Brethren of the Cross

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During the era of the Crusades, as a reflection of European reverence for the Holy Land, the site of Christ's life, death, and Resurrection, several religious communities known as bearers of the cross or brothers of the cross (cruciferi, crucigeri ) were founded.

Order of the Holy Cross. The most renowned of these communities was the Ordo sanctae Crucis, canons regular of St. Augustine frequently referred to as the cro sier fathers. According to traditions not yet critically studied (Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche, ed. J. Hofer and K. Rahner, 6:619; Dictionnaire de spiritualité ascétique et mystique. Doctrine et histoire, ed. M. Viller et al.,2.1:2562), the founder, Theodore of Celles (11661236), had participated in Frederick Barbarossa's ill-fated cru sade. Upon returning to Europe, he received a canonry in the cathedral of St. Lambert at Liège. Choosing to live in community, he and his four original companions took vows in the presence of the bishop of Liège on the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, Sept. 14, 1211. Their first home was the church of St. Theobald at Clair-Lieu, near Huy, a gift of the bishop. Pope Innocent III gave his blessing to the community; and Pope Honorius III, his formal approbation. Peter of Walcourt, the second superior of the order, adopted in large measure the constitutions of the dominicans and secured the approval of Pope Innocent IV on May 3, 1248. During the 13th century the Crosiers spread rapidly through Belgium, Holland, France, England, and Germany. Some participated in the mission to the pagan Livonians, while others, it is said, preached the gospel to the albigenses, heretics in southern France, and established a house in Toulouse, the heart of the affected region. Joinville, the biographer of St. Louis IX of France, reports that the king gave the Crosiers a house in Paris on the "street of the Holy Cross." In 1318 Pope John XXII granted the Crosiers the privileges enjoyed by the mendicant orders. The Crosiers flourished in the 14th and 15th centuries, but they suffered greatly during the Reformation. Their houses in England and Holland were closed, and during the French Revolution they were expelled from France and Belgium. A revival commenced in the middle years of the 19th century. Today the order has three provinces, with missions in Indonesia, the Congo, and New Guinea. The master general was elected for life and since 1630 has enjoyed the privilege of using pontifical insignia. The habit consists of a white tunic and a black scapular, mantle, and hood. A cross of white and red is embroidered on the scapular.

Italian Cruciati. In Italy the former crusader Cletus of Bologna founded a community of canons regular of St. Augustine, known as cruciferi or cruciati. In 1169 Alexander III gave his approval. In 1591 they received the privileges of the mendicant orders. At its greatest extent the congregation had five provinces, viz, Bologna, Venice, Rome, Milan, and Naples, with 200 houses. Pope Alexander VII suppressed the congregation in 1656.

Portuguese Canons Regular of the Holy Cross of Coimbra. In Portugal, Tello, the archdeacon of the cathedral of Coimbra, founded the canons regular of the Holy Cross in 1131. Four years later Pope Innocent II confirmed them, and they soon spread through Portugal and Spain. The prior of Coimbra was also chancellor of the university of coimbra. The canons played an important role in the spiritual and political life of Portugal throughout the 16th century, but in 1833 the congregation was suppressed.

Bohemian Military Order of the Cross with a Red Star. In Bohemia the Ordo militaris crucigerorum cum rubea stella, or Knights of the Cross with the Red Star, was devoted principally to the care of the sick, though it also claimed to be a military order. In 1233 Princess Agnes of Bohemia gave the brethren the church of St. Peter and the hospital of St. Francis in Prague. Pope Gregory IX in 1237 approved the congregation under the rule of St. augustine. In 1250 the papacy allowed the brothers to wear a red cross with a six-pointed red star. From their house in Breslau in Silesia the brothers established numerous hospitals. They especially distinguished themselves during the Hussite Wars and the Reformation. In the course of the Thirty Years' War the brothers fought against the Protestants, thus justifying their claim to be a military order. A general reform of the order was effected during the late 17th century. Although in 1810 the Prussian government suppressed the house in Silesia, the order still exists in the Czech Republic, with headquarters in Prague.

Order of the Holy Cross with the Red Heart. A military order organized in 1250 with its headquarters at Cracow developed especially in the 16th century. It spread into Poland, Lithuania, and Bohemia, continuing in Lithuania into the first half of the 19th century.

Bibliography: c. r. hermans, Annales canonicorum regularium s. Augustini ordinis s. Crucis, 3 v. ('s Hertogenbosch 1858). r. haass, Die Kreuzherren in den Rheinlanden (Bonn 1932). f. jacksche, Geschichte des ritterl. Ordens mit dem roten Stern (Prague 1904). a. van de pasch, Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche, ed. j. hofer and k. rahner, 10 v. (2d, new ed. Freiburg 195765) 6:619621. p. a. ceyssens, Dictionnaire de droit canonique, ed. r. naz, 7 v. (Paris 193565) 4:799814. m. vinken, Dictionnaire de spiritualité ascétique et mystique. Doctrine et histoire, ed. m. viller et al. (Paris 1932) 2.2:256176; Dictionnaire d'histoire et de géographie ecclésiastiques, ed. a. baudrillart et al. (Paris 1912) 13:104262.

[j. f. o'callaghan]