The Crest of the Augustinian Order
The crest of the Augustinian Order comprises a book, superimposed by a burning heart with both pierced by a stylus.
The book recalls Augustine’s huge written contribution to philosophical and theological thought. It evokes the Rule which he wrote which governs our way of living together. It also recalls the words “Tolle Lege” (Take and Read) he heard being sung in a childlike voice which were the final impulse for his conversion. He tells us that while he was in a garden with Alypius:
“I was saying these things and weeping in the most bitter contrition of my heart, when, lo, I heard the voice as of a boy or girl, I know not which, coming from a neighbouring house, chanting, and oft repeating, Take up and read; take up and read. Immediately my countenance was changed, and I began most earnestly to consider whether it was usual for children in any kind of game to sing such words; nor could I remember ever to have heard the like. So, restraining the torrent of my tears, I rose up, interpreting it no other way than as a command to me from Heaven to open the book, and to read the first chapter I should light upon. For I had heard of Antony, that, accidentally coming in while the gospel was being read, he received the admonition as if what was read were addressed to him, Go and sell that you have, and give to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven; and come and follow me. Matthew 19:2l And by such oracle was he immediately converted unto You. So quickly I returned to the place where Alypius was sitting; for there had I put down the volume of the apostles, when I rose thence. I grasped, opened, and in silence read that paragraph on which my eyes first fell—Not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying; but put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof. Romans 13:13-14 No further would I read, nor did I need; for instantly, as the sentence ended—by a light, as it were, of security infused into my heart—all the gloom of doubt vanished away.”
The burning heart recalls the centrality of love and friendship to the theology of Augustine. This is not an intellectual attachment but a love and friendship which burns with excitement and joy.
The stylus (an ancient writing implement used to inscribe on tablets of wax) pierces the heart and the book and unites them. The love that Augustine experienced in his life was expressed in his writings.
At certain times in our history the stylus was thought to be a bishop’s crozier recalling the fact that Augustine was bishop of Hippo but it seems that this was a later medieval addition.
There are many versions of the crest. What follows here is a collection of the principal ones that have been used through the years. It is interesting to note that the friars have always been concerned to try to express their spirituality, embodied in the crest to a certain degree, in different ways that might engage with different times and places.