Olivetans - Encyclopedia

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OLIVETANS, one of the lesser monastic orders following the Benedictine Rule, founded by St Bernard Tolomei, a Sienese nobleman. At the age of forty, when the leading man in Siena, he retired along with two companions to live a hermit's life at Accona, a desert place fifteen miles to the south of Siena, 1313. Soon others joined them, and in 1324 John XXII. approved of the formation of an order. The Benedictine Rule was taken as the basis of the life; but austerities were introduced beyond what St Benedict prescribed, and the government was framed on the mendicant, not the monastic, model, the superiors being appointed only for a short term of years. The habit is white. Partly from the olive trees that abound there, and partly out of devotion to the Passion, Accona was christened Monte Oliveto, whence the order received its name. By the end of the 14th century there were upwards of a hundred monasteries, chiefly in Italy; and in the 18th there still were eighty, one of the most famous being San Miniato at Florence. The monastery of Monte Oliveto Maggiore is an extensive building of considerable artistic interest, enhanced by frescoes of Signorelli and Sodoma; it is now a national monument occupied by two or three monks as custodians, though it could accommodate three hundred. The Olivetans have a house in Rome and a few others, including one founded in Austria in 1899. There are about 125 monks in all, 54 being priests. In America are some convents of Olivetan nuns.

See Helyot, Hist. des ordres re'ligieux (1718), vi. c. 24; Max Heimbucher, Orden u. Kongregationen (1907), i. § 30; Wetzer u. Welte, Kirchenlexicon (ed. 2); J. A. Symonds, Sketches and Studies in Italy (1898), "Monte Oliveto"; B. M. Marechaux, Vie de bienheureux Bernard Tolomei (1888). (E. C. B.)

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