The London Austin Friars

The Friars Hermits of St Augustine founded their London house in 1253. L.W. Cowie describes how, after the Reformation, it became the Dutch Protestant Church.

Mr. Fipps, the solicitor employed by Martin Chuzzlewit, had his office in Austin Friars, which was ‘a very dark passage’, and Tom Pinch, on reading this address, thought that it sounded ‘ghostly’. Whether there be ghosts or not, the passage and the name still remain today. The name was that by which the members of the order officially called the Friars Hermits of St Augustine of Hippo were generally known in England.

They sprang from a number of communities of hermits, which existed in Italy before the lifetime of St Francis of Assisi, and they used as the basis of their life the so-called Rule of St Augustine, which ever since the reforms of Pope Gregory VII (1073-1085) had been common property to all non-monastic bodies, notably the Augustinian Canons who were to have some 170 houses in England.

The Papacy adopted a policy of promoting unity among these hermits which culminated in the promulgation of a bull in 1256 by Alexander VI constituting them as friars and mendicants on the basis of the newly-established Franciscans and Dominicans. During the fourteenth century they secured, together with the Carmelites, recognition with these two orders to form the later medieval ‘ordres foure’ of friars.

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