The Conciliar Decree Perfectae Caritatis reminds us that « The appropriate renewal of religious life involves two simultaneous processes: a continuous return to the sources of all Christian life and to the original inspiration behind a given community, and an adjustment of the community to the changed conditions of times » (n. 2).
Our Declaration, with the intent of promoting such a renewal, explicitly refers to the past history of the Congregation, indicating how it should be approached. A genuine renewal is neither return to obsolete ways of life nor development totally eradicated from tradition. We must receive with « a grateful heart » whatever positive values « our Fathers » have handed down to us, while, at the same time, we ought to remain open to the impulses of the Holy Spirit, who operates now, as He did then, in the Church.
Ours is a long history stretching over seven centuries. We, however, know it very little, since we do not yet have a good, critical and complete study on it. The lack of material for a study of our history is particularly felt in our English-speaking communities by those in charge of formation.
There have been along the centuries monks who have made careful research into our history. The precious writings of the Ven. Andrew first and of Moronti and Feliziani later, have been our « traditional » sources of information. Other more recent authors, like Franceschini and Bokonett, who dealt mostly with particular topics, drew almost exclusively from them. The one who opened the way to a more ample and organic study of our history was D. Anthony Cancellieri with his work Brevi cenni storici intorno alla Congregazione Benedettina Silvestrina (Brief historical notes regarding the Benedictine Sylvestrine Congregation). It was published in 1935 « ad uso privato dei Monaci Silvestrini » (for private use of the Sylvestrine monks), and was specially intended for the « young, who would not know where to turn for a knowledge of our past ».
From that time onward, as if in answer to D. Cancellieri’s wish, there has been a flourishing of historical studies. Research has been undertaken into our original documents, both those preserved in our archives and those, until now unknown, preserved in others, first among them the Vatican Secret Archives. Our magazine « Inter Fratres », which was begun in 1950, has been a strong incentive for research and study and a valid medium for publishing the results.
Particular mention should be made of D. Pius Federici, Abbot General from 1966 to 1972, who ordered a new biography of the founder to be written, suggested and encouraged five new doctoral theses on the origins, spirituality and other historical subjects regarding the Congregation.
The Monastery of Montefano is now, as it has been in the past, the centre of this flourishing of study and research into our history, thus fulfilling its function of « head and mother of the Order » also in this field. Various high level historical seminars and meetings have been organized, and the valuable collection of « Bibliotheca Montifani » started, all of which entailing considerable financial layout.
Although much has been done, it is still too early to plan a complete history of the Congregation. Something, however, I had visualized for some time as possible, vz. a publication which would order in some historical sequence the results of the studies and research made up to now. This has been undertaken and brought to completion very competently by D. Hugo Paoli, who has done already a tremendous amount of work in the field of research into our history. The work, which is published in a special number of « Inter Fratres » in Italian and in English, is destined mainly to the monks of our Congregation. Hence the author has purposedly limited his use of source material to what is available in all our monasteries, as published in « Inter Fratres » and in other Sylvestrine editions. The continuous use of this material is also intended to make one more familiar with it and be an incentive to pursue studies and research in various fields still unexplored of our history and to commit to writing, lest they be forgotten, more recent events.
My, and I am sure that I can add our, sincerest thanks to D. Hugo for his work. We all hope that he, already an « expert », will continue his research and study, so that a better and deeper knowledge of our heritage may become a source of inspiration for us today.
SIMON TONN, OSB. Silv, Abbot General
Rome, Monastery of S. Stefano Protomartire
31 December 1986
Sylvester Guzzolini was the founder of the Sylvestrine Congregation of Benedictines. He was born at Osimo (province of Ancona, Italy) in the Marche, about 1177, and died in the monastery of Montefano near Fabriano on 26 November 1267.
In reconstructing the life and spiritual journey of Sylvester Guzzolini we have two types of sources, archival and literary.
The first consist of contemporary documents directly concerning the Saint himself or persons and institutions which had with him close relations. They are essentially notarized deeds, dated from 1231 to 1267, most of which are preserved in the historical archives of the Congregation, kept in St. Sylvester’s monastery of Montefano, near Fabriano (1). These sources, while containing little information, are nevertheless fundamental in reconstructing the life and work of the founder, for they establish with certainty some chronological data.
The literary sources, which according to rules of Medieval hagiography frame the events in a theological-spiritual perspective, include: the Vita Silvestri (Life of Sylvester), written between 1274 and 1282 (with later additions) by Andrew of James from Fabriano, who became the fourth Prior General of the Congregation (1298-1325): he draws his information from eye-witnesses and, perhaps from his personal knowledge of the founder the Vita Hugonis (Life of Hugo) and the Vita Johannis a Baculo (Life of John of the Staff), disciples of Sylvester: both Lives are by the same author Andrew of James and written at the beginning of the XIV century; the vita Bonfilii (Life of Bonfil), monk, bishop and hermit: the Life is attributed to the founder himself and assumes, therefore, the character of a quasi autobiographical document (2).
Complementary material is to be found in later hagiographical narratives, especially in the Breve Cronica della Congregatione de’ monaci Silvestrini dell’Ordine di S. Benedetto, dove si contiene la vita di S. Silvestro abbate, fondatore di detta Congregatione e d’alcuni altri beati suoi discepoli (Brief Chronicle of the Congregation of Sylvestrine monks of the order of St. Benedict, containing the Lives of St. Sylvester Abbot the founder of the said Congregation, and some of his Blessed disciples), by Sebastian Fabrini (edited at Camerino in 1613, with a 2nd edition, Rome 1706). The contents of this work are valuable, however, only in so far they hand down data which had been lost or help in interpreting the sources more accurately.
Amongst Fabrini’s personal notes, not supported, however, by documentary evidence is that of Sylvester being priest: « Sylvester was elected and promoted to the dignity of Canon in the cathedral church of the city of Osimo. Seeing himself elevated to such a high status, he did not allow himself be swayed by the spirit of pride or vainglory, but, more than ever intent on the divine service, with the greatest humility and devotion, having attained through all the other grades to the dignity of priesthood, gave himself fully to the practice of holy contemplation and prayer and to all the good work which went with his status » (p. 5) (3)
Until 1231, the first certain date in the life of the Saint, the other biographical data are taken from the Life of Sylvester: most of them are furnished to Andrew of James by the bishop of Osimo Benvenuto Scotivoli (1264-1282), a fellow-student of Guzzolini.
Sylvester was born in Osimo in the Marca of Ancona about 1177. Since his biographer affirms that at his death, which occurred on 26 November 1267, he was « almost a nonagenarian » (Life ch. 37), 1177 is conventionally accepted as the year of the birth the founder. His father Gislerio, of the noble Guzzolini family, of strong Ghibelline tradition, sent Sylvester to study law at Bologna and Padua. After a short period Sylvester abandoned the legal studies to dedicate himself to Theology and Sacred Scripture (4). This caused a deep rift with his father.
On his return to his home town, however, he was made Canon of the cathedral church of the city (5) (Life, ch. 1).
He conscientiously undertook his office, dedicating himself « to prayer and preaching » (Life, ch. 1). He often had to reproach his bishop, who sought every pretext to deprive him of his canonical benefice. The Life does not mention the name of the prelate. It is certain, however, that he was Sinibald I, who governed the Diocese of Osimo from 1218 until 1239. The contrasts between the bishop and Sylvester had probably political motivations, as well. Sinibald in fact « was a very resolute man of arms and of government, who strongly supported the Guelphs and persecuted the Ghibellines », to whom the noble imperial family of the Guzzolini belonged (6).
In the midst of all this an incident occurred which made Sylvester take a decision about his future. One day, at the conclusion of the exequies for a dead person, when the Canons lifted the tombstone of the common grave, they found the corpse of one Sylvester’s relatives not yet reduced to dust. This person had been known for his good looks and had died very young. This pitiful sight deeply moved Sylvester, who resolved to « change his life for the better ». « As he was returning to his room », writes his biographer, « the scriptural text came to his mind, which says: ‘Whoever wishes to follow me, must deny himself, take up his cross and follow me.’ And he understood that it was addressed right to himself ». (Life, ch. 2).
