The Institutum Patristicum Augustinianum of Rome, in cultivating the sacred sciences, especially the thought of the Fathers of the Church, Saint Augustine and his legacy, remains faithful to the age - old tradition of the Augustinian Order which, from the time of its foundation by the Apostolic See in the thirteenth century, has always paid particular attention to serious study. The Augustinians cultivated the sacred disciplines with such commitment that, already in the last few decades of the century which saw their birth, they had come to occupy a foremost position at Paris and at other principal European universities (cfr. Constitutiones Fratrum Eremitarum Sancti Augustini, Regensburg 1290, c. 36; F. Eherle, The most ancient statutes of the theological faculty of the University of Bologna, Bologna 1932, p. XCIV).
The Augustinian Patristic Institute is the direct continuation of the Studium Generale Romanum set up in the fourteenth century in the Saint Augustine friary on Campo Marzio in Rome to which was added, starting from the sixteenth century, the celebrated Biblioteca Angelica, founded by the erudite Augustinian Angelo Rocca da Arcevia (1545-1620), titular bishop of Tagaste and prefect of the Apostolic Sacrarium.
In 1882, following the suppression of Saint Augustine friary (1873), original site of the General Curia of the Order, and the appropriation by the Italian State of the Biblioteca Angelica, the Augustinian Prior General and his Curia together with the international house of studies of the Order moved to its present location in the former renaissance villa of the Cesi family adjacent to the colonnade of Saint Peter’s, thus giving rise to a new season of study. This commitment obtained the recognition of the Apostolic See which in 1908, in the papacy of Saint Pius X, granted the “Collegio Internazionale Agostiniano di Santa Monica” the faculties of Theology and Canon Law empowering it to grant all academic degrees cfr. Analecta Augustiniana 2 (1907-1908), 473-474].
On 29 September 1965 in the “International College of Santa Monica” at Via Paolo VI (previously Via del Sant’Uffizio) no. 25 Rome, the “Augustinian Theological Institute” was established under the auspices of the Faculty of Sacred Theology of the Pontifical Lateran University by decree no. 2250/61/20 of the then Sacred Congregation of Seminaries and Universities (now the Congregation for Catholic Education). This same Congregation approved its Statutes on 6 November 1965 (no. 2250/61/31).
2. The foundation and recognition of the Institute
Following various challenges, the Augustinian Theological Institute achieved the present academic conformation as the Augustinian Patristic Institute with the faculty of granting the following academic degrees: Bachelor in Theology, License and Doctorate in Theology and Patristic Sciences, and for graduates with degrees other than that of an institutional theological triennium, the degree of License and Doctorate in Patristic Sciences.
On 14 February 1969, the Augustinian Patristic Institute was born, ratified by a decree ofthe Congregation for Catholic Education dated 17 February 1969 (no. 184/69). The canonical erection was dated 25 July 1969, once more based on a decree of this same Congregation (no. 184/69/14).
At the solemn inauguration of the Augustinian Patristic Institute, on 4 May 1970, feast day of Saint Monica, His Holiness Pope Paul VI was present. The Congregation for Catholic Education, with a decree dated 26 May 1972 (no. 184/69/51) authorised the theological institutional cycle as part of the Faculty of Sacred Theology of the Pontifical Lateran University.
The Congregation for Catholic Education, by decree dated 4 May 1973 (no. 184/69/66), approved the Statutes of the Augustinian Patristic Institute on an experimental basis. These Statutes were then revised in May 1980 and approved on 29 October 1981 by the Congregation for Catholic Education (no. 809/79). Thereafter, the Congregation for Catholic Education proceeded to a new revision in March 1989 and to its final approval on 5 June 1989 (no. 809/79/15).
The Augustinian Patristic Institute or the Augustinianum, as it is also known,is one of the three centres of advanced specialisation, together with the Academia Alfonsiana and the Claretianum, functioning within the Faculty of Theology of the Pontifical Lateran University. The Congregation for Catholic Education once more, in the Instruction on study of the Fathers of the Church in teaching for the priesthood (10 November 1989), in stipulating that those called to the teaching of Patrology and Patristic Theology in institutions for preparation to the priesthood must obtain academic degrees at institutes specialised in these subjects, identifies the Augustinianum as the institute of specialisation set up specifically for that purpose (IV, 4).
The Augustinian Patristic Institute has been included in the agreements reached between the Apostolic See and the Italian Republic (Ministry of Public Instruction, no. 30329/2282/GL; Circular no. 250 Attachment B, 6b), between the Higher Institutes of Religious Sciences depending on the Congregation for Catholic Education. On the basis of the current legislation in Italy (art. 10.2 of Law no. 121 dated 25 March 1985, published in the Ordinary Supplement to Official Gazette no. 85 dated 10 April 1985 and the Decree of President of the Republic no. 175 dated 2 February 1994, published in Official Gazette no 62 dated 16 March 1994) once the conditions laid down by the ecclesiastical and civic authorities have been met the ecclesiastical qualifications are recognised by the Italian State, giving access to State competitions and examinations and to the preparatory courses leading to the qualification to teach (Law 86 dated 19/01/1942, Leg. Decree no. 297 dated 16/04/1994).
