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Popular name for a congregation of monks, Congregatio Vallisumbrosae Ordinis S. Benedicti (CVUOSB), which takes its name from Vallombrosa, a solitary forest 16 miles southeast of Florence, Italy, 3300 feet above sea level. There, from 1035 to 1050, St. john gualbert, a Benedictine monk, established a community with the intention of reviving in its integrity the benedictine rule and of supporting openly the reform movement opposed to those guilty of simony and Nicolaitanism (see celibacy, history of). Characteristic of his institute was its stress on the spirit of poverty, evidenced by the tunic and cowl of coarse grey wool, its refusal to supply officials for churches and chapels, its extensive use of conversi for labors outside the monastery, its strictness in promoting to sacred orders, and the serious formation of clerics to be sent into various dioceses. The ordeal by fire successfully undertaken by the Vallombrosan Blessed Peter Igneus at the abbey of Settimo near Florence (February 1068) won for the new institute popular sympathy and papal protection.

The Vallombrosan constitutions, desired by the founder, and called the Bond of Charity (Vinculum caritatis ), set up a congregation of monasteries, each one autonomous and governed by its abbot, who was to be elected by his community with the consent of the abbot of Vallombrosa, called the major abbot. The latter was to be elected by the abbots of the other monasteries. Annually all the abbots were to meet with true legislative power to handle all the congregation's affairs.

The abbeys numbered nine in 1073, when the founder died, 57 in 1155, and more than 80 in 1300. Each one had dependent on it hospices and churches in Tuscany, Lombardy, Emilia, Piedmont, and Sardinia. Many Vallombrosan characteristics were fully realized by the cistercians. Monasteries of nuns directly dependent on those of the monks started c. 1200.

In 1540, after suffering the evils of commendation, the Vallombrosan monks adopted the constitutions and customs, including the black garb, of the St. Justina, or Cassinese, Congregation. Thereafter abbots served three-year, rather than life terms. The superior general was no longer the abbot of Vallombrosa, but a titular abbot who remained in office four years with four definitors. All Vallombrosan houses were suppressed (1810) by the Napoleonic laws. Some were reopened in 1818. The Italian government was responsible for new expropriations in 1866 and 1870.

In Italy, the two principal Vallombrosan abbeys are at Montenero (Livorno) and at Vallombrosa (regained in 1961). The latter is also the official residence of the abbot general. Important Vallobrosan priories include S. Prassede in Rome, SS. Trinità in Florence, S. Apollinare in Classe in Ravenna, and S. M. Assunta in São Paulo, Brazil.

Among the many Vallombrosan saints and blesseds, the best known are the founder, St. Bernard of Uberti (d.1133), St. Atto (d. 1154), St. Humility (d. 1322), and Blessed Peter Igneus.

Bibliography: f. tarani, L'ordine vallombrosano (Florence 1921). m. heimbucher, Die Orden und Kongregationen der katholischen Kirche, 2 v. (3d ed. Paderborn 193234) 2:32025. g. penco, Storia del monachesimo in Italia (Rome 1961) 23037. b. quilici, Giovanni Gualberto e la sua riforma monastica (Florence 1943). d. meade, The Constitutional Development of the Monastic Congregation of Vallombrosa from 1035 to 1484 (Rome 1960). n. vasaturo, "L'espansione della Congregazione vallombrosana fino alla metà del secolo XII," Rivista di storia della Chiesa in Italia 16 (1962) 45685. r. duvernay, "Cîteaux, Vallombreuse, et Étienne Harding," Analecta Sacri Ordinis Cisterciensis 8 (1952) 379495. t. sala, Dizionario storico biografico di scrittori, letterati ed artisti dell'Ordine di Vallombrosa, 2 v. (Florence 192937).

[e. baccetti/eds.]

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