Six augustinian enclaves dotted across the globe
If one thing has distinguished the Order of St. Augustine since the start, it is a missionary bearing that has propelled many friars to travel to unknown lands with the singular desire to proclaim the Gospel "to the ends of the earth"
Augustinian missionaries have left (and still leave today) an indelible mark not only in the hearts of countless individuals but also in towns and cities that, once upon a time, witnessed the first arrival of men who left everything to make known a love without limits.
Therefore, from the communication office of the General Curia, we wanted to take a quick tour of some of the most special sites associated with the Order across the world.
Ruins of St. Augustine's Church and Convent (Goa, India)
Founded in the 15th century by the sultanate of Bijapur as a trading port on the banks of the Mandovi River, Goa was conquered in 1510 by Alfonso de Albuquerque, the first viceroy of what was to become Portuguese India. Situated in the southwest of the "Indian subcontinent", Goa was the ancient capital of Portuguese India during the 16th century.
Due to its economic importance and geographically strategic location, Goa quickly became a centre of evangelisation for the entire region, with Jesuits and Franciscans - as well as our brother Augustinians - all settling there during the 16th and 17th centuries. And as the city developed as an important business and cultural hub, it came to have administrative privileges similar to those of the imperial capital, Lisbon.
When the Augustinians disembarked in 1597, they immediately broke ground for the church and convent of St. Augustine. It is worth noting how these buildings were to reflect the architectural tastes and styles of both Portugal and India: while the structure of the buildings follows the characteristics of the European Baroque, many of the interior decorative elements were created by local artisans, descendants of a rich tradition of Indian sculpture and painting.
The convent was abandoned in 1835, when Old Goa was hit by a series of epidemics. Although the 42-metre high bell tower is still standing, the vault collapsed in 1842 and the façade collapsed almost a century later in 1936, so that today, sadly, both buildings are not much more than ruins.
Basilica of the Santo Niño de Cebu (Cebu, Philippines)
When Magellan arrived in the Philippines in April 1521, he gave Queen Juana of Cebu the image of the Santo Niño to mark her conversion, and that of her husband Rajah Humabon, to Catholicism.
This image was discovered in a box some 40 years later, in April 1565, on the arrival of the first Augustinians with the expedition of Legazpi-Urdaneta. To house the image of the Santo Niño, the original chapel was immediately built in Cebu by Augustinian Andrés de Urdaneta, quickly followed by a convent. The present building dates from 1739, having grown considerably in size and stature since that first chapel.
Since then, the image of Santo Niño has inextricably linked the Order and Cebu, which was to become the gateway for the spread of the Gospel in the Far East, and the Santo Niño was named patron of the Province of the Most Holy Name of Jesus in the Philippines in 1575.
Over the years, the Filipino people have expressed a deep devotion to the Santo Niño, making the church a centre of worldwide pilgrimage since Paul VI granted it the category of Minor Basilica in 1965.
Every year, on the third Sunday of January, the feast of the Santo Niño is commemorated in Cebu City - and worldwide among the Filipino diaspora - with many celebrations and festive events.
Temple and former convent of Santiago Apostle of Ocuituco (Morelos, Mexico)
The Augustinians’ first foundation in the Americas was the monastery of Ocuituco in 1533.
Back then, the original ambition of the Order had been to build a monastery in Mexico City. However, Charles I of Spain opposed this plan because at that time two convents were already under construction there: one Franciscan, and the other Dominican. The king believed that the city would be unable to finance, support and promote three monasteries at the same time.
And so, invited by the inhabitants of the Ocuituco region who wished to welcome an evangelising mission there, the Augustinians decided to establish their first site in Ocuituco town. The territory had, moreover, been given as an “encomienda” to the bishop of Mexico, Juan de Zumárraga, specifically to help finance missionary work.