About 1277 Sylvester left Osimo and retired to a life of solitude among the crags of the « Gola della Rossa » near Serra S. Quirico (province of Ancona – Italy), in the territory of Count Corrado, Lord of the castle of Rovellone. The Count, among other things, had already known Sylvester in the Curia of the Legate for the Marche, where the latter had been involved in the defence of the rights of the church of Osimo.
Sylvester lived in three different caves, the third of which can be definitely identified as Grottafucile, where subsequently a monastery was built, dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary (7).
The oldest title attributed to the Guzzolini is that of « Prior of Grottafucile Hermitage » (8). At Grottafucile Sylvester led a life of severe penance and constant prayer, having only raw-herbs for his food, as he later revealed to his disciples.
Sylvester, however, did not remain unknown for very long in this solitude. He was visited by members of various religious communities, who admiring him for his virtues, tried to persuade him to join their order. The hermit « began » then « to think about the form of religious life he should embrace » (Life, ch. 4). After mature reflection he chose the Rule of St. Benedict of Norcia, one of the rules canonically approved before the Fourth Lateran Council (1215), which, in the constitution 13, prescribed that new foundations had to adopt the Rule of an already established « Order » (9).
Sylvester received the monastic habit from the monk Peter Magone. The Life, however, does not specify when and where this occurred: probably in one of the numerous abbeys of the area.
In 1228 two Domenican religious, Riccardo and Bonaparte, sent by Pope Gregory IX to « visit the clerics of the Marca », exhorted Sylvester « not to end his days alone in that solitary to place » (Life, ch. 5). The Guzzolini accepted their suggestion and received at Grottafucile his first disciple, Philip from Recanati, directed to him by the above mentioned Visitors (10).
Others wishing to embrace the anachoretic ideal followed the example of Philip and placed themselves under the spiritual guidance of Sylvester, who little by little built other monasteries, preferring for them « solitary places » (Life, ch. 6).
In 1231 Sylvester founded the hermitage of Montefano on an area of 2,640 sqm. donated by six citizens of Fabriano with four distinct notarized deeds (11). The monastery is about 5 Km (3,1/2 miles) from Fabriano, at 800 m. above sea level, close to the summit of Montefano, a part of the Appennino Umbro-Marchigiano, in a picturesque and panoramic position (12).
The hermitage, which was completed in 1234, was dedicated to St. Benedict and soon became the centre of diffusion of the order. The present day title of « St. Sylvester » was given to it about the middle of the 16th century (13).
Other foundations followed: that of St. Mark of Ripalta, near Rocca Contrada (today Arcevia, in the province of Ancona) and of St. Bonfil near Cingoli (province of Macerata) (14).
The year 1244 saw the beginning of a monastic nucleus in Fabriano with the donation by the « Commune » (city council) to « Fra Silvestro » of 176 sqm. of land near Borgo Nuovo. A house with an oratory was built on the site, and it served, till the death of the founder, exclusively as a residence for the monks who from Montefano came down to the city (15).
On 27 June 1248 the new religious family obtained canonical recognition from Pope Innocent IV under the title of « Order of S. Benedict of Montefano » (16).
Subsequently the Guzzolini built the monasteries of St. Bartolo della Castagna, near Serra San Quirico, St. Pietro del Monte, near Osimo, St. Marck and Lucy of Sambuco (province of Perugia), St. Thomas of Jesi, St. Bartolo of Rocca Contrada, today Arcevia), St. James in Settimiano of Rome, St. Benedict of Perugia and St. John of Sassoferrato.
Sylvester’s communities were generally of modest proportions and not well endowed. The monks, for the most part were who not ordained priests, gave themselves the fields to working and to begging.
At the death of the founder, which occurred at Montefano on 26 November 1267, situated in the Marche, monasteries, in Umbria and Lazio, were 12, and the monks about 120 (17).
The mortal remains of the founder were laid in a cypress coffin that was placed in the church at Montefano. (18). In 1532 the tomb was placed above the main altar by the Prior General Anthony Favorino: in 1629 it was transferred to a niche in the apse; in 1660, to avoid damage by humidity, the sacred remains of the Saint were enclosed in a marble urn, which again was once placed above the main altar. Finally in 1968 this sarcophagus was replaced by the present one of brass and crystal which stands now under the main altar (19).
Sylvester, man of the Spirit, did not, as also other monastic founders, translate into juridical formulae his own charismatic intuition: he was above all witness, inspirer and guide to his movement. The hagiographical documents evidence the role that Sylvester had at the beginnings of the order of Montefano as « spiritual father, very attentive in ruling the brothers » (Life, ch. 6) (20).
Sylvester’s experience as that of St. Benedict was initially hermitical, on the model of the Fathers of the Desert (21). It is presented as a re-reading of the Benedictine tradition in the religious and socio-cultural context of the Marche in the 13th century (22).
Sylvester knew how to read the ‘signs of the times’ and how to grasp the innovative ferments of his epoch, while local monasticism remained anchored to a feudal system already out-of-date. The abbeys in the Marche, including Fonte Avellana, because of their wealth, number of dependant churches and the authority of their abbots, exercised in the 13th century more political and economic influence than spiritual impact (23).
The Guzzolini, undoubtedly influenced by the Franciscan phenomenon (in 1234 he was present at the foundation of the first convent of Franciscans in Fabriano) (24), reaffirms the values of monastic life, giving them new forms, which answered the exigencies of the medieval society. He impressed on his Order a marked note of poverty, introducing the practice of begging and proposing to his community a life style poor, simple and austere, in line with the « innovatory spirit » of the 13th century.
In the two deeds, with which the citizens of Fabriano in 1231 donated to Sylvester the land on Montefano to build a hermitage near Fonte Vembrici a spring which still monks exists – the « monks of the Order of Fra (Brother) Silvestro » are spoken of as leading a « life of penance and solitude » (25).
From the Life we learn, besides, that disciples of Sylvester wore a « rough habit and at table did not know « variety of food, nor did they eat refined or palatable dishes, but practiced constant fasting » (Life, ch. 6).
The choice of the title of Prior instead of Abbot speaks of a precise option on the part of the Canon of Osimo regarding his life style, for Abbot in medieval times was synonymous with power and prestige (26).
From the recognition of the relics carried out on 11 July 1968, Sylvester appears to have been of small stature (1. 60m) and slight of build. (The Life speaks of corpusculum small body ch. 6). He was of angelic countenance, refined in manners, ardent with love towards his sons, and the devout persons, compassionate visitor of the sick, consoler of the afflicted ». According to his biographer, Sylvester is the « Man of God », a protagonist of a magnificent ascent in faith and virtue (Life, ch. 6).
Intense was also his mystical experience: the vision of Christ’s tomb (Life, ch. 28) and of the communion by the hands of the Blessed Virgin Mother (Life, ch. 29) were for Sylvester the culmination of his communion with God. Growth in love for the Passion of Our Lord, a very special understanding of the Scriptures, the power of miracles and the gift of prophecy followed from these experiences. « The Man of God » arrived thus to the fullness of his charismatic life, sealed by his death, the « last sublime impetus of the spirit longing for communion with God » (27).
The cult of Sylvester was born of his « fame of sanctity » at popular level and fed by the miracle working of the « Man of God » (this attribute occurs 52 times in the Life). Already in 1272 (only five years after his death) a notarized deed, referring to the movement begun by the Guzzolini, denotes it as the « Order of Saint Sylvester ».
Pope Callistus III with two Bulls, dated 31 January 1456, assigned to the Prior General Stephen of Anthony from Castelletta the income from tax on all contracts of the « Comune » (City Council) of Fabriano and also the ownership of some lands, for the restoration of the monastery of Montefano, where the body of « Blessed Sylvester » lay. In the second document, moreover, the cypress coffin containing the bones of « Saint Sylvester » is mentioned.
Two papal privileges, one by Pius II (1461) and the other by Sixtus IV (1472), grant indulgences to those who contribute towards the restoration of the church of St. Benedict of Montefano, where the body of « Blessed Sylvester » was preserved. The same appellative is attributed to Sylvester by Pope Paul III in a Bull of 1544.