3. Distinction and collaboration
The Patristic Institute possesses one of the finest libraries in existence among those specialised in the study and scientific research on early Christian times and the Fathers of the Church. In addition to access to its extensive collections (amounting to about 60,000 volumes and 500 periodicals), the library facilitates the consultation of a vast range of electronic resources (data bank, dictionaries, publications, etc.) accessible through an electronic catalogue and an institutional website. The present-day library, worthy heir to the Biblioteca Angelica, traces its beginning to the end of the nineteenth century. With scarce resources available at that time, it has grown consistently and rapidly over the years allowing it to become successor to its distinguished predecessor. Opened in the new premises of the Augustinian Patristic Institute in September 1970, its acquisition policy decidedly favors patristic texts and studies, but also Augustinian studies and the history and theology of the Order of Saint Augustine. Particularly significant and fruitful in results was its support (1992-2007) of the URBS (Rome Union of Scientific Libraries) set up to link the libraries of ecclesiastical academic institutions sharing similar interests, users, management and goals (J.M. GUIRAU V. GROSSI, the Father General’s Library in the Institutum Augustinianum in Analecta Augustiniana 69 , 179-186).
The “Corpus of the Coptic Literary Manuscripts”
The Institute also contains the Corpus of the Coptic Literary Manuscripts (CMCL), an important photographic archive founded and directed by Tito Orlandi which comprises the largest number of texts and fragments of Coptic Christian literature. The CMCL, first set up in 1979, is the outcome of a project by the National Academic Union, patronised by the Union Académique Internationale, in which “La Sapienza” University (Rome) and the Patristic Institute both collaborate.
Agreement for collaboration between the Augustinian Patristic Institute and “La Sapienza” University
An important agreement of scientific cooperation between the Pontifical Lateran University and “La Sapienza” University in Rome has been in place since 19 June 2008. This agreement was reached and implemented by the Patristic Institute and what was then the Department of Historic Religious Studies of “La Sapienza” University (later converging in the Department of History, Cultures and Religions).
The agreement formalises at the highest institutional level a fruitful collaboration already lasting forty years based on professionalism and friendship and which from the very beginnings saw the formation of teachers from “La Sapienza” at the Augustinianum, and the frequent use of its library not only by scholars from the State University on early Christianity, but also by its students. Teachers, scholars and young people engaged in studies on early Christianity from the State University have grown up side by side with their peers from all over the world attending the Augustinanum, living out together the shared values of intellectual open-mindedness, tolerance and respect. This formal collaboration is aimed at strengthening and offering new scientific and didactic possibilities to a relationship of friendship and work between scholars and students from the two institutions, while also providing for the mutual recognition of credits, at the didactic level. In fact, the executive protocol foresees a collaboration in teaching and in granting students equal status such as is envisioned by the Erasmus European exchanges. That is, offering the possibility of attending modules made available by the other institution (for a total of not more than 24 credits). This collaboration has fostered the organisation of gatherings, meetings and days of study.
The Augustinian Patristic Institute is responsible for the publication of the Augustinianum, the series Studia Ephemeridis Augustinianum (1967) and Sussidi Patristici (1981).
Augustinianum (Periodicum Semestre Instituti Patristici “Augustinianum”) is the peer-review publication of the Patristic Institute. From 1961, original research and reviews on the study of early Christian Literature and on the thought of the Fathers of the Church have been published in this journal. In volumes 13 (1973) to 28 (1988) the papers presented at the conference of scholars in early Christianity have been published in a special collection. All the articles of the journal, from 1961 to date, may be consulted free of charge on-line on the Institute’s website.
Meetings of scholars on early Christianity
Beginning in 1972, a conference of scholars of early Christianity is held during the month of May at the Augustinian Patristic Institute. Providing a rich forum for different points of view and lines of research, with contributions from patrologists, historians, canon law experts, liturgists, archaeologists etc., this conference of scholars has become an indispensable and much anticipated opportunity to discuss classic theories and present the results of innovative research. Each year from all over the world experts in the various disciplines and with a diversity of backgrounds gather at the Augustinianum to compare notes on a subject carefully selected by its Scientific Committee.
The Augustinian Patristic Institute has integrated into its structure and program the objectives, purposes and undertakings required by the “Process of Bologna”, underwritten by the Holy See in 2003. The “Process of Bologna” is an iter of reform of an international nature which proposes the creation of a European Space of higher learning. At present 46 countries take participate in it, with the backing of a number of international organisations. The Patristic Institute is committed to expanding its programmes to the criteria demanded by the reform. In line with the project, the Holy See set up, on 19 September 2007, the Agency for the Evaluation and Promotion of Quality in Universities and Ecclesiastical Faculties (AVEPRO). This body promotes the quality of research and teaching and ensures the assessment and maintenance of international standards. In addition, each institution has created Quality Assurance Offices which are special offices for units of the secretariats of the various academic institutions, to ensure the implementation of procedures of self-certification of the quality of teaching/formation provided by each.