinian colleges offered primary, secondary and university-level instruction covering theology, philosophy, languages and other liberal arts to educate clergy and laity alike in a scholarly yet devout environment.

How did Augustinians contribute to the Protestant Reformation?

While defending Catholic orthodoxy, the Augustinians as scholars also embraced some reform ideas. Their theology influenced both Catholics and Protestants wrestling with issues of salvation, free will and other doctrines.

What impact have the Augustinians had globally?

Augustinian communities established worldwide continue charitable and pastoral work today, operating schools, hospitals, parishes and social programs especially benefiting disadvantaged groups across Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe and the Americas.