In 1598 the name of Sylvester was inserted in the Roman Martyrology the 26 November (« Apud Fabrianum in Piceno, beati Silvestri abbatis, institutoris Congregationis monachorum Silvestrinorum ») and proper readings for the office of the Saint were approved.
In 1602 for the first time a monastery of the order was placed under the title of St. Sylvester, at Nepi in the region of Lazio.
The Bull Sanctorum virorum by Paul V, dated 23 September 1617, begins with an eulogy of « Saint noble Sylvester Guzzolini, a noble man of Osimo, founder of the Congregation of the Sylvestrine monks, renowned for virtue and miracles, enriched by God with great spiritual gifts, favoured with the privilege of receiving communion from the hands of the Blessed Virgin », The same pontiff inserted the name of Sylvester, with the title of « Saint » in the monastic Breviary and Missal.
The Mass and Office of the Saint were extended to the Diocese of Camerino in 1728, to all the Marche in 1729, to all the Papal States in 1779, and to the entire Church in 1890 with the insertion of the Memorial in the universal calendar (28).
Representations of St. Sylvester began in the 13th century. Their diffusion was linked to the expansion of the monastic movement founded by him, and was, therefore, specially concentrated for many centuries in the Marche, Umbria, Lazio and, in part, in Toscana.
The iconographical type of St. Sylvester underwent through the centuries very few changes; these regarded above all the age of the Saint and the colour of his habit: the latter varied according to the relative prescriptions in the Congregation at the time the representation was made.
Substantially it is a rather stable typology, while a greater variety is found in the choice of episodes in the various cycles dedicated to the life of the Saint.
The oldest representation of St. Sylvester is probably to be seen in the vast and complex decorative programme of the Fontana Maggiore in Perugia (1277-1278). One of the sculptured pieces at the edge of the upper basin of the fountain represents St. Sylvester who, kneeling, receives from St. Benedict the Rule.
Another important painting of St. Sylvester is found on a panel of a polyptych preserved the Metropolitan Museum of in New York. The work, datable to the third decade of the 14th century, is signed by Segna of Bonaventura, an artist from Siena, active in the studio of Duccio of Boninsegna. The Saint (on the right of polyptych, while on the left is St. Benedict and in the centre the Virgin with the Child) is represented in the act of blessing with his right hand, while holding in his left a book which is closed. He is wearing a grey (de gattinello) cowl, and is distinguished from the patriarch of Norcia by the younger look and the lack of a beard (29).
Also without beard is the St. Sylvester depicted in a polyptych by Fiorenzo of Lawrence, found in the National Gallery of Umbria in Perugia. It was painted between 1487 and 1493 for the Sylvestrine church of St. Maria Nuova (Perugia), now of the Servites. The Saint is wearing a beige cowl and is holding a closed book in his hand.
Worthy of note is also a fresco by Anthony from Fabriano (end of the 15th century, perhaps 1474), found in the parish church of La Castelletta, 2 km from Grottafucile. St. Sylvester is painted without beard, seated on a throne, his right hand raised in blessing, while in his left hand he holds an open book.
Later the Saint is represented with beard and advanced in age. This is the case of the painting preserved in the archives of Montefano (probably dating from the end of 15th century). Here Sylvester, wearing a tan cowl, holds a cross in his right hand and the Rule of St. Benedict in his left.
Interesting iconographical elements regarding St. Sylvester are found St. Benedict’s church in Fabriano. To be specially noted is a narrative cycle regarding the life of the Saint. It was painted by Simon de Magistris from Caldarola towards the end of the 16th century. It consists of nine mural frescos, which are now partly ruined by humidity. The Saint is always represented with beard, elderly, and wearing a tan cowl. In the painting of the Virgin who saves St. Sylvester we see for the first time, the abbatial mitre and crozier.
Starting from the 17th century the iconographic theme of the communion received at the hands of the Virgin, becomes prevalent till today. The oldest painting of the « Virgin giving St. Sylvester the Eucharist » is to be found at Montefano. The work can be dated to 1632 and is attributed to Claudio Ridolfi, a painter from Verona, who worked for a long time in the Marche. The Saint with beard wears a tan cowl; an angel holds the croziers while on the ground are the mitre and the book of the Rule.
In one of the codices of the archives of Montefano there is a beautiful miniature of the Saint dated from 1657. He is represented with beard, tan cowl, mitre and crozier, in the act of adoring the Cross which is being presented to him by an angel. In the background one can see the monastery of Montefano with its architectural structure of the 16th century.
Interesting is also the cycle of paintings of the « Saint’s Story » found in the monastery of Montefano. It contains the largest number of representations regarding St. Sylvester: twenty lunettes adorning the main cloister. The work is by Anthony Ungarini, a painter from Fabriano (second half of the 18th century. Episodes and miracles from the life of St. Sylvester are reproduced in a descriptive and popular manner with a marked preference for the anecdotal side of the human and religious vicissitudes of the Saint (30).
The Sylvestrine Congregation was founded by Sylvester Guzzolini (1177-1267), in the Marca of Ancona, in a period – the thirteenth century – which saw the progressive, even though contested, consolidation of papal power in the region. Possession of the Marche was very important for the Church, because they separated the territories of the Kingdom of Sicily from those of the Holy Roman Empire, – the two crowns having been united by the Emperor Henry VI (1190-1197) – and thus constituted a barrier crucial to the survival of the pope’s temporal dominions. In the struggle between papacy and empire, the « Comuni » (cities) of the Marca were allied sometimes with one side and sometimes with the other depending on the circumstances at the time (1).
About 1228 the hermit Sylvester received his first disciples at Grottafucile, and they became the nucleus of the new order. It was the very year in which the troops of Emperor Frederick II, under the command of Rinaldo the duke of Spoleto, invaded the Marca. Only two years later, in 1230, the region was again under the rule of Pope Gregory IX and was governed with a certain stability by a rector nominated directly by the pontiff.
In 1231, the first definite date we have in the history of the Congregation, Sylvester founded the hermitage of Montefano, near Fabriano (then in the diocese of Camerino). His movement was centered here and obtained canonical approval from Innocent IV on the 27 June 1248 with the Bull Religiosam vitam (2). The privilegium confirmationis of the « Order of St. Benedict of Montefano » was sent from Lyon, where the pope had sought refuge from the war with Frederik II who, in 1239, had again occupied the Marche and, in 1241, had arrived with his army at the gates of Rome. Fabriano, like other cities of the Marche, had passed over to Frederick II, becoming one of the major supporters of the imperial idea. In 1248 the emperor’s army controlled almost the entire region, in spite of the fact that Frederick had been excommunicated by the first Council of Lyon (1245) and the faithful prohibited from obeying him. After his death, which occurred in 1250, all the cities of the Marche returned to the control of the Church. The following year Innocent IV came back to Italy.
In founding the hermitage of Montefano, Sylvester was helped by the Canons of St. Venanzo, the mother church of Fabriano (3). They continued to show their friendship and esteem by inviting him « very often » to their church that he might « proclaim word of God to the people » (Life, ch. 30 Engl. – ch. 27 Lat.).
It seems that the first monks at Montefano won almost immediate favour with the local population because of the great austerity of their lives. The « Commune » (city Council) as well as private citizens were generous in giving the monks of « Brother Sylvester » gifts and land (which included money, land, houses, and donkeys) (4). In 1265 Guido, the bishop of Camerino, granted a 40 days indulgence to members of the faithful who visited the church of Montefano with devotion between the feast of St. Benedict (21 March) and the octave of the feast of the apostles James and Philip (8 May), leaving alms and offerings to support the monks.
Thus, in this rather haphazard way, Montefano gradually consolidated its economic position. Moreover, even in a period of political and religious turmoil, the support of the local civil and ecclesiastical authorities, gave the monks the necessary independence to develop a normal community life.
In 1255 the first General Chapter (that we know of) was held at Grottafucile. The members were: Brother Sylvester, Prior of the hermitage of Montefano, the Priors of St. Peter of Osimo, St. Bonfil of Cingoli, St. Mary of Grottafucile, St. Bartolo of Serra San Quirico, St. Mark of Ripalta and 19 monks (5).
