§ 66. The Augustinians, Carthusians, Carmelites, and other Orders.
Among the greater orders which came into existence before 1200 are the Augustinians, the Premonstrants, the Carthusians, and the Carmelites.
1. The Augustinians were a distinct family from the Benedictines, followed the so-called rule of St. Augustine, and were divided into the canons regular of St. Augustine and the mendicant friars of St. Augustine.
The bodies of canons regular were numerous, but their organization was not compact like that of the stricter monastic orders.683 They were originally communities of secular clerics, and not conventual associations. They occupied a position between the strict monastic existence and an independent clerical life. Their origin can be assigned to no exact date. As early as the eleventh century a rule, ascribed to St. Augustine, appeared in several forms. It was professed by the clerical groups forming the cathedral chapters, and by bodies of priests associated with other churches of prominence.684 The various church services, as, for example, the service of song, and the enforced rule of celibacy, encouraged or demanded a plurality of clergymen for a church.
Moved by the strong impulse in the direction of conventual communities, these groups inclined to the communal life and sought some common rule of discipline. For it they looked back to Augustine of Hippo, and took his household as their model. We know that Augustine had living with him a group of clerics. We also know that he commended his sister for associating herself with other women and withdrawing from the world, and gave her some advice. But so far as is known Augustine prescribed no definite code such as Benedict afterwards drew up, either for his own household or for any other community.
About 750 Chrodegang, bishop of Metz, drew up a code for his cathedral chapter, whom he enjoined to live together in common,685 and here and there in Germany isolated communities of this kind were formed.
In the twelfth century we find many groups of clerics who adopted what began to be known as the rule of St. Augustine.686 Under Innocent III. organizations were formed by William Langlois of the Paris University, and others under the name canons regular to live distinctly under this code. Innocent IV.687 and Alexander IV., 1256, definitely recognized the rule.
The Augustinian rule established a community of goods. Even gifts went into the common fund. The clerics ate together and slept in one dormitory. They wore a common dress, and no one on returning his suit to the clothing room retained any peculiar right to it. The papal attempts to unite these groups into a close organization proved to be in vain.688 In England the Augustinian canons had charge of Carlisle cathedral.
The Augustinian hermits, or Austin friars, as they were called in England, were monastics in the true sense. They arose after the canons regular,689 adopted the rule of St. Augustine, and were mendicants. In the closing period of the Middle Ages they were addicted to preaching. To this order John of Staupitz and Luther belonged.690
The rule of St. Augustine was also adopted with modification by the Premonstrants, the Gilbertines of England,691 and other orders, and was made the basis by Dominic of his first rule.
2. The Premonstrants adopted the Augustinian rule, were called from their dress White Canons, and grew with great rapidity.692 They had houses from Livland to Palestine, and from Great Britain to Spain. Their founder, Norbert, born about 1080 in Xantes, on the Lower Rhine, was a great preacher and one of the most influential men of his age. Thrown from his horse during a storm, he determined to devote himself in earnest to religion. He gave up his position in the Cologne Cathedral and entered the Benedictine Convent of Sigeberg. Norbert then travelled about in Germany and France as a preacher of repentance,693 calling the people together by a sheep’s bell. With others like-minded with himself he settled, 1119, in the woods at Coucy, near Laon, France, giving the spot the name of Praemonstratum, or Prémontré, the designated field,694 with reference to his having been directed to it by a higher power. The order secured papal sanction 1126, and received, like other orders, special papal privileges. Innocent III. bespoke the special intercession of the Premonstrants as he did that of the Cistercians. The first rule forbade meat and eggs, cheese and milk. As in the case of the Cistercians, their meals were limited to two dishes. At a later date the rule against meat was modified. Lay brethren were introduced and expected to do the work of the kitchen and other manual services. The theological instruction was confined to a few prayers, and the members were not allowed to read books.695
Norbert in 1126 was made archbishop of Magdeburg and welcomed the opportunity to introduce the order in Northeastern Germany. He joined Bernard in supporting Innocent II. against the antipope Anacletus II. He died 1134, at Magdeburg, and was canonized in 1582. Peter the Venerable and Bernard of Clairvaux praised the order and Norbert himself as a man who stood near to God.696 Miracles were ascribed to him, but Abaelard ridiculed the claim.
