Origin and Development. The conquest of the Holy Land by the crusaders (1099) brought to the Kingdom of Jerusalem, besides Latin religious orders, numbers of hermits who flourished in the West. During the 12th century, these settled especially in the sites traditionally associated with the life of the Savior: the Jordan Valley, Mount Quarantena, the flatlands in Galilee near the mount of the multiplication of loaves and fishes, the valley of Kedron beside Jerusalem, and even the walls of the city itself. The disastrous Battle of Hattin (1187) destroyed the military forces of the Latins, who were driven back to a strip of coastland, eventually extending from Tyre to Jaffa. Latin clergy and religious took refuge in Acre, which the Third Crusade restored to Latin hands (1191). The only site suitable for the eremitical life left in the Holy Land was Mount Carmel, and in the 13th century pilgrim accounts and chronicles begin to mention Latin hermits at the fountain of Elijah in the wadi 'ain essiah, a narrow valley opening into the sea on the western flank of Mount Carmel at the Bay of Haifa. These hermits were no doubt, partially at least, refugees from the other eremitical sites in Palestine. They received a rule, or formula vitae, from Albert, patriarch of Jerusalem, during the years he lived in the Holy Land, 1206–14. The date of origin of the order, long the subject of acrimonious debate, can thus be determined with relative accuracy as occurring 1192–1214.
The rule of St. Albert, a medieval rule that has been little noticed by historians, shows the Carmelites leading an eremitical life and practicing perpetual abstinence, fasts, and silence. In the midst of the cells stood an oratory where the religious assisted at daily Mass "when this can conveniently be done." Those who could read recited the psalms that "the institutions of the holy fathers and the approved custom of the Church assigned to each hour."
The hermits dwelling on Mount Carmel had a particularly keen sense of the continuity of monasticism with the way of life of Elijah and of others of the Old Testament. The statement prefixed to the constitutions of 1281 may be taken to reflect the viewpoint of the primitive Carmelites: "From the time when the prophets Elias and Eliseus dwelt devoutly on Mount Carmel, holy fathers both of the old and new testament … lived praiseworthy lives in holy penitence by the fountain of Elias in a holy succession uninterruptedly maintained" (AnalOCarm XV, 208).
Mount Carmel, however, did not prove as safe a haven as expected, and the hermits began drifting back to the West in search of asylum. In 1238 some migrated to Frontaine (site unknown) on Cyprus, Messina, Marseilles, and Aylesford and Hulne in England. In Palestine they established sites in the suburb of Acre and ultimately in Tyre.
The Carmelites brought with them from the Holy Land their own liturgical rite, a form of the rite of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. It received definitive form in the Ordinal of Sibert de Beka (c. 1312). The Carmelite rite was abandoned and the Roman rite adopted in 1972.
Many of the new foundations were no longer located in remote places, the proper habitat of hermits, and the Carmelites felt obliged to request the Holy See to be allowed also to settle in populated areas. Permission to this effect was granted by Pope Innocent IV by his letter, Quae honorem, Oct. 1, 1247. By this document, also, the formula vitae of St. Albert became a canonical rule.
The Carmelites gradually moved into the cities and began to engage in the apostolate after the manner of the mendicant orders. They managed to survive the Second Council of Lyons (1274), which abolished all mendicant orders, except the Franciscans and Dominicans, but granted provisional approval to the Carmelites and Augustinians. Later (1298), Boniface VIII extended unconditional approval to the latter two. In 1326 John XXII extended the Super cathedram of Boniface VIII to the Carmelites, thereby making them partakers of all the privileges and exemptions of the Franciscans and Dominicans. This act completed the gradual process by which the Carmelites became mendicants. Their original striped mantle was replaced by a white one in 1287.
Carmelite life in Palestine was totally extinguished with the fall of Acre and the other Latin strongholds in 1291, but the province of the Holy Land, reduced to the houses on Cyprus, continued to exist until 1570, when the Turks took the island. The Discalced Carmelites returned to Mount Carmel in the 17th century and are there today. Excavations begun in 1958 uncovered the foundations of the monastery and chapel near the fountain of Elijah.
By the end of the 13th century the order numbered over 150 houses, divided into 12 provinces scattered through Cyprus, Sicily, England, Scotland, Ireland, France, Italy, Germany, and Spain. During the 14th century the number of houses doubled, and the provinces reached a total of 21. In the 15th century the order under-went a final phase of expansion in Scandinavia, Eastern Europe, and Portugal.