In 1264 the rector of the Marca of Ancona allowed the monks of the « Order of Brother Sylvester, who lived according to the Rule of St. Benedict » to build churches, with the permission of the diocesan bishops, to preach and to administer the sacraments (6).
At the death of the founder, on 26 November 1267, the two vicars of the Order, Bartolo from Cingoli and Joseph degli Atti from Serra San Quirico, notified all the communities of the death of « Brother Sylvester, Prior General of the hermitage and of the Order of Montefano » and convoked the General Chapter for the 1st January 1268, in order to elect the new « shepherd » (7).
There were twelve monasteries at that time, all situated within the Papal States: – in the Marche:
1) St. Benedict of Montefano, near Fabriano
2) St. Mary of Grottafucile
3) St. Mark of Ripalta
4) St. Bonfil of Cingoli
5) St. Bartolo of Serra San Quirico
6) St. Pietro del Monte of Osimo
7) St. Thomas of Jesi
8) St. Bartolo of Rocca Contrada (Arcevia today)
9) St. John of Sassoferrato- in Umbria:
10) St. Mark of Sambuco
11) St. Benedict of Perugia- in Lazio:
12) St. James in Settimiano of Rome.
Initially, therefore, the Congregation had a distinctly regional character, which it preserved for most of its history down through the centuries.
At the General Chapter, held to elect a successor to Sylvester, 82 monks participated in person and 37 by proxy: 119 in all, which was probably the total number of Sylvestrine monks at the time the founder died (8).
On 4 January 1268 Joseph degli Atti from Scrra San Quirico was elected head of the Congregation. During his brief rule (1268-1273), he was involved in a controversy with Guido, bishop of Camerino, due to the latter’s undue interference in the internal affairs of the Order.
The dispute began in October 1268 when Brother Joseph, having received faculties from the vicar of the rector of the Marca of Ancona, put into the prison at Montefano two monks: Brother Compagno chaplain to the bishop of Camerino, and Brother Gabriel, because they were found guilty of « serious transgressions » against the Rule of St. Benedict. The bishop demanded that the two monks be freed and sent to him. Because Brother Joseph opposed him, maintaining that « it is the task of the Prior to correct his own monks » the bishop prohibited burial or the administration of the sacraments to the faithful in the Sylvestrine churches situated within his diocese. He banned, as well, the monks begging, contesting the fact that the monks were « so poor – as they maintained that they could not live and serve God without the help and the alms of the faithful » the Sylvestrines, in fact, according to bishop Guido, « possessing properties, should live by the work of their hands, while the alms should be given to support those poor who do not have the possibility of cultivating their own possessions ».
The Prior General appealed first of all to the rector of the Marca, then to the Conclave of Viterbo, and finally to Pope Gregory X. The controversy was over in 1272 with the death of the bishop, even though it was concluded officially in 1285 by bishop Rambotto, successor of Guido at Camerino, with full recognition of the rights of exemption for the order of Montefano from dioccesan jurisdiction (9).
The time of Bartolo from Cingoli, the third Prior General (1273-1208) signaled the start of a profound renewal within the monastic family of Montefano. In fact, after the death of the charismatic Sylvester and the long struggle with the prelate of Camerino, the order became conscious of the need for a juridical and institutional structure which would reflect the spiritual intuition of the founder.
So that the original charism might be reflected in the governmental structure of the order, Bartolo from Cingoli entrusted to Andrew of James from Fabriano, one of the monks, the task of writing the Life of Sylvester based on the testimonies of those first disciples who were still living. In this way the authentic spirituality of the founder became the basis for the evolution of the Order.
The merit for having given juridical expression to the spiritual ideals of Sylvester goes to the fourth Prior General, Andrew of James from Fabriano (1298-1325). Indeed it is to him that we owe the promulgation of the « liber constitutionum » (The Book of the Constitutions), the oldest that we have, which fixed the identity and the style of life of the Sylvestrine movement.
The Constitutions, with the introduction of variants of no little consequence for the praxis and for the primary aim of the Congregation, show a clear break with certain ways of acting evident in the beginnings, and an adaptation to the new situation at the start of the fourteenth century (10).
Above all, there was a progressive disappearance of the eremitical character of the Order because of its increasing presence in the towns and cities (11).
The founder, who in the Life is called the « magnificent hermit » after withdrawing from Osimo retired to the solitude Grottafucile, where he had received his first disciples. These lived in separate cells, however. Moreover, Sylvester chose solitary sites for his monasteries, in preference to the cities and towns (cf. Life, preface).
The monks of those first communities were considered « hermits ». Blessed John the Solitary spent his days at Montefano (officially called a « hermitage » in the « privilegium confirmations » of Innocent IV) in a cell built in the woods, standing apart from the monastery buildings (Life, ch. 38 Engl ch. 34 Lat.). Blessed John of the Staff lived as a « recluse » in a cell on the ground floor of the monastery, which was assigned to him by the founder for health reasons. Finally, Sylvester remained bearded throughout his life (Life, ch. 16 Engl ch. 14 Lat.), a privilege traditionally reserved for hermits as a sign of their calling.
As well, the practice of begging almost ceases, as a result of Decrees coming from the Second Council of Lyon, which with the constitution Religionum diversitatem nimiam, promulgated on 17 July 1274, took up the question of the « excessive number » of religious movements inspired by evangelical poverty which had sprung up after the Fourth Lateran Council in 1215. The document imposed severe limitations (e.g. prohibiting the admision of new candidates and the opening of new houses) on those orders approved after that Council, whose only means of support was begging. The Dominicans and Franciscans were excluded from the provisions.
Brother Bartolo third Prior General, and his monks », fearing that their Congregation would be confused with the mendicant Orders taken to task by the Second Council of Lyon, and « wishing to abandon the practice of begging, decided to live exclusively from their own goods, according to the spirit of the Rule of St. Benedict and the ‘privilegium confirmationis’ of the Order » (Life, ch. 48 Engl ch. 44 Lat).
Besides, the Congregation began to take on a predominantly clerical character, with the monks taking up pastoral ministry and teaching. The Constitutions promulgated by the fourth Prior General show that such a state was already advanced, since in Sylvestrine monasteries, conventual mass was celebrated every day, and twice on Sundays and on the principal Feastdays of the year. Private masses were also provided for, and could be celebrated during the conventual mass.
Besides, provision was made for a certain number of confessors within the community, as each monk had to confess himself three times a week. Finally, to cover the principal offices in the monastery (Prior, Vice-Prior, Hebdomadarian for the office and also for the Mass), it was necessary to ordain more priest-monks, and this became an increasing trend, which became more and more a distinctive sign amongst the monks.
In 1296 the Sylvestrines took possession of the church of St. Maria Nuova, in Perugia, and a parish came with it (12). It was the first entrusted to the Congregation. During the rule of Andrew of James from Fabriano (1298-1325), diocesan bishops gave parochial jurisdiction to the Sylvestrine churches of St. Mark of Florence (1 July 1300) and St. Benedict of Fabriano (4 July 1323). In the following centuries these pastoral activities became more and more intense.
The urbanization of the communities favoured, also, a growing involvement in the general civil and ecclesiastical life of the time (13).
Geographical expansion, growth in numbers and spiritual vitality characterize the close of the thirteenth and the beginning of the fourteenth century.
The following monasteries were opened (14): – in the Marche:
St. Lucy of Serra San Quirico (1276)
St. Maria Nuova of Matelica (1288)
St. Mary of Belforte (1291)
St. Martin of Bura, near Tolentino (1295)
St. Nicolo of Tolentino (before 1298)
St. Maria di Piazza of Recanati (1326)
St. Benedict of Cingoli (1327)
St. Anthony of Camerino (1330) – in Toscana:
St. Mark of Florence (1299)
Holy Spirit of Siena (1311)
St. Nicolo of Montepulciano (1332)
St. John the Baptist of Montepulciano (about 1332) – in Umbria:
St. Gregory of Salto, near Orvieto (before 1287)
St. Maria Nuova of Perugia (1296)
St. Angel of Casacastalda (1302)
St. Maria Novella of Orvieto (before 1322) – in Lazio:
St. Pietro della Castagna of Viterbo (1280)
St. Mary of Bagnoregio (before 1298)
St. Mary of Fiano Romano (before 1298).
