1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Camaldulians

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CAMALDULIANS, or Camaldolese, a religious order founded by St Romuald. Born of a noble family at Ravenna c. 950, he retired at the age of twenty to the Benedictine monastery of S. Apollinare in Classe; but being strongly drawn to the eremitical life, he went to live with a hermit in the neighbourhood of Venice and then again near Ravenna. Here a colony of hermits grew up around him and he became the superior. As soon as they were established in their manner of life, Romuald moved to another district and there formed a second settlement of hermits, only to proceed in the same way to the establishment of other colonies of hermits or “deserts” as they were called. In this way during the course of his life Romuald formed a great number of “deserts” throughout central Italy. His chief foundation was at Camaldoli on the heights of the Tuscan Apennines not far from Arezzo, in a vale snow-covered during half the year. Romuald’s idea was to reintroduce into the West the primitive eremitical form of monachism, as practised by the first Egyptian and Syrian monks. His monks dwelt in separate huts around the oratory, and came together only for divine service and on certain days for meals. The life was one of extreme rigour in regard to food, clothing, silence and general observance. Besides the hermits there were lay brothers to help in carrying out the field work and rougher occupations. St Romuald and the early Camaldolese exercised considerable influence on the religious movements of their time; the emperors Otto III. and Henry II. esteemed him highly and sought his advice on religious questions. Disciples of St Romuald went on missions to the still heathen parts of Russia, Poland and Prussia, where some of them suffered martyrdom. In his extreme old age St Romuald with twenty-five of his monks started on a missionary expedition to Hungary, but he was unable to accomplish the journey. He died in 1027. After his death mitigations were gradually introduced into the rule and manner of life; and in the monastery of St Michael in Murano, Venice, the life became cenobitical. From that time to the present day there have always been both eremitical and cenobitical Camaldolese, the latter approximating to ordinary Benedictine life. The Camaldolese spread all over Italy, and into Germany, Poland and France. Camaldoli itself exists as a “desert,” the primitive observance of the institute being strictly maintained. There are a few other “deserts,” all in Italy, except one in Poland; and there are about 90 hermits. The chief monastery of the cenobitical Camaldolese is S. Gregorio on the Caelian Hill in Rome; they number less than forty. Since the 11th century there have been Camaldolese nuns; at present there are five nunneries with 150 nuns, all belonging to the cenobitical branch of the order. The habit of the Camaldulians is white.

See Helyot, Hist. des ordres religieux (1792) v. cc. 21-25; Max Heimbucher, Orden und Kongregationen (1896) i. § 29; and the art. “Camaldulenser” in Wetzer and Welte, Kirchenlexikon (2nd ed.), and Herzog, Realencyklopädie (3rd ed.).  (E. C. B.)