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A journey into the treasures of the Order's General Archives

Updated: Apr 6

Fr Andrés Gómez, General Archivist of the Order of St Augustine, shares with us some of the most valuable documents that the General Curia keeps in Rome

Fr. Andrés is waiting for us beside the steps of the Patristicus, next to St. Peter's Square. 

Having received professional training as an archivist, and then having worked with a number of libraries and ecclesiastical archives, two years ago Fr Andrés was invited from his home Province (Nuestra Señora de Gracia in Colombia) to take on the endeavour of conserving, valuing and passing on the documentary heritage of the Order's General Curia.

"I never imagined that I would have the immense honour and privilege of taking charge of the General Archives," Fr Andrés tells us.  

Since then, he has had responsibility for almost 400 metres of shelving, holding the documents kept in the Archives, including parchments dating back to the beginning of the 13th century, records from the different general governments from the 15th to the 20th century, an important collection of manuscripts relating to the history of the Order, works by Augustinian friars and Augustinian Recollects, homiletic collections, maps, plans, and liturgical books of the Order, incunabula, some facsimiles, important photographic and coin collection, and more - together making this private ecclesiastical archive, which welcomes those friars of the Order and other accredited researchers who wish to dig deep into the history of the Order.

The Order's Bullarium

The Bullarium is one of the most valuable assets within the General Archives of the Order, containing about 700 papal bulls on parchment, including originals and copies, which give evidence of the relationship of the Order with the Apostolic See.  Among this collection are bulls such as the Incumbit nobis and the Licet Ecclesiae Catholicae which every Augustinian friar will have heard mentioned at some stage in his formation as they set out the reasoning behind the process that ended with the Grand Union being juridically recognized by Pope Alexander IV. "These are extremely valuable documents", Fr Andrés notes, “where we can find the fundamental facts and figures of our history, our privileges, and of the characteristic features of our service to the Church as a mendicant Order."

The Rocca Maps

Towards the end of the 16th century, Angelo Rocca, the then Secretary General of the Order and a man of great culture, went on a grand tour of the Augustinian friaries of southern Italy in the company of Father General Spirito Anguissola. He used this opportunity to ask local historians, scribes and illustrators to put together this unique and exquisite collection full of colour, details and outlining the nooks and crannies of the towns and cities visited.  

Architects, art historians, academics and researchers have studied these documents and used the information they contain to identify the walls and churches of these towns, and even the vestiges of ancient buildings from the time of the Roman Empire.

Today, Rocca's descriptions and maps are still one of the most consulted collections in the Archive.

The manuscripts of the religious sister Maria Agnese of Foligno

In his office, among the several handwritten works that Fr Andres shows us are the spiritual notebooks of Augustinian religious Maria Agnese Carandente of Foligno. These reflections, which possess a uniquely rich description of the spiritual and contemplative life proper to the nuns of the Order, were recently gifted by Augustinian historian, Fr Pietro Bellini.  

"We have to take care of what we have, what has been bequeathed to us by our older brothers," says Fr Andrés, as we conclude our tour of the General Archives. "Here we have the written record of our history and the remembrance of our community life and the living out of our charism, with all the challenges and difficulties we Augustinians have faced over nearly eight hundred years of existence. Recognising its worth and sharing this great heritage with everyone who wants to see it, especially our Augustinian brothers and sisters, is our primary function.”



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