The Sylvestrines reached almost two hundred members, a limit they have never passed in more than seven hundred years of history (15). Only recently have the numbers of members of the Congregation returned to those of the beginnings. In the late thirteenth and early fourteenth centuries the vita silvestri (Life of Sylvester), the vita Iohannis a Baculo (Life of John of the Staff) and the Vita Hugonis (Life of Hugo), two of the first monks, were edited, according to the rules of medieval agiography. The (Vita Bonfilii Life of Bonfil) was also copied, being attributed by the tradition to founder himself (16).
During the long term of office of the fourth Prior General, Andrew of James from Fabriano (17), the Congregation found itself involved in the struggle between the Guelphs (supporters of the Pope) and the Ghibellines (followers of the Emperor).
At the beginning of 1316, under the leadership of two brothers, Lippaccio and Andrew Guzzolini, who were, according to a family tradition, nephews of the founder, the « Comuni » (cities) of Osimo and Recanati rebelled against papal rule. In December of the same year a Ghibelline force, led by Frederick of Montefeltro, attacked and plundered Macerata, the seat of the rector of the Marca of Ancona. An army was immediately raised the by papal authorities, made up of contingents of troops taken from the cities which remained faithful. Since the city of Fabriano refused to send the required forces, it was placed under interdict, which, however, was not respected by most of the clergy. The rebels were heavily fined, deprived of ecclesiastical benefices, and denied offices and titles for life. Amongst those condemned by the rector Amelius of Lautrec in a document dated the 17 March 1320 were: the Prior and Canons of St. Venanzo Andrew of James « Prior General of the order of St. Benedict of Montefano&g »; Brother Dionysius, « Prior of St. Benedict of Fabriano »; Crescenzio Chiavelli, Abbot of St. Vittore delle Chiuse, who had been a Sylvestrine monk: the Abbot of Valdicastro, where the body St. Romuald was. Brother Sylvester, monk of the order of Montefano, was given the task of asking the general absolution for the clergy of Fabriano, which was granted on 15 March 1322 following the payment of 78 gold florins (18)
On 20 November 1325 Pope John XXII, suspending the normal procedure by which the Prior General was elected by the monks in the General Chapter, chose Matthew from Esanatoglia for this office, thus beginning a sequence of thirteen appointed Priors General (1325-1544), nominated directly by the Holy See. As to chancery rights and tax on the benefice received, the Priors General « in commendam » corresponded to the Apostolic Camera the sum of 63 gold florins, to be paid in cash or by instalment (19).
During the period of Matthew from Esanatogia Prior General (1325-1331), the struggle between the Guelphs and Ghibellines became more acute following a serious conflict between Pope John XXII and the Emperor Ludwig of Bavaria. The latter arrived in Italy in 1327, supported by the Ghibellines. He had declared the Pope deposed, since he lived at Avignon instead of Rome – the papal seat – and had appointed as his successor, the anti-pope Peter Rainalducci from Corvaro, a Franciscan, who took the name of Nicolo V (12 May 1328).
In his march towards Rome Ludwig passed through Viterbo, and was received enthusiastically by his followers. Brother Isaiah from Tolentino, a Sylvestrine monk from the community of Fiano Romano, dared under these circumstances to publicly celebrate mass and declare his support for Ludwig. He was declared a heretic by John XXII, but was granted absolution on 20 April 1328, being banned from public office within the Congregation for a year, forbidden to leave the monastery for a month and obliged to fast on bread and water once a week for an entire year.
The anti-pope Nicolo V, with a Bull dated 5 November 1328, elevated Fabriano, which had taken the side of the Emperor, to a Diocese, appointing Morico, Abbot of St. Biagio in Caprile, the first bishop. He deposed Matthew from Esanatoglia Prior General of the order of St. Benedict of Montefano, for supporting the heretic James from Cahors (i.e. John XXII); and decreed that the goods of Montefano and Valdicastro were to form the means of support for the new bishop.
Nicolo V abdicated in 1330, having been abandoned by Ludwig, and in the following year part of the papal territories returned to the control of John XXII. The rector of the Marca of Ancon on 14 August 1331, published the sentence of absolution for the clergy of Fabriano who had supported the Emperor and the anti pope, imposing on them abstinence from meat and wine for three years, a pilgrimage to the tombs of the Apostles in Rome and commuted to the recitation of the penitential psalms and the litany. 23 Sylvestrine monks took advantage of this pardon (20).
The Commendam (21), together with the political instability of the Papal States, pestilence (22), famine and earthquakes, were the principal causes of the economic and numerical crisis the Order suffered in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. Besides the fall in the number of monks, which made regular observance difficult in many monasteries, documents of the time emphasise grave internal difficulties, certainly the most serious in the history of the Congregation, which are evidence of the crisis Sylvestrines went through during this period.
In 1362 the community of St. Mark of Florence rebelled against the authority of the Prior General, Nicolo from Cingoli, maintaining: that he had obtained surreptitiously the papal Bull nominating him; that he had not sworn loyalty to the Holy See as required by Canon Law; that he had forced obedience from the priors and the monks with the threat of imprisonment; that he lived a dissipated life as if he were a great lord. The insubordination stopped only when the Prior General put all the monks concerned in gaol, depriving them of « all they had for their use » (23).
With the appearance of factions within the Congregation resulting from a crisis of authority, as for example occurred at the General Chapter of 1368 with the election of two Priors General Pope Urban V declared both elections invalid, because the vacant benefices were reserved to the Holy See), many monks left. The Prior General, John from Sassoferrato, obtained from Urban V the faculty to capture and imprison the « apostates » (Bull of 10 December 1368), and to ban them from entering other monasteries with the exception of the Carthusians, Monte Oliveto and the Sacro Speco of Subiaco, considered stricter than the Sylvestrines (24)
In 1378, with the election of the anti-pope Clement VII (1378-1394) by thirteen cardinals opposed to Urban VI (1378-1389) the great schism in the West began, finishing only in 1417. This brought about serious damage to the papacy and church life, because it involved various countries, certainly in Italy, and particularly in the Papal States, where the struggle between warring factions brought complete anarchy.
Sylvestrine monasteries, situated mainly in the Papal States and in cities at war with one another, felt the effects of this. The consequent isolation of the houses had negative effects: General Chapters and Visitations, the normal means of watching over the spiritual and economic lives of the monks as well as the discipline of the communities, became rare and ineffective. In particular General Chapters were not really representative as monks had difficulty travelling on account of the warfare.
In 1383, because of the troubled times faced by the Congregation, the Prior General John from Sassoferrato began serious discussions on union with the Celestines. These came to nothing, principally because of the strong opposition of the communities of St. Mark of Florence and of Holy Spirit of Siena. On 12 June 1385, the Prior General, on visitation to the Florentine monastery, in order to gain « obedience and respect » from the eighteen monks of the community, was forced to swear on the Gospels that he would not, in the future, consent to a union of the Congregation with other orders (25).
Towards the end of the century, besides, the Prior General was transferred from Montefano, a place no longer safe because of roaming bands of political exiles from Fabriano, the monastery of St. Benedict in the city itself (26).
A deed of 1391 is the first witness we have for the existence of a Cardinal Protector for the Sylvestrine Congregation, whose principal tasks were the defense of the Congregation against its opponents, surveillance to insure orthodoxy and fidelity of the order to the Church, and to see to the observance of the Rule and the Constitutions. In the course of the centuries, the excessive interference of the Cardinal Protector in the internal affairs of the Congregation, as was the case with many other religious institutes, provoked disturbances and unrest amongst the monks, at times.
The practice of appointed Superiors (the Commendam) of individual monasteries, for the most part relatives of the Popes, began towards the end of the fourteenth century, and is the most significant feature of the Congregation’s history in the fifteenth century. The attempts of the Priors General to rescue these monasteries were to no avail.