Medieval Growth and Decline. The entry of the Carmelites into the ranks of the mendicants brought with it the need for learning. The constitutions of 1281 established a studium generale at Paris, but only in 1309 did the Carmelites move from a site on the way to Charenton (outside Paris) to the left bank of the Seine to a house provided by philip (iv) the Fair in the Place Maubert. By 1294 houses for philosophy were established in Toulouse, Montpellier, London, and Cologne. By 1324 the studia generalia included also Bologna, Florence, and Avignon. Oxford and Cambridge, though never officially designated studia generalia, were highly regarded, and
drew students from overseas. The Carmelites arrived too late in the scholastic period to establish a distinct school. Noteworthy Carmelite scholastics were: Gerard of Bologna (d. 1317); Guy Terrena of Perpignan (d. 1342); john baconthorp; Michele aiguani; and Thomas netter of Walden, author of the Doctrinale antiquitatum fidei Catholicae against the Lollards.
The original oratory on Mount Carmel had been dedicated to the Blessed Virgin, and the Carmelites made their vows to God and Our Lady. In Europe, Carmelite devotion to Mary underwent rapid development and became characteristic of the order. Everywhere the Carmelites dedicated their new churches to the Blessed Virgin and established Marian confraternities. The Marian title of the order was often defended in the early writings of the Carmelites; the constitutions of 1294 declared that the order was to be identified by the name of the Blessed Virgin. In the course of time, Marian devotion was especially promoted through the brown scapular of Our Lady of Mount Carmel.
During the Western Schism (1378–1417) the Carmelites, like other religious orders, followed pope and antipope according to regional loyalty. The general of the time, Bernard Oller, a native of Minorca and residing with his curia in Avignon, followed Clement VII. The Urbanist
portion of the order elected Michele Aiguani of Bologna in 1381. Both groups abided by the Council of Pisa (1409) and adhered to Alexander V and John XXII. In 1411 the order was unified under one general, John Grossi.
In 1432 the rule underwent a second mitigation that authorized the use of meat three days a week and walking in the cloisters at suitable times. The regulations for fast and abstinence were later modified still further. Today the prior general has full powers in this matter.
By the 15th century religious observance had considerably declined. Reaction to abuses produced movements of reform, Observantine groups, typical of the times. Some time before 1413 the reform of Mantua arose in northern Italy. In the Rhineland and in the Low Countries reforms originated in the convents of Mörs (1441) and Enghien (c. 1447). These movements achieved official status with the election of Bl. John soreth, who issued new constitutions in 1462, eliminating the more serious abuses. In addition, his reform prescribed the renunciation of temporal goods and privileges, observance of the common life, curtailment of outside activity, and exclusion of seculars from the monastery. The reform of Soreth was effective especially in Germany, the Low Countries, and northern France.
Another pre-Tridentine reform was inaugurated in Albi by the reforming Bishop Louis d'Amboise in 1499. Under the leadership of Louis de Lire (d. c. 1522) it spread to the convents of Rouen and Melun and to the studia generalia of Paris and Toulouse. In Italy the reformed convent of Monte Oliveto, founded at Multedo (Pegli) near Genoa in 1514, followed the rule of 1247.
During the Renaissance the order produced a number of noteworthy humanists, including the Florentine painter Fra Filippo Lippi; John Crastone (fl. 1475), author of an early Greek lexicon and psalter; and Bl. baptist of mantua, whose many poems appeared in more than 500 editions.
The Protestant Reformation wiped out the provinces of Saxony, Denmark, England, Scotland, and Ireland. The remaining provinces of Germany, the Low Countries, and France suffered much from the wars of religion. Outstanding in the defense of the Catholic faith were Povl helgesen, in Denmark; Eberhard billick, in the Archdiocese of Cologne; and Andreas Stoss (d. 1540), son of Veit Stoss, the sculptor, in the Diocese of Bamberg (Germany). At the head of the order in those parlous times was Nicholas Audet, prior general from 1524 to 1562. Besides his labors in doctrine and discipline at the Council of Trent, Audet carried on the reform of the order, neglected since the death of Soreth. In 1524 he published newly revised constitutions.
The Reforms of the Counter Reformation. Giovanni Battista Rossi (1507–88), better known by the Spanish form of his name, Rubeo, carried on the reform of the order in the spirit of Trent. In the quickened atmosphere of the Counter Reformation, with its strongly mystical bent, the order hearkened back to its eremitical origins. St. Teresa of Ávila, during her lifetime, founded convents where the cloistered contemplative life was led, and with the help of St. John of the Cross, inaugurated a reform among the friars. The reform group became involved in a conflict with the order over jurisdictional rights, and was censured by the general chapter of 1575. Eventually peace was restored, and in 1593 the discalced friars became a separate order (see carmelites, discalced).
