Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

I. A penitential order dating back, according to some authorities, to the beginning of the eleventh, but more probably to the beginning of the twelfth century, to the reign of Emperor Henry V, who, after quelling a rebellion in Lombardy, led the principal nobles of the cities implicated back to Germany as captives. Converted from the vanities of the world, these assumed a penitential garb of grey and gave themselves up to works of charity and mortification, whereupon the emperor, after receiving their pledges of future loyalty, permitted their return to Lombardy. At this time they were often called Barettini, from the shape of their head-dress. Their acquaintance with the German woollen manufactures enabled them to introduce improved methods into Italy, thus giving a great impetus to the industry, supplying the poor with employment and distributing their gains among those in want. On the advice of St. Bernard, in 1134, many of them, with the consent of their wives, withdrew from the world, establishing their first monastery at Milan. They exchanged their ashen habit for one of white. Some years later, on the advice of St. John Meda of Oldrado (d. 1159), they embraced the Rule of St. Benedict, adapted by St. John to their needs; they received papal approbation from Innocent III about 1200, and from many succeeding pontiffs The order grew rapidly, gave many saints and blessed to the Church, assisted in combating the Cathari, formed trades associations among the people, and played an important part in the civic life of every community in which they were established. In the course of time, however, owing to the accumulation of temporal goods and the restriction of the number of members admitted (for at one time there were only about 170 in the 94 monasteries ), grave abuses crept in, which St. Charles Borromeo was commissioned by Pius V to reform. His fearless efforts roused such opposition among a minority that a conspiracy was formed and a murderous assault made on him by one of the Humiliati, a certain Girolamo Donati, called Farina, which, though it was unsuccessful, was responsible for the execution of the chief conspirators and the suppression of the order by a Bull of 8 Feb., 1571. The houses and possessions were bestowed on other religious orders, including the Barnabites and Jesuits, or applied to charity.

II. The wives of the first Humiliati, who belonged to some of the principal families of Milan, also formed a community under Clara Blassoni, and were joined by so many others that it became necessary to open a second convent, the members of which devoted themselves to the care of the lepers in a neighbouring hospital, whence they were also known as Hospitallers of the Observance. The number of their monasteries increased rapidly, but the suppression of the male branch of the order, which had administered their temporal affairs, proved a heavy blow, involving in many cases the closing of monasteries, though the congegation itself was not affected by the Bull of suppression. The nuns observed the canonical Hours, fasting rigorously and taking the discipline at stated times. Some retained the ancient Breviary of the order, when other houses adopted the Roman Breviary. The habit consists of a robe and scapular of white over a tunic of ashen grey, the veils being usually white, though in some houses black. The lay sisters, who retain the name of Barettine, wear grey. There are still in Italy five independent houses of Humiliati.


More Encyclopedia

The Catholic Encyclopedia is the most comprehensive resource on Catholic teaching, history, and information ever gathered in all of human history. This easy-to-search online version was originally printed in fifteen hardcopy volumes.

Catholic Encyclopedia

Designed to present its readers with the full body of Catholic teaching, the Encyclopedia contains not only precise statements of what the Church has defined, but also an impartial record of different views of acknowledged authority on all disputed questions, national, political or factional. In the determination of the truth the most recent and acknowledged scientific methods are employed, and the results of the latest research in theology, philosophy, history, apologetics, archaeology, and other sciences are given careful consideration.

No one who is interested in human history, past and present, can ignore the Catholic Church, either as an institution which has been the central figure in the civilized world for nearly two thousand years, decisively affecting its destinies, religious, literary, scientific, social and political, or as an existing power whose influence and activity extend to every part of the globe. In the past century the Church has grown both extensively and intensively among English-speaking peoples. Their living interests demand that they should have the means of informing themselves about this vast institution, which, whether they are Catholics or not, affects their fortunes and their destiny.

Copyright © Catholic Encyclopedia. Robert Appleton Company New York, NY. Volume 1: 1907; Volume 2: 1907; Volume 3: 1908; Volume 4: 1908; Volume 5: 1909; Volume 6: 1909; Volume 7: 1910; Volume 8: 1910; Volume 9: 1910; Volume 10: 1911; Volume 11: - 1911; Volume 12: - 1911; Volume 13: - 1912; Volume 14: 1912; Volume 15: 1912

Catholic Online Catholic Encyclopedia Digital version Compiled and Copyright © Catholic Online

Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Revelation 15:1-4
1 And I saw in heaven another sign, great and ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 98:1, 2-3, 7-8, 9
1 [Psalm] Sing a new song to Yahweh, for he has ... Read More

Gospel, Luke 21:12-19
12 'But before all this happens, you will be seized ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for November 26th, 2014 Image

St. John Berchmans
November 26: Eldest son of a shoemaker, John was born at Diest, Brabant. He ... Read More

Inform, Inspire & Ignite Logo

Find Catholic Online on Facebook and get updates right in your live feed.

Become a fan of Catholic Online on Facebook


Follow Catholic Online on Twitter and get News and Product updates.

Follow us on Twitter