1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/La Salle, St Jean Baptiste de

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LA SALLE, ST JEAN BAPTISTE DE (1651–1719), founder of the order of Christian Brothers, was born at Reims. The son of a rich lawyer, his father’s influence early secured him a canonry in the cathedral; there he established a school, where free elementary instruction was given to poor children. The enterprise soon broadened in scope; a band of enthusiastic assistants gathered round him; he resolved to resign his canonry, and devote himself entirely to education. His assistants were organized into a community, which gradually rooted itself all over France; and a training-school for teachers, the Collège de Saint-Yon, was set up at Rouen. In 1725, six years after the founder’s death, the society was recognized by the pope, under the official title of “Brothers of the Christian Schools”; its members took the usual monastic vows, but did not aspire to the priesthood. During the first hundred years of its existence its activities were mainly confined to France; during the 19th century it spread to most of the countries of western Europe, and has been markedly successful in the United States. When La Salle was canonized in 1900, the total number of brothers was estimated at 15,000. Although the order has been chiefly concerned with elementary schools, it undertakes most branches of secondary and technical education; and it has served as a model for other societies, in Ireland and elsewhere, slightly differing in character from the original institute.