CAMALDOLITES (called also Camaldolensians, Camaldolese, Camaldules, Camaldulians, from the monastery at Camaldoli near Arezzo): A religious order springing from the movement for monastic reform which also gave rise to the congregations of Cluny and Lorraine, with which it is allied in some respects, though it differs from them in others. The Italian movement is wholly independent of the French, and began later–not before the close of the tenth century, after the Cluniac monks had already reformed numerous monasteries in upper and central Italy. It was more enthusiastic than the French, and had for its object not so much the strict enforcement of the Benedictine rule as the commendation, in opposition to the moral corruption which was even deeper in the south than in the north, of the severest form of the ascetic life, that of hermits. This recalls the Greek monastic originators; and the fact is easily explicable by the strong influence of Greek traditions in Italy, especially in the south.
St. Romuald is the most prominent, but by no means the only, representative of this idea. Before or with him were working for the same end the Armenian hermit Simeon, St. Dominic of Foligno, the founder of Fonte Avellana, and the Greek Nilos of Rossano. Romuald was born at Ravenna, of the ducal family there, about 950. He was startled out of a worldly life when his father Sergius killed a kinsman in a duel arising out of a dispute over a piece of property, and retired to the monastery of S. Apollinare in Classe near Ravenna to do penance forty days on his father's behalf. His ascetic zeal was not satisfied here, although the monastery had been reformed not long before by Majolus of Cluny. He began to live a hermit's life near Venice, continued it in Catalonia, and then returned to the neighborhood of Ravenna. Wherever he went, a group of disciples formed around him; but as soon as they were sufficiently numerous in any one place, he gave them into the charge of a superior and left them. Most of these colonies were in central Italy; the three most important were Val di Castro, Monte Sitrio in Umbria, and Camaldoli, where he established a monastery in 1012. His organization shows a combination of the Western cenobite system with the Eastern anchorite life. The brothers lived in single cells, with an oratory in the midst. The whole Psalter was recited every day; the only written memorial left by Romuald was an exposition of the Psalms, which, however, is taken almost word for word from that of Cassiodorus. Meals were taken in common, but they were exceedingly scanty; the brothers went barefoot and wore their hair and beards long; the rule of silence was strictly observed. They busied themselves with agriculture and various handicrafts, those near the sea especially with the making of baskets and nets. We meet for the first time in these hermit colonies with famuli, the later lay brothers, who relieved the monks of the more burdensome household duties The rule of fasting and silence was not so strict for them, but apparently, as at Fonte Avellana, they had to take lifelong monastic vows. This institution was borrowed by Gualberto, a disciple of Romuald's, for his order of Vallombrosa and further developed by him (see GUALBERTO, GIOVANNI). Romuald's activity was not confined to the founding of these communities. He made a deep impression upon the most varied
His zeal for a reform of monasticism remained active in his followers. They did not, however, emphasize the hermit ideal to the same extent, and the Italian movement gradually approximated to that of Cluny. Romuald's spirit was best followed in the community of Camaldoli, which received papal confirmation from Alexander II. in 1072. Its rule was first written in 1080 by the fourth prior, Rudolph, who modified in some respects the extreme strictness of Romuald's prescriptions, and also founded (1086) the first convent of nuns under this rule, San Pietro di Luco at Mogello. Camaldoli received many rich gifts, and the congregation spread throughout Italy, without, however, producing any very notable men except the famous jurist Gratian. The transition from the hermit to the community life became more marked, in spite of the efforts of Ambrose the Camaldolite of Portico, "major" or head of the congregation in 1431, supported by Pope Eugenius IV., to restore the old ideals. In 1476 the community of St. Michael at Murano near Venice renounced the obedience of Camaldoli, and formed a group of distinctly cenobitic Camaldolese houses, confirmed as a congregation by Innocent VIII. In 1513 Leo X. reunited all the Camaldolese monks under the headship of Camaldoli, providing that the major should hold office for but three years, and be chosen alternately from the hermits and the cenobites. But in 1520 he allowed Paolo Giustiniani to draw up new statutes and to form the new communities of hermits which he was to found into an independent congregation of St. Romuald. This new congregation, which took its name from Monte Corona near Perugia, had a very strict rule; it spread through Germany, Austria, and Poland. A fourth congregation, that of Turin, was founded in 1601 by Alessandro di Leva (d. 1612), to take in the hermits of Piedmont. A breach of this became practically a separate congregation on account of the political views of Richelieu, who was unwilling that the French hermitages should be subject to Italian superiors. By a brief of Urban VIII. (1635), its head was always to be a Frenchman, and directly subject to the pope. From 1642 Gros-Bois near Paris was its mother house. All the French communities perished at the Revolution. The congregation of Camaldoli has now six houses, including Camaldoli itself and one famous for its picturesque site high above Naples. The principal house of the Murano congregation is San Gregorio in Rome, from which came the only Camaldolese monk who has occupied the papal throne, Gregory XVI. (1831-46). Outside of Italy there is only the community of Bielany in the diocese of Cracow, belonging to the congregation of Monte Corona. The total membership of the order is not more than 200. Convents of nuns exist only in Rome and Florence.
BIBLIOGRAPHY: Petrus Damianus, Vita Romualdi is in Damianus, Opera, ed. C. Cajetanus, ii. 255 sqq., Rome, 1608, and MPL cxliv. 953 sqq. Another Vita is in ASB 7th Feb., ii. 124-140. Consult: G. B. Mittarelli and G. D. Costadoni, Annales Camaldulenses, 9 vols., Venice, 1755-1773; W. Wattenbach, Deutschlands Geschichtsquellen, i. 436, Berlin, 1893; C. W. Currier, Hist. of Religious Orders, pp. 118-123, New York, 1896; P. Helyot, Ordres monastiques, vol. v.; Heimbucher, Orden and Kongregationen, i. 203-208.
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