Called also Piarists, Scolopli, Escolapios, Poor Clerks of the Mother of God, and the Pauline Congregation, a religious order founded in Rome in 1597 by St. Joseph Calasanctius. As a member of the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine he went about the country instructing the people, and his experience convinced him of the necessity of providing the children of the poor with religious instruction at an early age. Antonio Brendoni, pastor of Santa Dorotea in Trastevere, placed two rooms at his disposal and assisted him in the work, in which they were afterwards joined by two other priests. It was not long before the reputation of the school increased the attendance to such an extent that Calasanctius removed it to a building within the city, where he took up his residence with his companions. When two years later the school was again removed, this time to the Vestri Palace in the vicinity of Sant' Andrea della Valle, community life was inaugurated among the associates, and Clement VIII showed his approval of the work by ordering the payment of a yearly allowance of 200 scudi for rent of the house. Criticism ensued which led to an inspection of the schools by Cardinals Antoniani and Baronius, which resulted satisfactorily, the approval of Paul V was even more pronounced than that of his predecessor. In 1612 the growth of the schools necessitated the purchase of the Torres Palace, and on 25 March, 1617 Calasanctius and his companions received the religious habit, the saint changing his name to Joseph of the Mother of God, thus inaugurating the practice of dropping the family name on entering the religious life. The most noted of his early companions were Gaspare Dragonette, who joined the saint at the age of 95 and died a saintly death in 1628 at the age of 120; Bernardino Pannicola, later Bishop of Ravello; Juan Garcia, afterwards general of the order; the learned Gellio Ghellini; Tomasso Vittoria; Viviandi de Colle; Melchiore Albacchi, etc.
The congregation was made a religious order 18 Nov., 1621 by a Brief of Gregory XV, under the name of "Congregatio Paulina Clericorum regularium pauperum Matris Dei scholarum piarum". The Constitutions were approved 31 Jan., 1622, when the new order was given the privileges of the mendicant orders and Calasanctius was named general, his four assistants being Pietro Casani, Viviano Vivani, Francesco Castelli, and Paolo Ottonelli. On 7 May of the same year the novitiate of St. Onofrio was opened. In 1656 Alexander VII rescinded the privilege of solemn vows granted by Gregory XV, and added to the simple vows an oath of perseverance in the congregation. This was again altered by Clement IX in 1669, who restored the Piarists to the condition of regulars. But petitions from members who hesitated to bind themselves by solemn vows led Clement X in 1670 to issue a Brief which empowered the general of the Piarists to dispense from solemn vows laymen or clerics in minor orders, while ordained clerics in possession of a sufficient patrimony or a benefice were restored to the jurisdiction of their bishops. The Piarists are exempt from episcopal jurisdiction and subject only to the general, who is elected every six years and has four assistants. In virtue of a Brief of Alexander VIII (1690) they ceased to be discalced. Their habit is closed in front with three leathern buttons, and they wear a short mantle. The order spread rapidly even during the founder's lifetime and at present it has nine provinces (Italy, Austria, Bohemia, Moravia, Hungary, Poland, Spain, Chile, and Central America), 121 houses with 2100 members and about 40,000 pupils.
The Piarists have won distinction in the sphere of education. Their first care is to provide free education for poor children, but they also receive pupils from the middle classes and the nobility, and since 1700 they have taught besides the elementary branches the liberal arts and sciences. At the time of their foundation in Poland and Lithuania, Clement XII formally commissioned them to teach the higher studies. The course consists of nine classes, the plan of studies is uniform, as are also the textbooks, which to a great extent are compiled by members of the order. Like the Jesuits they devote special attention to the acting of Latin dramas by the students. A member of the order, Francis Hermann Czech (d. 1847), was very successful in his work of teaching the deaf and dumb. Among the writers and learned men of the order are the general Pietro Francesco of the Immaculate Conception, author of the "Polygraphia sacra seu Eleucidarium biblicum hist.-myst". (Augsburg, 1724); Philip of St. James, who edited the chief Sentences of the "Maxima Sanctorum Patrum Bibliotheca" (Lyons, 1719); Arn. Zeglicki, whose "Bibliotheca gnomico hist.-symb.-politica" was published at Warsaw in 1742; Alexis a S. Andrea Alexi (d. 1761); moral theologian ; Antonius a Santo Justo, author of "Schola pia Aristotelico-Thomistica" (Saragossa, 1745); Gottfrid a S. Elisabetha Uhlich (d. 1794), professor of heraldry and numismatics ; Augustine Odobrina, who was actively associated with Leibniz ; Adrian Rauch, historian; Josef Fengler (d. 1802), Bishop of Raab; Remigius Döttler, professor of physics at the University of Vienna ; Franz Lang, rector of the same university ; the general Giovanni Inghirami (d. 1851), astronomer ; Johann N. Ehrlich (d. 1864), professor of theology at the University of Prague ; A. Leonetti, author of a biography of Alexander VI (Bologna, 1880); Filippo Cecchi; Karl Feyerfeil, mathematician; and Franz Kraus, philologian. Many members of the order led lives of eminent sanctity. In his Life of St. Joseph Calasanctius, Tosetti gives a list of 54 who between 1615 and 1756 died edifying deaths, among them Petrus Casani (d. 1647), the first novice master of the order; the fourth superior general, Cosimo Chiara (d. 1688); Petrus Andreas Taccioni (d. 1672); the lay-brother Philip Bosio (d. 1662); Antonio Muscia (d. 1665); and Eusebius Amoretti (d. 1685).
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