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Order of Austin Friars

The Order of the Austin Friars was created around 1253 on the British island, but at that time, it was less powerful than other Catholic orders. It was closed down during the Dissolution of the Monasteries between 1536 and 1541. The Order of Austin Friars is recorded on the Bible Timeline Chart with World History between 1150 and 1200 AD.

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The Founding of the Austin Friars

In 1252, a group of hermits who followed the rule of Saint Augustine settled in Wales. Later on, the earl of Hereford and Essex and former Crusader Henry de Bohun ordered the construction of the first house of the Austin Friars in London. He had it built near the church of Saint Peter le Poer on Broad Street. In 1256, Pope Alexander IV gave his official recognition of the Order of Austin Friars.

The Order first followed the laws of the Dominicans, but they later followed the rule of the Augustinians (the word ‘Austin’ itself was a shortened version of the name ‘Augustine’). The brothers (friars) relied on donations that came from rich people to survive. In the early years, their property on London’s Broad Street was rented from the archdeacon of Saint Olave’s. The land donation of the Bishop of Bath and Wells in 1281 later made the priory’s property grow larger.

The Austin Friars were accused of occupying land that was not theirs in 1321. In 1334, they gained even more property after another land donation. The land which they occupied was transferred to them by the government in 1345, and there they built a new priory church nine years later.

In 1381, several Fleming rebels took refuge inside the Austin priory during the Peasants’ Revolt. They were later killed by a mob after they were dragged outside, but luckily, the crowd left the Austin friars alone. A Lollard preacher named Peter Patteshull later accused them of murder and other sins in 1388. He preached against them in front a crowd that gathered at Saint Christopher’s church. The crowd became angry at the friars during his sermon that they threatened to destroy the church. They only stopped when the sheriff arrived and convinced them to leave.

order_of_austin_friars
“The ruins of Glastonbury Abbey, dissolved in 1539 following the execution of the abbot”

The Dissolution of the Monasteries and the End of the Austin Friars

The Austin Friars met their biggest challenge during the reign of Henry VIII of England. The king and his chief minister fought the Roman Catholic Church, so they ordered all monasteries to be closed starting in 1536. The government ordered the friars to leave the priory, and they never went back even after the execution of the chief minister in 1540. The Marquess of Winchester later turned the building into a townhouse. Meanwhile, some parts of the Austin Friar building were converted to warehouses during the 19th century.

The church was later used by the Dutch Church, but a large part of the building remained as a warehouse. What remained of the original Austin Friar buildings were destroyed by the German bombers during the air raids of the Second World War. Some were rebuilt during the 1950s, a street named after the Austin Friars still exist in the city of London today.

References:
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Douglas, J. D., and Earle E. Cairns, eds. The New International Dictionary of the Christian Church. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Pub., 1978.
“Friaries: The Austin friars,” in A History of the County of London: Volume 1, London Within the Bars, Westminster and Southwark, ed. William Page (London: Victoria County History, 1909), 510-513. British History Online, accessed November 8, 2016, http://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/london/vol1/pp510-513.
Justice, Steven. Writing and Rebellion: England in 1381. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1994.
Röhrkasten, Jens. The Mendicant Houses of Medieval London, 1221-1539. LIT Verlag Münster, 2004.
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