In France, during the 17th-century spiritual revival, a movement emphasizing the contemplative ideal began in the convent of Rennes in the province of Touraine. Under the leadership of Philippe Thibault (1572–1638) it spread throughout the province and all of France, the Low Countries, and Germany. In Italy several independent movements arose: in northern Italy, the reform of Piedmont; in Naples, the reform of Santa Maria della Vita; in Sicily, the reforms of Santa Maria della Scala del Paradiso and of Monte Santo, trends that spread also to the Papal States. Reformed convents and provinces sprang up in Poland, Brazil, Portugal, and Spain. The general chapter of 1645 amalgamated all these convents under one discipline, called the Stricter Observance, to be ruled by uniform constitutions. These constitutions (1650), basically those of Touraine, emphasized the contemplative character of Carmelite life.
The renewed religious fervor gave the order new vitality. Old convents were repopulated and restored, and many new foundations were made, among them a number of hermitages. A flourishing spiritual literature was developed by such writers as john of saint-samson, Michael of St. Augustine, mark of the nativity, Maur of the Child Jesus, and Michael de la fuente. In the other theological sciences a number of summae and compendia were produced. An attempt to make John Baconthorp's doctrine the official teaching of the order met with little success.
Interest in the origins of the Carmelites produced an abundant historical literature, not always of a critical nature. Juan Bautista de lezana wrote the official history of the order, Annales (4 v. Rome 1645–56). Daniel of the Virgin Mary edited early texts in his Speculum Carmelitanum (4 v. Antwerp 1680). The appearance of the Acta Sanctorum, which called into question the Carmelite claim that the prophet Elijah had founded the order, was the signal for a violent debate with the bollandists. In 1698 Innocent XII imposed silence on both parties.
Carmelite devotion to Mary found expression in numerous works by authors, such as Lezana, Matthias of St. John, Daniel of the Virgin Mary, and Andrea Mastelloni. It was principally through popular devotional works and sermons that the order spread devotion to the Blessed Virgin. The brown scapular of Our Lady of Mount Carmel became one of the most widespread Marian devotions in the Church. In Michael of St. Augustine and the Carmelite tertiary Mary of St. Theresa Petijt, Marian devotion achieved mystical proportions.
In the period after Trent the missionary activity of the order took definite form. Although individual Carmelites labored in Spanish America (for example, Antonio vÁzquez de espinosa), the organizing of work there was rendered impossible by the restrictions of Philip II and his successors. The province of Portugal founded a mission in Brazil (1580) from which the provinces of Bahia, Pernambuco, Rio de Janeiro, and Maranhão-Para developed. The province of Touraine founded a mission in the West Indies in 1646 that lasted until the French Revolution.
Destruction and Renewal. As in the case of other orders, the century between 1770 and 1870 was disastrous for the Carmelites. During the earlier part of this period absolutist governments suppressed convents and interfered in the internal government of the order. In 1766 the provinces of France were organized into a national order; in 1804 a similar arrangement was decreed in Spain. The French Revolution swept away the provinces in France and Belgium, while the Napoleonic hegemony led to suppression in Germany, Italy, and Spain. After 1815 absolutist and liberal governments alike continued the war on religious orders. The general chapter of the Carmelite order in 1788, on the eve of the French Revolution, was the last to be held for half a century. During the 19th century only four general chapters were convened, whereas these are normally held every six years.
With the relaxation of oppressive laws, the revival of the order became possible. In 1889 the province of Spain was erected. In Italy by 1909 the remnants of the order had been gathered into the provinces of Tuscany, Rome, Naples, and the commissariate of Sicily. In 1879 Straubing (Bavaria) was added to Boxmeer and Zenderen in Holland to make the province of Germany and the Netherlands. From Straubing in 1864, the American province of the Most Pure Heart of Mary was founded. The province of Ireland had been reestablished as early as 1738 and in 1840 numbered seven houses. Ireland originated provinces in Australia (1881) and New York (St. Elias, 1889). Spanish and Dutch friars helped revive the Brazilian provinces of Rio de Janeiro and Pernambuco early in this century. In 1900 the International College of St. Albert was opened in Rome. In 1904 the prior General, Pius Mayer, issued new uniform constitutions, uniting the whole order under one observance. He also ordered the publication of a ritual (1903) and ceremonial (1906) of the Carmelite rite. In 1909 he inaugurated the journal for scientific studies, Analecta Ordinis Carmelitarum. His successor, Elias Magennis, published constitutions in 1930, which governed the order until the Second Vatican Council. The most recent constitutions are those of 1995.
