A minor monastic order or, strictly speaking, congregation following in general the Rule of St. Benedict but distinct from the Black monks and not forming a part of the confederation of Benedictine congregations. The Sylvestrines were founded by St. Sylvester Gozzolini on Monte Fano near Fabriano in 1231. The Rule of St. Benedict was observed in its primitive form, but in many points the founder went considerably beyond it in point of austerity, laying special stress on the strictest observance of poverty. At the death of St. Sylvester in 1267 eleven monasteries were under his leadership of which some had been founded by him, while others, though of older foundation, had adopted his institute. The congregation had been formally sanctioned by Innocent IV twenty years before the founder's death. Except for a few houses in Portugal and Brazil and the Ceylon foundation mentioned below, there have been no Sylvestrine monasteries outside Italy. Under St. Sylvester's immediate successors in the generalship, Giuseppe della Serra Quirico (d. 1258), Blessed Bartolomeo di Cingoli (d. 1298), and Andrea Giacomo di Fabriano, the biographer of the founder, a number of houses were founded in the Tuscany, and Umbria. Since 1568 the congregation has possessed at Rome the Church of San Stefano del Cacco in the neighbourhood of the Pantheon; the first possession of the Sylvestrines in Rome was the Church of San Giacomo in Settimania (or alla Lungara), granted to St. Sylvester himself by the Chapter of St. Peter's.
At the present day, besides the Roman monastery at San Stefano, which is the residence of the abbot-general and counts as the mother-house of the order, the Sylvestrines have monasteries at Fabriano, Sasso Ferrato, Perugia, Osimo, Serra San Quirico, and Matelica. Since 1855 they have also had a large mission in Ceylon with its headquarters in the Abbey of Saint Antony at Kandy. At the present day (1911) the congregation numbers some 100 members, of whom about 70 are choir monks ; of the total about 40 are in Ceylon. The chief Sylvestrine saints are: the founder, St. Bonfilius, Bl. Giovanni del Bastonne, and the Bl. Giuseppe and Ugo di Serra San Quirico. The congregation is governed by an abbot-general assisted by a vicar ; the head of each monastery is a prior or titular abbot. These officials were formerly elected for life, they were made triennial by Paul II in 1543, but since 1690 have been elected every four years. The Constitutions are still those which were confirmed by Alexander VIII in 1690 after the severance of the short-lived union between the Sylvestrine and Vallombrosan orders (1662-80). The Sylvestrine habit is similar in form to that of the Cassinese Benedictines but blue in colour; fasts are strictly observed and flesh meat is never eaten except in case of illness. A convent of Sylvestrine nuns was founded at Serra San Quirico during the lifetime of the founder, but the only convent now under Sylvestrine rule is that of San Benedetto in Perugia. The arms of the order are three green hills on a blue ground, surmounted by a golden crozier with two rose branches in flower at its side.
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