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A penitential order founded by St. Jeanne de Valois (b. 1464; d. 4 February, 1505), daughter of Louis XI of France, and wife of the Duke of Orléans, later Louis XII. After the annulment of her marriage with Louis XII she retired to Bourges, where, overcoming the opposition of her confessor Father Gilbert Nicolaï, and the counsellors of the Pope, she succeeded in her design of founding an order in honour of the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary . She herself composed the Rule, entitled "The Ten Virtues of the Blessed Virgin", the imitation of which she proposed as the aim of the order. It was confirmed by Alexander VI (1501), and 8 October, 1502, the first five members received the veil, the foundress herself taking solemn vows 4 June, 1503. Father Gabriel Nicolai, whose name was changed by Brief of Alexander VI to Gabriele Maria, was constituted Superior, and after revising the constitutions, presented them for confirmation to Leo X (1517), who placed the Order under the jurisdiction of the Order of St. Francis. In addition to the triple vow of poverty, chastity, and obedience, the members were bound to the recitation of the Office, the observance of cloistral rule, and the wearing of the habit. This is grey with scarlet scapular and white mantle. Foundations were made in France, but did not survive the Revolution. During its most flourishing period the Order possessed forty-five convents in France and Belgium, of which several still exist in the latter country. The foundress was canonized in 1775.


A religious order for women founded by Bl. Maria Vittoria Fornari (b. 1562; d. 15 December, 1617) at Genoa. The death of her husband, Angelo Strata, left her the care of six children, and it was only after they had entered the religious life that she was free to carry out her life work, for which she had been preparing by retirement and the practice of austere virtue. Her lack of temporal means for some time caused her director, Father Bernardino Zannoni of the Society of Jesus, and the Archbishop of Genoa to withhold their consent, which, however, was finally obtained (1602), and a convent was erected at the expense of one of her companions, Vincenza Lomellini. Father Zannoni drew up the constitutions for the religious. Clement VIII approved them in 1604, placing the Order under the Rule of St. Augustine. In the same year ten members were received, each adding the name Maria Annunziata to her baptismal or religious name, and they made their solemn vows 7 September, 1605. The second foundation was made in 1612, and the third a little later in Burgundy ; after which the Order spread through France, Germany, and Denmark. The constitutions were confirmed by Paul V (1613), Gregory XV, and Urban VIII (1631). The cloister is unusually rigid, and the members devote much of their time to preparing vestments and altar linen for poor churches.


A religious order of Lombardy known as Ambrosians, Sisters of St. Ambrose, or Sisters of St. Marcellina, organized at Pavia in 1408 by young women from Venice and Pavia, under the direction of Father Beccaria, O.S.B., for the care of the sick, and at a later date placed under the Rule of St. Augustine. The constitutions, providing for a prioress-general assisted by three visitors, were approved by Nicholas V but amended by Pius V. Eventually each convent became subject to the ordinary of its own diocese. Among the many saints belonging to the order is St. Catherine Fieschi of Genoa.


Established in 1460 in Rome in order to provide dowries for poor girls. During the pontificate of Pius II it was connected with the Dominican Church of the Minerva in which was built later the beautiful chapel of the Annunciation. At an earlier period the Pope himself presided at the annual ceremonies held 25 March, and presented with his own hand the documents entitling the recipients to the dower. This association has received large bequests, and benefits on an average four hundred persons yearly. The money gift is now twenty-five scudi ($25.00) for those about to marry, and fifty for those entering a religious order.


A name by which the Servites are sometimes known, their chief monastery at Florence, Italy, being dedicated to the Annunciation.

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