In 1547 the work on the convent was completed and it remained active until well into the 18th century, when it was abandoned. The church, however, continued to operate after this date. In 1965 the Order returned to administer the convent building and began a process of restoration of the entire structure. In 1977 the cloister was set up as a novitiate, although this activity did not last long there.
Since 1994 it has been considered a World Heritage Site by UNESCO as part of the tourist trail of “Monasteries on the Slopes of Popocatepetl”.
Basilica of Saint Augustine (Annaba, Algeria)
Inaugurated on 23rd October 2013 after a long restoration process, the basilica of Annaba represents a truly unique site for the Augustinian order.
It is, first of all, to be found in the land of St. Augustine as a physical monument of the place where he spent part of his pilgrimage through this life.
Secondly, it is a symbol of peace and harmony among peoples of different cultures and religions. As Monsignor Paul Desfarges, Bishop of Constantine, stated during the inauguration ceremony, "the Basilica must remain at the service of dialogue between the two shores of the Mediterranean".
The original construction dates back to the end of the 19th century, although the basilica was not dedicated until 24th April 1914. It is said that the site was chosen for its proximity to the site of the original basilica pacis built by St. Augustine himself, and where he died in 430 during the invasion of the Roman province of Africa by the Vandals.
San Pietro in Ciel d'Oro (Pavia, Italy)
Around 722 the venerable relics of St. Augustine, which had been peacefully resting in the church of San Saturnino in Cagliari, Sardinia for over 200 years, had to be moved at short notice to stop them falling into the hands of the invading Saracens.
Liutprando, King of the Lombards, managed to secure the remains of our spiritual father at great financial cost. They were then installed safely, and with great fanfare, in the crypt of the church of St. Peter in the capital of his kingdom, Pavia.
Augustine still lies in the church, although he was moved from the crypt in the middle of the 14th century to a mausoleum in the apse of the building. It is a work of extraordinary beauty. Made of white Carrara marble and showcasing a total of fifty bas-reliefs and hundreds of sculpted figures that are intended to be a compendium of the faith and life of the Saint, like a great catechesis in image form, the work took more than twenty years to complete
Nestled in a strategic point that connects Central and Northern Europe, Augustine’s shrine in Pavia quickly became a holy place of pilgrimage, and many thousands of pilgrims have traveled there to venerate the remains of the bishop of Hippo, doctor of the Universal Church.
The remains of Christian philosopher Severinus Boethius, and those of King Liutprando himself, are also to be found in the church.
St. Thomas of Villanova School of Manokwari (Papua, Indonesia)
Dutch Jesuit Cornelis Le Cocq d'Armandville was the first to bring the faith to New Guinea in the 19th century. His death in 1896 saw this vital missionary work grind to a halt, and it was not until after World War I that it was resumed by the Dutch missionaries of the Sacred Heart of Jesus of Tilburg. Later, after World War II, other congregations and orders joined the mission - it is a vast area, and there was much need (and room) for men on the ground. Thus, the Franciscans (also Dutch) and the Crosiers (from the United States) arrived.
A few years later, in 1953, the Franciscans transferred the mission of the entire Vogelkop peninsula to the Augustinians, and Brother Piet van Diepen OSA was the first bishop of Manokwari from 1966 to 1988.
At present, the Order of St. Augustine has seven works in Papua-Barat, divided between convents and schools, plus some parishes that serve the different Catholic communities of the island.
The Augustinian school of Manokwari is of particular interest. It is divided into two sections: the SMA Villanova Manokwari-Susweni (for grades 10-12) and the SMP Villanova Manokwari-Maripi, (for grades 7-9 and younger students), both with boarding. Its mission, like so many other schools of the Order around the world, is to serve the needs of the local children by offering them a good quality comprehensive education.
The choice of Thomas of Villanova, Bishop of Valencia, as patron saint was not accidental - St. Thomas made charity and love for the most needy the centre of his pastoral and theological life, and so became a clear example to be followed by all the Augustinian missions operating on the front line with the most needy.