Another major event in the life of the Sylvestrines in the fifteenth century, without doubt, was the expulsion of the order from the monastery of St. Mark of Florence, decreed by Pope Eugene IV in 1436, to the advantage of the Dominican Friars from St. Dominic’s Convent of Fiesole. The monks, in the person of Stephen of Anthony from Castelletta, Vicar of the Onder, appealed in 1432 to the Council of Basel (which claimed to be a General Council of the Church). The Council, with a Bull dated 26 May 1436, annulled the decree of the Pope. Eugene IV then, deprived the Sylvestrines of the monastery of the Holy Spirit of Siena, as well, which was then given to the Congregation of Santa Giustina in 1437 (27). The polyptych of Segna of Bonaventura, depicting the Blessed Virgin with Saints Benedict and Sylvester, now held in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, came from here.
The Prior General who distinguished himself above all during this period was Stephen of Anthony from Castelletta (1439-1471) a master of Theology, who undertook a programme to reform the spiritual and cultural life of the Congregation (28). He called the attention of all the monks to Montefano « head and mother » of the Order, spiritual centre and point of reference for rediscovering the identity and original ideal, incarnated in the founder, who had wanted the monks « in the forest » that is, in solitude. According to the Sylvestrine historian, Stephen Moronti, the loss of the monasteries in the principal cities of Italy, such as Florence and Siena, did not represent anything but a healthy return to the authenticity of the beginnings.
In 1443, Stephen of Anthony obtained from Pope Eugene IV the Abbey of St. Biagio in Caprile with all its property and income, in order to restore the buildings at Montefano, which were by now falling into disrepair, and without a resident community (in 1461 the presence of one monk is recorded – the « hermit » Sylvester of James from Venice – who looked after the tomb of the founder) (29). Pope Callistus III, who had been a guest of the monks at Montefano and Fabriano from the time he was a cleric, in 1456 gave to Stephen also the property of Chiavelli (30), situated near the castle of Precicchie, as well as the proceeds of a tax he placed on all the contracts of the « Comune » (city council) of Fabriano. Finally, Pope Pius II (in 1461) and Paul II (in 1465) and six cardinals, amongst them the celebrated Bessarion (1463), increased the indulgences granted to those who visited the church at Montefano and who contributed to its restoration either with their work or by their pious alms.
In this way Montefano was repaired and to some degree its role was restored, even if in the second half of the fifteenth century and for all the sixteenth, only a small community lived there (from 2 to 4 monks).
After the last commended Prior General, Gentile Favorino Cima from Camerino, a secular priest, was murdered by a farmer of Belvedere near the Abbey St. Biagio in Caprile, Pope of Paul III, who had been the Cardinal Protector of the Congregation, decreed in 1544 that the election of the Prior General no longer for life, but for three years – should return to the monks gathered together at the General Chapter, and without outside interference. Thus every commendatory right to the « Priory of Montefano » was abolished.
On 15 October 1554 the civil and religious authorities of Fabriano, with the bishop of Camerino, Berard Bongiovanni, as their leader, occupied the monastery of St. Benedict under the pretext that the monks were not following the regular observance, and chased out the Prior General Anthony Andri and the other monks. These sought refuge at Sassoferrato, taking with them only the clothes they were wearing and a few personal possessions. The true reason, however, for the expulsion was to use the Sylvestrine monastery and its income for the erection of a new diocese. The monks were able to return on 11 June 1555 by order of Pope Paul IV, who insisted that they undergo a severe reform (31).
On 17 November 1555 the Cardinal Protector Tiberius Crispi, with the permission of Paul IV and the consent of Ignatius of Loyola, appointed Niccolo Bobadilla, one of Loyola’s first companions, « General Commissioner, reformer and head of all the Order of Sylvestrines and the nuns subject to them (32), with full faculties to visit each and every monastery of the said Congregation ».
Between 2 January and 21 March 1556 Bobadilla visited the monasteries, finding there « much less irregularity than the world believed ». The sources do not indicate any decrees for reform coming from the Jesuit, but he did make provisions to remedy abuses here and there (there is, for example, record of a monk being put into prison on Bobadilla’s orders). He gave to the Holy See a « very good report on the monks ». In fact, according to a chronicler of the time only a few individual monks had created « scandals » and had transgressed the holy institutes of our holy fathers Benedict and Sylvester (33).
Because of the renewed fervour resulting from the visitation of Bobadilla (who wrote to James Lainez, General of the Company of Jesus, in a letter dated 26 October 1557 maintaining that the Sylvestrines « have such good reputation, that the reform undertaken with them is the work of God »), some of the monks, wishing to return to the spirituality of the origins, retired to a heremitical life at Grottafucile and at St. Bartolo of Serra San Quirico (34).
In 1561, according to the oldest « tabula familiarum » (that is, list of monks and monasteries), wich has come down to us, there were 25 monasteries and 70 monks: 21 of these monasteries had less than 4 monks.
From 1565 until the early sixteen hundreds it seems there was contact between the Sylvestrine Congregation and Portuguese monasticism (and from 1581 also Brasilian), but so far it has not been possible to establish the modality and strength of such contacts (35).
Pope Sixtus V, with the letter Cum inter caeteras (7 October 1586), entrusted the Dominican Timothy Bottoni with the task of reforming the « Sylvestrine monks, in whose monasteries regular observance has fallen away ». This provision was part of the wider Tridentine programme for the reform of religious life following the Council of Trent and carried out with both energy and severity by Sixtus V during his pontificate, in the wake of the reformer popes of the second half of the 16th century.
At a General Chapter (Fabriano, 17 November 1586) Bottoni issued 26 « orders regarding the reform of all the Sylvestrine Order »: he recommended that the monks participate the Divine Office in both day and night, ordering the superiors to punish rigorously the « lazy » and « negligent » he exhorted the « priest-monks » to celebrate mass as often as possible, while he insisted that the « clerics » and « conversi » (lay-brothers) must go to confession at least once a week and to receive « the most holy sacrament of the Eucharist at least once a month »; he abrogated the practice of private savings (at that time there was the widespread practice amongst religious of having personal property): he recommended the integral practice of « fasting » and « abstinence » in conformity with the Rule and with the « oldest Constitutions »; he imposed the use of the monastic habit, which had been abandoned at the time of the Commendam for that of the secular priests; he prohibited the monks from having « long hair » and « beards »; he decreed the closure of small monasteries with one or two monks and ordered communities to be made up of at least ten religous; a smaller number would not have guaranteed the carrying of the common acts, and, above all, would not have made possible a worthy celebration of the Liturgy. The parishes linked to small monasteries had to be handed over to the diocesan clergy.
Bottoni, as well, abolished the office of the « Visitors », because the Congregation « through lack of monasteries and monks », could « be easily visited » by the Prior General, on whom he imposed the obligation to visit each community twice a year.
He also ordered that the old Latin Constitutions of the 14th century should be printed as soon as possible, translated into Italian, so that they could be « read » and « observed » by all the monks of the order (36).
The Prior General, Bonfil Fancelli, and the other monks of the Congregation (76 priests and clerics, 44 lay-brothers: 120 in all) began wearing the habit again in January 1587 (consisting of: cocolla for the clerics; hood and scapular for the lay-brothers), and renewed their vows. This was the first act of the reform, which marked the beginning of a progressive spiritual, cultural and even economic renewal at the heart of the order of Montefano.
Between 1584 and 1602 three monasteries were opened at Nepi in the province of Viterbo (Lazio): St. George, St. Maria dell’Immagine, and St. Sylvester, which was the first foundation named after the founder (37).
The first half of the sixteen hundreds was characterized by a notable expansion both geographically and numerically: there were 29 monasteries and 164 monks. The suppression of the small houses (with less than six religious) decreed by Pope Innocent X, there in 1652, was a real blow to the Sylvestrine Congregation: there resulted forced closure of no less than fifteen houses, whose the property, for the most part, was taken over by the diocesan bishops (38).
In 1660, the monastery of St. Anthony at Pescina in Abruzo Kingdom of Naples) was founded (39).
