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A branch of the benedictines, called also Hermits of St. Damian or Hermits of Morrone. They were founded by the hermit Peter of Morrone, later Pope Celestine V. Peter became a Benedictine monk at Faifoli (Benevento diocese) in 1235 and spent the next years in seclusion on Monte Morrone. His asceticism attracted several companions; and though originally the group followed no set religious practice after their approval by Urban IV in 1264, they adopted the benedictine rule. The Hermits, who were noted for the severity of their way of life (e.g., perpetual abstinence), were approved again by Gregory X in 1274 and by Peter, once he became pope. From 1240 to 1243 Peter and his companions were temporarily at Monte Maiella, but after a short period they returned to their original site. All Celestine priories were subject to visitation by the abbot of the monastery of the Holy Ghost on Monte Morrone at Sulmona, Italy. The abbot general was elected for a three-year term by the annual general chapter. As pope, Peter ordered that lay brothers be admitted into the congregation. The Celestines, who

Manuscript illustration depicting Pope Celestine V dedicating his life to Cardinal Stefaneschi, 14th century.

numbered 150 monasteries on the Continent at their height in the early 15th century, weathered the Reformation and the Wars of Religion, but became extinct in the late 18th century because of a decline in membership and a general hostility on the part of society toward monasticism. The choir dress was black, and the working habit was a white tunic with black scapular and hood. The lay brothers wore a brown habit. The symbol of the order was a cross entwined with the letter "S" sewn on the scapular.

The name Celestines was given also to some of the radical Franciscan spirituals. This group derived their name from the fact that Celestine V placed them under his special protection, but they were distinct from the Benedictine Celestines. In 1294 Pietro da Macerata and several companions approached the pope and asked permission to live as monks under the rule of St. Francis, but directly under papal authority rather than under the superior of the Franciscans. This new group was called the Poor Hermits of the Lord Celestine and, after papal jurisdiction, were subject to their leader, Macerata, who changed his name to Liberato. Their official protector was Cardinal Nicholas Orsini, and their houses were obtained from the Benedictine Celestines. When Celestine resigned in 1294, his successor, Boniface VIII, revoked the privileges of these Franciscan Celestines. His action caused several of them to move to the island of Trixoma in the Gulf of Corinth and later to Thessaly. In 1303 they returned to Rome in an unsuccessful attempt to have their rights restored. The remaining members gathered at Narbonne (the Franciscans of Narbonne) in 1308 to live a strict, cloistered life.

See Also: celestine v.

Bibliography: a. frugoni, Celestiniana (Rome 1991). d. douie, The Nature and the Effect of the Heresy of the Fraticelli (New York 1978).

[c. l. hohl, jr.]

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