The almost incredible number of one thousand houses is claimed for this order in its flourishing period. There was also an order of Premonstrant nuns, which is said to have numbered ten thousand women during Norbert’s lifetime.697 Their earliest settlement in England was at Newhouse, Lincolnshire, 1143. Norbert and Bruno, the Carthusian, were the only Germans who established monastic orders in this period.698
3. More original and strict were the Carthusians,699 who got their name from the seat of their first convent, Chartreuse, Cartusium, fourteen miles from Grenoble, southeast of Lyons. They were hermits, and practised an asceticism excelling in severity any of the other orders of the time.700 The founder, St. Bruno, was born in Cologne, and became chancellor of the cathedral of Rheims. Disgusted with the vanities of the world,701 he retired with some of his pupils to a solitary place, Saisse Fontaine, in the diocese of Langres, which he subsequently exchanged for Chartreuse.702 The location was a wild spot in the mountains, difficult of access, and for a large part of the year buried in snow. Bruno was called by Urban II. to Rome, and after acting as papal adviser, retired to the Calabrian Mountains and established a house. There he died, 1101. He was canonized 1514. In 1151 the number of Carthusian houses was fourteen, and they gradually increased to one hundred and sixty-eight. The order was formally recognized by Alexander III., 1170.
The first Carthusian statutes were committed to writing by the fifth prior Guigo, d. 1137. The rule now in force was fixed in 1578, and reconfirmed by Innocent XI., 1682.703 The monks lived in cells around a central church, at first two and two, and then singly.704 They divided their time between prayer, silence, and work, which originally consisted chiefly in copying books. The services celebrated in common in the church were confined to vespers and matins. The other devotions were performed by each in seclusion. The prayers were made in a whisper so as to avoid interfering with others. They sought to imitate the Thebaid anchorites in rigid self-mortification. Peter the Venerable has left a description of their severe austerities. Their dress was thin and coarse above the dress of all other monks.705 Meat, fat, and oil were forbidden; wine allowed, but diluted with water. They ate only bean-bread. They flagellated themselves once each day during the fifty days before Easter, and the thirty days before Christmas. When one of their number died, each of the survivors said two psalms, and the whole community met and took two meals together to console one another for the loss.706 No woman was allowed to cross the threshold. For hygienic purposes, the monks bled themselves five times a year, and were shaved six times a year.707 They avoided adornment in their churches and church dignities.708 They borrowed books from Cluny and other convents for the purpose of copying them.709 The heads of the Carthusian convents are called priors, not abbots. In its earlier history the order received highest praise from Innocent III. and Peter the Venerable, Bernard, and Peter of Celle. Bernard shrank from interrupting their holy quiet by letters, and lauded their devotion to God. So at a later time Petrarch, after a visit to their convent in Paris, penned a panegyric of the order.
In England the Carthusians were not popular.710 They never had more than eleven houses. The first establishment was founded by Henry II., at Witham, 1180. The famous Charterhouse in London (a corruption of the French Chartreuse), founded in 1371, was turned into a public school, 1611. In Italy the more elaborate houses of the order were the Certosa di San Casciano near Florence, the Certosa at Pisa, and the Certosa Maria degli Angeli in Rome.711
In recent times the monks of the Chartreuse became famous for the Chartreuse liqueur which they distilled. In its preparation the young buds of pine trees were used.
4. The Carmelites, or the Order of the Blessed Mary the Virgin of Mt. Carmel, had their origin during the Crusades, 1156.712 The legend carries their origin back to Elijah, whose first disciples were Jonah, Micah, and Obadiah. Obadiah’s wife became the first abbess of the female community. Their history has been marked by much division within the order and bitter controversies with other orders.
Our first trustworthy notice is derived from Phocas, a Greek monk, who visited Mt. Carmel in 1185. Berthold of Calabria, a Crusader, made a vow under the walls of Antioch that in case the Christians were victorious over Zenki, he would devote himself to the monastic life. The prayer was answered, and Berthold with ten companions established himself on Mt. Carmel.713 The origin of the order became the subject of a violent dispute between the Carmelites and the Jesuits. The Jesuit Papebroch precipitated it in 1668 by declaring that Berthold was the founder. He was answered by the Carmelite Daniel714 and others who carried the origin back to Elijah. Appeal was made to Innocent XII., who, in 1698, in the bull redemptoris, commanded the two orders to maintain silence till the papal chair should render a decision. This has not yet been done.715
The community received its rule about 1208 from Albert, afterwards patriarch of Constantinople. It was confirmed by Honorius III., 1226. Its original sixteen articles gave the usual regulations against eating meat, enjoined daily silence, from vespers to tierce (6 P. M. to 9 A. M.), and provided that the monks live the hermit’s life in cells like the Carthusians. The dress was at first a striped garment, white and black, which was afterwards changed for brown.