Another serious test the Congregation faced was in 1662, when Pope Alexander VII forced it into union with the Vallombrosans (29 March 1662). The new Congregation (« The Vallombrosan and new Sylvestrine Congregation of the order of St. Benedict ») was divided into three observances: that of St. Benedict, that of St. John Gualberto and that of St. Sylvester. The first two were made up of Vallombrosan monks (273 in 18 monasteries), the other one was Sylvestrine (134 monks in 15 monasteries). The coats-of-arms of the two Congregations were even united, and all the monks wore the same habit.
The Abbot General of the Vallombrosans, Daniel Sersale, was named the first Abbot General of the union, while the Abbot General of the Sylvestrines, Eusebius Ubaldi, was made the Vicar General. Later the Abbot General was to be elected in turn from each of the three observances.
The title of Abbot for the Superior General of the Sylvestrines, in place of that of Prior, was first introduced in 1610; from 1660 local superiors were given the same title.
In the first General Chapter of the new order, held in Rome at the Vallombrosan monastery of St. Prassede (26 April-8 May 1665), the Vallombrosan Ascanio Tamburini was elected Abbot General, while the Sylvestrine, Sylvester Gionantoni, became Vicar. At the unexpected death of Tamburini, which occurred on 7 June 1666, Gionantoni became Abbot, moving from Fabriano to Toscana and setting up residence in the monastery of St. Bartholomew of Ripoli, near Florence, home to the Vallombrosan Abbots General.
In the second General Chapter, held again at St. Prasede (1- 4 March 1667), the Vallombrosan Camillus della Torre, was elected Abbot General, and was immediately hostile towards the Sylvestrines. Alexander VII died on 22 May 1667, and his successor Clement IX on the 24 October of the same year declared the union dissolved (40).
No new monastery was opened in the 18th century. The missionary initiative of Joseph Marziali in Indochina (South Vietnam), from 1732 to 1740, was of passing value, but preluded that of the 19th century in Sri Lanka (then: Ceylon), and those of the 20th in USA, Australia, and India.
The number of monks fell from 145 (94 priests, 8 professed students, 3 novices, 35 lay-brothers, and 5 oblates) in 1700, to 122 (60 priests, 15 professed students, 3 novices, 34 lay-brothers, and 10 oblates) in 1797. Frequent famine and the epidemics which affected Central Italy of that period did not help (in the six-year period 1778-1783, 24 Sylvestrine monks died from « malignant fever »). The number of monasteries fell from 15 to 14 with the closure, in 1792, of St. Anthony of Pescina.
The reasons for the lack of expansion are to be sought in the precarious economic situation of the Congregation at the time, and on the limits placed on religious orders by the Holy See with respect to accepting novices. These limits were aimed at reducing the numbers of monasteries and convents, which were disproportionately high, given the size and demographic composition of the territory. In 1754, for example, Fabriano had a population of 6,000 with 21 religious houses (12 for men and 9 for women).
The Economy of the Marca Ancona, where ten Sylvestrine monasteries were situated, was severely tested by the passage or occupation by foreign troops, because of the « Wars of Succession », in which Papal States were involved during the first part of the century. The region was also hard hit by famine (particularly hard was that from 1763 to 1766) and agricultural crises: the Sylvestrine communities of Cingoli, Osimo, Sassoferrato, Montefano, Serra San Quirico, and Fabriano more than once complained of « very low harvests » throughout the century. Earthquakes also hit the area: especially serious was that of 24 April 1741, which caused much damage to the Sylvestrine houses, particularly in the Marche. The repairs were very expensive which tested the communities severely (41).
The constitutional structure of the Congregation lost much of its simplicity. Following contemporary trends, it became more centralized and complex, than it had been previously.
The wide powers which the Constitutions gave to the Abbot General and to the four Definitors (the composition of communities, the nomination of the Procurator General, of the ruling and titular Abbots, the Priors, the Bursars, the Lectors), were often the cause of differences and divisions between the active members of General Chapters.
Irregularities in the election and conduct of the Chapter of 1740, in which two parties had formed, led the losing side to appeal to the Holy See. Benedict XIV ordered an apostolic visitation, nominating Cardinal Francis Borghese, Protector of the Congregation, as Visitor.
In the report he sent to the Pope in 1741 at the end of the Visitation, Borghese lamented the lack of order, and abuses in government and economic management, although he admitted that the observance in « matters spiritual » was substantially good.
In the 18th century a special concern for the formation of novices and professed students is to be noted: decrees coming from the Chapters and Diets in this regard are both precise and detailed.
The century closed with the occupation of the Papal States by French troops, with the proclamation of the first Roman Republic (1798-1799), and with the imprisonment of Pius VI at Valencia, where he died on 29 August 1799.
The monasteries did not remain untouched by the new ideas of political liberalism coming from France. In May 1799 the Sylvestrine Bonfil Campelli, dazzled by a love of « liberty », left the monastery of St. Benedict of Cingoli to enlist in the French army at Ancona.
The « pillage of the city of Fabriano at the hands of the French troops on 28 June 1799 » impeded the convocation of the General Chapter of 1800, which was delayed until 1803.
For the Sylvestrine Congregation a new chapter in its history was open – that of the suppressions – which broke a monastic tradition of almost six centuries.
Soon after tranquility was restored with the election of Pope Pius VII at Venice (14 March 1800), and his return to Rome (3 July 1800), the fourteen monasteries of the Congregation were hit by the Napoleonic suppression.
In 1810 a Sylvestrines had to leave their monasteries. They had to abandon the habit and anything which might have distinguished them as monks; they could take with them only those things of strictly personal use, including beds, tables and chairs. An annual pension of 539 lire was given to the priests and 346.5 lire to the lay-brothers. The goods and property of the monasteries (pictures, works of art, library, archives, houses, land etc….) were itemized and sequestered. Only parish churches were spared (St. Benedict of Fabriano, St. Fortunato of Perugia, St. Lucy of Serra San Quirico, and Santo Stefano del Cacco of Rome), but most of the vestments and above all items of gold and silver were taken (42).
The Vicar General, Joachim Baroncini, had to provide for the upkeep of the church of St. Sylvester at the hermitage of Fabriano, mother and centre of the Congregation, with his only pension.
He was the « custodian » of the of Montefano sanctuary for the whole period of the suppression (43). With the restoration of the Papal States, permission for the re-opening of eight houses was granted by the Holy See. They were:
-Lazio: Santo Stefano del Cacco of Rome (1814)
-Umbria: St. Fortunato of Perugia (1814)
-Marche: St. Sylvester of Montefano (1820)
St. Benedict of Fabriano (1820
St. Sylvester of Osimo (1820)
St. Lucy of Serra San Quirico (1820)
St. Anthony of Camerino (1820 – suppressed by the Holy See in 1837)
St. Maria Nuova of Matelica (1821- left in 1842)
In 1821 the monastery of St. Mary of Sasoferrato was acquired. It had belonged to the Augustinians.
The first General Chapter after the Napoleonic suppression was celebrated at the monastery of St. Benedict of Fabriano in 1824. The monks who had returned to the cloisters numbered 41 (20 priests and 21 lay-brothers).
The novitiate was re-opened at Montefano 1825, but the following year Leo XII forbade the acceptance of new vocations, and he tried in vain to force the Sylvestrines, the Olivetans and the Camaldolese to become part of the Cassinese Congregation. It was later Camaldolese Congregation that attempted, in the person of Cardinal Placido Zurla, O.S.B. of Camaldoli, Apostolic Visitor to the Sylvestrines, to absorb the orders of Montefano and Monte Oliveto. Only the direct intervention of the following Pope, Pius VIII, in 1830, avoided the danger.
Again as a result of the low number, Gregory XVI called together a special commission of Cardinals to decide on the fate of the Sylvestrine Congregation in 1837: their opinion was favourable, and the Pontiff too pronounced himself in favour of its survival.
In April 1837, the second General Chapter after the restoration was held and it was decided to draw up a new text of Constitutions adapted to the new situation. The Sylvestrine family, at that stage, was made up of 49 monks (24 priests, 21 lay-brothers stage, and 4 students).
In 1842 the monastery of St. Theresa was opened in Matelica, province of Macerata, Marche (44).
In 1845 the order of Montefano, restricted to Central Italy hitherto, began a process of foreign expansion with the opening of a mission in Ceylon (today Sri Lanka). It was the work of the monk Joseph Bravi, and led, in the twentieth century, to the Congregation becoming international (45).