Present Status. The order consists of 19 provinces, two commissariates general, and three delegations, situated in Italy, Malta, Spain, Portugal, France, Germany, Austria, Poland, the Czech Republic, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Brazil, Peru, Venezuela, Colombia, Bolivia, Zimbabwe, Australia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Puerto Rico, Mexico, and the United States. The order numbers 2,019 members (1999).
The order is governed by a prior general and his council, consisting of a procurator general and four assistants general. The general chapter, held every six years and attended by the priors provincial and commissaries general and their socii, elect the general and his council and enact general laws. Between general chapters, Councils of Provinces and General Congregations are held. Within each nation the order is divided into provinces, each governed by a prior provincial and four definitors. Commissariates general are jurisdictions preliminary to becoming provinces. Individual houses or convents are governed by a local prior and his council. Priors and provincials are elected every three years at the provincial chapter for a maximum of two terms. The prior general and his council reside in Rome, via Sforza Pallavicini, 10, 00193, Rome.
The studium generale of the order, the International Center of St. Albert in Rome, houses graduate students from all the provinces for the priesthood. The Institute for Carmelite Studies, founded in 1951, publishes the review, Carmelus, as well as monographs on Carmelite spirituality, Mariology, and history.
The Carmelite order proposes to its members a life of contemplation, community, and apostolate. The habit consists of a brown woolen tunic with leather belt, scapular, and hood. On certain occasions a white mantle is worn.
Lay Carmelites (Third Order Secular). The female branches of the Carmelite second and third orders are treated elsewhere (see carmelite sisters). In addition, men and women living in the world have adopted the Carmelite spiritual ideal by following the rule in accordance with their state in life. For the benefit of such persons the Carmelite Third Order was created by the bull Dum attenta of Sixtus IV (1476). The taking of vows by Carmelite tertiaries is optional. There is also a Carmelite secular institute, the Leaven, which has its headquarters at Chislehurst, Kent, in England.
Bibliography: j. smet, The Carmelites, 4 v. in 5 (Darien, Ill. 1976–88). a. staring, Medieval Carmelite Heritage (Rome 1989). c. cicconetti, La regola del Carmelo (Rome 1976). v. mosca, Alberto, patriarcha di Gerusalemme (Rome 1996). b. m. xiberta y roqueta, De scriptoribus scholasticis saeculi XIV ex ordine Carmelitarum (Louvain 1931). t. brandsma, Carmelite Mysticism: Historical Sketches (Englewood Cliffs, N.J. 1936). k. healy, Methods of Prayer in the Directory of the Carmelite Reform of Touraine (Rome 1956). v. hoppenbrouwers, Devotio mariana in Ordine Fratrum B.M.V. de Monte Carmelo, saec. XVI–XIX (Rome 1960). e. m. esteve, De valore spirituali devotionis s. scapularis (Rome 1953). Ordinaire de l'Ordre de Notre Dame du Mont-Carmel par Sibert de Beka (vers 1312), ed. b. zimmerman (Paris 1910). p. kallenberg, Fontes liturgicae Carmelitanae (Rome 1962). a. m. forcadell, "Ritus Carmelitarum Antiquae Observantiae," Ephemerides liturgicae, 64 (1950) 5–52. t. m. navarro, Tertii carmelitici saecularis Ordinis historico-iuridica evolutio (Rome 1960). Bullarium carmelitanum, ed. e. monsignano and j. a. ximenez, 4 v. (Rome 1715–68). j. battista lezana, Annales sacri, prophetici, et Eliani Ordinis Beatissimae Virginis Mariae de Monte Carmelo, 4 v. (Rome 1645–56). daniel a virgine maria, Specilum carmelitanum, 4 pts. in 2 v. (Antwerp 1680). c. de villiers, Bibliotheca carmelitana, ed. g. wessels, 2 v. in 1 (Rome 1927). Analecta Ordinis Carmelitarum Calceatorum (Rome 1901). Analecta Ordinis Carmelitarum Discalceatorum (Rome 1926). Carmelus: Commentarii ab Instituto Carmelitano editi.
Car·mel·ite / ˈkärməˌlīt/ • n. a friar or nun of a contemplative Catholic order founded at Mount Carmel during the Crusades. • adj. of or relating to the Carmelites.