With the Christian losses in Palestine, the Carmelites began to migrate westwards. In 1238 they were in Cyprus, and before the middle of the thirteenth century they were settled in far Western Europe. The first English house was at Alnwick, and a general chapter was held at Aylesford, 1246.
From the general of the order, Simon Stock, an Englishman (1245–65), dates the veneration of the scapulary,716 a jacket which he received from the Virgin Mary. It exempts, so the story runs, those who die with it on, from the fires of purgatory. Mary promised to go down to purgatory every Saturday, and release those who have worn it. The story is included in the Breviary,717 and was pronounced true and to be believed by all, by Benedict XIV. In 1322 John XXII., in obedience to a vision, issued the famous bull Sabbatina, which promised to all entering the order, deliverance from purgatory by Mary, the first Saturday after their decease.718
After the success of the Franciscans and Dominicans, the Carmelites, with the sanction of Innocent IV., adopted the practice of mendicancy, 1245, and the coenobite life was substituted for life in solitary cells. The rules concerning clothing and food were relaxed to meet the climatic conditions of Europe.
A division took place in the order in 1378. The wing, holding to the stricter rule as confirmed by Innocent IV., is known as the Carmelites of the Ancient Observance. Both wings have their respective generals. The Carmelite name most famous in the annals of piety is that of St. Theresa, the Spanish saint who joined herself to the Carmelites, 1533. She aided in founding seventeen convents for women and fourteen for monks. This new branch, the Barefoot Carmelites, spread to different parts of Europe, Mt. Carmel, Africa, Mexico, and other countries. The monks wear leathern sandals, and the nuns a light shoe.719
Of the other numerous monastic orders, the following may be mentioned. The Antonites, or Brothers of the Hospital of St. Antonius720 are named after the Egyptian hermit, St. Anthony. The founder, Gaston, prayed to St. Anthony for the deliverance of his son from a disease, then widely prevalent, and called St. Anthony’s fire, morbus sacer. The prayer was answered, and the father and his son devoted themselves to a religious life. The order was sanctioned by Urban II., 1095, and was intended to care for the sick and poor. In 1118 it received from Calixtus II. the church of St. Didier de Mothe, containing St. Anthony’s bones. In 1218 Honorius III. gave the members permission to take monastic vows, and in 1296 Boniface VIII. imposed on them the Augustinian rule. They had houses in France, Germany, Hungary, and Italy. It used to be the custom on St. Anthony’s day to lead horses and cattle in front of their convent in Rome to receive a form of blessing. 721
The Trinitarians, ordo sanctissima Trinitatis de redemptione captivorum, had for their mission the redemption of Christian captives out of the hands of the Saracens and Moors. Their founder was John of Matha (1160–1213). The order was also called the ordo asinorum, Order of the Asses, from the fact that its members rode on asses and never on horseback.722The order of Font Evraud (Fontis Ebraldi in Poitiers) had the peculiarity that monks and nuns were conjoined in associated cloisters, and that the monks were under the supervision of an abbess. The abbess was regarded as the representative of the Virgin Mary, and the arrangement as in conformity with the word of Christ, placing John under the care of Mary. A church built between the male and female cloisters was used in common. The order was founded by Robert d’ Abrissel (d. 1117), whom Urban II. heard preach, and commissioned as a preacher, 1096. Robert was born in Brittany, and founded, 1095, a convent at Craon. He was a preacher of great popular power. The nuns devoted themselves especially to the reclamation of fallen women.723 A special rule forbade the nuns to care for their hair, and another rule commanded them to shave their heads three times a year.724
The Order of Grammont, founded by Stephen of Auvergne, deserves mention for the high rank it once held in France. It enjoyed the special patronage of Louis VII. and other French sovereigns, and had sixty houses in France. It was an order of hermits. Arrested while on a pilgrimage, by sickness, Stephen was led by the example of the hermits of Calabria to devote himself to the hermit life. These monks went as far in denying themselves the necessities of life as it is possible to do and yet survive,725 but monks and nuns became notorious for licentiousness and prostitution.726
The Brothers of the Sack727 wore a dress of rough material cut in the shape of a bag. They had convents in different countries, including England, where they continued to have houses till the suppression of the monasteries. They abstained entirely from meat, and drunk only water. The Franciscans derisively called them Bushmen (Boscarioli). They were indefatigable beggars. The Franciscan chronicler, Salimbene,728 is sure Gregory X. was divinely inspired in abolishing the order, for "Christian folk were wearied and burdened with the multitude of beggars."