Campaign of the Month: August 2011
Le Ballet de l'Acier
The origins of the Carmelites are disputed by scholars. Some claim the order can trace a lineage to the prophet Elias and the school of the prophets on Mount Carmel in Palestine, while others say that St John the Baptist established the community. The most accepted tale is that St Berthold, a retired crusader, was the first superior of the order associated with the chapel at Mount Carmel in the latter half of the twelfth century. In the next century, the position of the Christian community at Mount Carmel became increasingly perilous, and the order established communities in Cyprus, Sicily, Provence, and England; the original convent was burned and the remaining hermits martyred by the Saracens in 1291.
In the thirteenth century the Carmelites became a mendicant order favoring an active life, and chapters were established in the great university towns of Europe. The Carmelites continued to be associated with education, and to a lesser extent missionary work, through the sixteenth century, but the order has been challenged by the Jesuits, who point to reform movements within the Carmelites as signs that the order is decadent. The Carmelites have seen their influence wane as they slip into the umbra of the vigorous Society of Jesus.