The Feuillants were founded by Jean de la barriÈre as the reformed branch of the Cistercians in 1577, suppressed in 1791. As regular abbot in 1577, Jean undertook the reform of the Cistercian Monastery of Les Feuillants near Toulouse, and within a decade had transformed it into a flourishing monastery. Sixtus V gave preliminary approval of the reform in 1586 and the movement spread in France and Italy. In 1592 Clement VIII approved the Feuillants (Fulienses ) as an autonomous order, exempt from Cîteaux, but on his insistence the severe regulations, which exceeded the strictness of Cistercian life, were relaxed somewhat. In 1630, two separate congregations were required, one in France that retained the name Feuillants and one in Italy known as the Reformed Bernardines. Eventually the Feuillants possessed 31 houses and the Bernardines 43. During the 18th century, vocations declined, but the monks remained faithful to their original spirit. The French Revolution suppressed all religious houses in 1791, and the vacant monastery in Paris became the headquarters of a famous revolutionary club. The Bernardines came to an end in 1802. The Feuillantines, a community for women, founded in 1587 by Barrière with the cooperation of Anne and Marguerite de Polastron, were suppressed in 1791.
Feuillant houses were governed by abbots elected for three years. Central control was in a general chapter, held every third year under the presidency of an elected abbot general. Each community consisted of choir monks, lay brothers, and oblates. Their discipline was one of the strictest in monastic history. They retained the Cistercian habit, but went about barefooted and bareheaded; their diet was restricted to bread, water, and vegetables seasoned only with salt; they slept on planks, and having neither chairs nor tables, knelt on the floor to eat. They spent their time in prayer and hard manual labor in strict silence; in time they assumed intellectual work and pastoral duties.
Bibliography: h. heimbucher, Die Orden und Kongregationen der katholischen Kirche, 2 v. (3d ed. Paderborn 1932–34) 1:374–376. b. griesser, Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche, ed. j. hofer and k. rahner, 10 v. (2d, new ed. Freiburg 1957–65) 4:113. j. m. canivez, Dictionnaire de droit canonique, ed. r. naz, 7 v. (Paris 1935–65) 5:835–836. m. b. brard, Catholicisme 4:1235–39. m. standaert, Dictionnaire de spiritualité ascétique et mystique. Doctrine et histoire, ed. m. viller et al. (Paris 1932–) 5:274–287.
[l. j. lekai]