are divided into two classes:
I. CANONS REGULAR. — In the year 1038, four canons of the Church of Avignon, called Arnaldus, Odelo, Pontius, and Durandus, being desirous of leading a more strictly religious life, betook themselves, with the permission of the bishop Benedict, to a solitude, where they led an ascetic life; and having thus originally been under the canonical institution before the monastic, they acquired the name of "regular canons." A large number of canons, both lay and clerical, induced by their example, set themselves to follow this new rule of life, and ere long monasteries were built in various places, but chiefly in solitudes, and filled with these new candidates for the regular life, who differed from the monks in name only. At first they appear to have had no rule peculiar to themselves, and probably followed that of Aix-la-Chapelle (A.D. 816); but subsequently they assumed for their rule that of Augustine (i.e. his letter ad Sanctimoniales), adding to it various constitutions taken from the rule of Benedict and elsewhere. Stevens says that they did not take any vows until the twelfth century, nor do they appear to have assumed the name of "Regular Canons of St. Augustine" until Innocent II, at Lateran, in 1139, ordained that all regular canons should be under the rule of St. Augustine, contained in his 109th epistle. The dress of the regular canons was usually a long black cassock, and a white rochet over it, and over that a black cloak and hood; they also wore beards and caps. They were a numerous body in England, where they were probably first settled at Colchester in 1105. They are said to have had 170 houses in-England. — They were established in Scotland in 1114, at the desire of Alexander I, and had in that country 28 monasteries, of which the chief were Scone, Loch Tay, Inch Colme, St. Andrew's, Holyrood, Cambuskenneth, and Jedburgh. — Dugdale, Monasticon, 6, 37.
II. HERMITS, one of the four great mendicant orders, SEE MENDICANT ORDERS, of the Roman Catholic Church. The Augustinians endeavor to trace their origin back to the time when St. Augustine, after his conversion, lived for three years in a villa near Tagaste, wholly given up to ascetic exercises. But even the Romanist historians generally reject this claim as utterly without foundation. The order originated in 1256, when Pope Alexander IV, in pursuance of a decree, compelled eight minor monastic congregations, among which the John-Bonites (founded in 1168 by John Bon), the Brittinians, and the Tuscan hermits were the most important, to unite. The united order was called the Hermits of St. Augustine, because most of the congregations followed the Rule of Augustine, a compilation of precepts taken from two sermons of St. Augustine on the morals of priests and from his letter to the nuns of Hippo. Though now monks, they retained the name hermits, because all the congregations had been hermits. In 1257 they were exempted from the jurisdiction of the bishops, and divided into four provinces, Italy, Spain, France, and Germany. Unlike the other mendicant orders, they started with a lax rule, and gross disorders and immorality grew up among them sooner and more generally than among the others.
Since the fourteenth century many attempts at introducing a stricter discipline have been made by zealous members, and have resulted in the formation of a large number of special congregations, of which the congregation of Lombardy, with 86 convents, became the most numerous.
The congregation of Saxony, which was established in 1493, and with which the convents of Germany generally connected themselves, separated itself entirely from the order, and its superior, John Staupitz, assumed the title of vicar-general. Among the friends of Staupitz was MARTIN LUTHER, the most celebrated of all who ever wore the habit of Augustine, and through whose influence the majority of the convents of the Saxon congregation seceded from the Roman Catholic Church.