Algistlmans, Or Hermits Of St. Augustine, a. religious order in the Roman Catholic church, which traces its origin to the great bishop of Hippo, and professes to have received its rule from him, although many Catholic writers dispute the fact. St. Augustine in the year 388, before his ordination, erected a kind of hermitage on a little farm belonging to himself near Ta-gaste, where with several friends he passed his time in seclusion. After he became a priest at Hippo he established a similar retreat in a garden presented to him by the bishop, and during his episcopate he had his clergy living with him in his house, under a kind of monastic rule. From these circumstances he has been looked upon as the founder and special patron of a certain class of religious communities, and many of their rules have been drawn from his writings. The present order of Hermits of St. Augustine was formed by uniting several socier ties previously distinct. This was done by Alexander IV. in the year 1256, and a rule was given them attributed to St. Augustine. In 1567 the Augustinians were enrolled among the mendicant orders. In England they were usually called Black Friars, from the color of their habit.
There are several distinct branch-r es of Augustinians whose rule is more severe than that of the principal body; they are governed by vicars general, who are subordinate to the general. Rome is the chief seat of the order. The number of convents in 1862 was 271, with about 4,000 members; but since then their number 'has been greatly reduced by the suppression of monastic orders in Italy. There is a large and beautiful church belonging to the Augustinians, with a convent adjoining, in Philadelphia; also a college, with a monastery and a well cultivated farm adjoining, at Villanova, Delaware county, Pa., about 15 m. from Philadelphia. - Augnstinian Canons are a separate body of canons regular attached to the Lateran basilica and a few other churches. - Several religious orders of females belong also to the Augustinian family.