In 1860-1861 the monasteries of Umbria and Marche were subject to the laws of suppression of the Kingdom of Italy (46). A government commission was sent to every community to take possession of all goods and property and to see to the expulsion of all religious. These communities, following the directions of the Holy See, were to accept the notifications to hand over, sign the pension certificates, and then make ritual protest by declaring that they would obey only under the threat of violence.
On 16 March 1861 the monks were expelled from St. Benedict Fabriano: the Abbot General Adam Adami withdrew to Castellanio (Province of Ancona) « to the house of his parents » (where he died in 1889).
The Congregation in Italy at that time numbered 74 members (statistics are not yet available for Sri Lanka): 33 priests, 16 professed students (2 from Sri Lanka), 23 lay-brother, and 2 school-students (from Sri Lanka).
Montefano was temporarily saved by the actions of Emilian Miliani, who, in 1861, went personally to Turin to the King, Victor II. He took with him a petition which both the citizens Emmanuel and parish priests of Fabriano had signed, but in 1866, St. Sylvesters suffered the same fate as the other communities. As custodian of the founder’s tomb, Louis Bartoletti (a priest-monk) remained at Montefano with the oblate Lawrence Coccia (who died four years later, on 26 April 1870).
The General Chapter which was to be held in 1862, because of the developments arising out of the suppression, was adjourned, with permission from the Holy See, from one year to the other until in 1872 the Congregation for Bishops and Clerical Religious allowed the election of the Abbot General by written vote without the members coming together in Chapter. The votes were sent to the Abbot General, Adam Adami, at Castelplanio, who, in the presence of two monks, on 11 June 1872, counted them: Vincent Comeli was elected (nine monks voted), and then made his residence in Rome. From the tavola delle famiglie (list of monks and monasteries) of that year there were 50 Sylvestrine monks in Italy (35 priests and 15 lay-brothers).
In 1873 Santo Stefano del Cacco of Rome was suppressed: the monks were allowed to maintain custody of the church and « a part of the monastery » remained, in view of « international law in the light of our Foreign Mission », a right which the Abbot General Vincent Corneli was able to have recognized by the Government (from a Circular Letter of Corneli, dated 9 June 1874).
The courageous attempts of the Congregation to survive are linked, in a symptomatic way, to the issue of the novitiate. It was transferred from Montefano to Rome, in 1862. Here it was suppressed in 1870, to be reconstituted in Kandy (in what was then Ceylon), in 1875, and returned to Montefano in 1881.
In 1873 Montefano was put up for auction at Ancona; Tobias Lorenzetti, brother of the ex-Abbot of Montefano Lawrence Benedict Lorenzetti, bought it for 6,250 lire, on the monks behalf. Sylvestrine monks, not only in Italy but also Sri Lanka, contributed: a testimony that Montefano was recognized by all as the spiritual centre of the Congregation.
The monastery of St. Anthony in Sri Lanka was opened in The 1874, and in 1886 it became the Episcopal Seat of the Kandy Diocese. For (1857-1972) the bishops, first of Colombo, then of Kandy and later of Badulla, were Sylvestrines. The first Sri Lankan be consecrated a bishop, Bede Beekmeyer, was also a Sylvestrine, in the early nineteen hundreds. Schools were also begun by the monks in both Colombo (St. Benedict – now run by the De la Salle Brothers) and Kandy (St. Anthony’s – still run by the monks).
From 1872, because of political developments, nineteen years passed before another General Chapter could be held. In 1891 the Congregation for Bishops and Clerical Religious, in response to a request from the monks, granted the faculty to celebrate the Chapter in the monastery of St. Sylvester near Fabriano, where the remains of the founder are held. Abbot Vincent Corneli was reelected on 3 August 1891, and died on 21 January 1892.
At the end of the century the Sylvestrines were able to « reconquer » some of the property lost during the suppression (47).
The twentieth century marks the gradual revival of the order of Montefano. In 1900 the Congregation consisted of 58 members: 35 in Italy (17 priests, 5 professed students, 10 lay-brothers and 3 postulants), and 23 in Sri Lanka (1 bishop, 15 priests, 3 professed students, 3 lay-brothers, and 1 oblate). There 8 monasteries were in Italy (Montefano, St. Benedict of Fabriano, St. Theresa of Matelica, St. Lucy of Serra San Quirico, St. Maria del Piano of Sasoferrato, St. Sylvester of Osimo, St. Fortunato of Perugia and Santo Stefano del Cacco of Rome), and 1 in Sri Lanka (St. Anthony of Kandy, where 14 monks and 60 students lived).
In 1910, because of political conditions in Italy which led one to fear a new suppression, the Sylvestrines thought of opening a house in the United States. The first to depart were the monks Philip Bartoccetti and Joseph Cipolletti. They established themselves at Chicopee first, and then at Frontenac in Kansas (in 1912), where the bishop of Wichita, John Joseph Hennesy, entrusted them with the spiritual care of the Italians who were working in the coal mines.
Joined by another three monks, they moved to Detroit, Michigan, in 1928, where they founded the monastery of St. Sylvester, annexed to the parish of St. Scholastica, with its Catholic school, all of which still exist (48). In 1939, the number of Sylvestrines was nine (seven priests and two lay-brothers).
In 1951 the monastery of Holy Face was founded at Clifton, New Jersey, and in 1960 that of St. Benedict of Oxford, Michigan, which became the novitiate house. In Sri Lanka the monastery of St. Sylvester of Ampitiya (near Kandy) was opened in 1928; in 1962, that of St. Benedict of Adisham, Haputale (now in the Badulla Diocese) (49), with the novitiate in 1966, that of St. Antony of Padua, at wahacotte in the Kandy Diocese, with parish and sanctuary attached. In the last 45 years in Italy, five monasteries have been founded: St. Vincent’s at Bassano Romano (1941), Holy Face at Giulianova (1953), St. Joseph’s at Terni (1962, closed in 1977), S. Maria Mater Ecclesiae at Saluggia (1964), our Lady of Crestochowa in Rome (1974) attached to a parish.
Sylvestrines first came to Australia in 1949 in the person of Fr. Peter Farina. He had come from Sri Lanka and was entrusted with the parish of St. Gertrude at Smithfield. In 1950, in place of Farina–who was recalled to Sri Lanka–two monks arrived from USA and in the following year another two from Italy (in 1956 there were 5 monks at Smithfield: 4 priests and 1 lay-brother), who carried out much pastoral work ». In December 1957 a monastic community was begun in the monastery of « Subiaco » Tydalmere, about 10 km from Smithfield, formerly belonging to a community of Benedictine nuns, who had moved further north of Sydney. The monks ran a small primary school there for three years.
In May 1961 the monks themselves left Rydalmere and soon commenced building a monastery dedicated to St. Benedict at Arcadia–a rural zone about 25 km north-west of Sydney (50). Since 1969 they have also the pastoral care of the Catholics of the area.
In 1970 the two communities had 15 members (11 at Arcadia, 4 at Smithfield).
In 1949 tow monks from Sri Lanka, Boniface Valiaparampil and George Kuthukallunkal, went to Cochin, in the Indian state of Kerala, to begin an experiment in monastic living (51). They were later joined by others and had begun a school. In 1953, however, due to circumstances, the initiative was abandoned.
Because of a changed political situation in Sri Lanka in 1962, some monks of Indian nationality, forced to leave the island in so much as they were foreign missionaries, founded the monastery of St. Joseph at Makkiyad in Kerala (52). Later the monasteries of St. Sylvester at Bangalore in Karnataka State (1973) and Jeevan Jyoti Ashram at Shivpuri in Madhya Pradesh State in 1980 were opened (53).
On the 19 September 1973, the Congregation became a member of the Benedictine Confederation. On the 6 October 1986 there were 199 Sylvestrines: 61 in Italy (distributed throughout 5 monasteries and 3 houses), 46 in Sri Lanka (in 3 monasteries and 2 houses), 25 in USA (3 monasteries and 1 house), 16 in Australia (2 monasteries) and 51 in India (3 monasteries).
Sylvestrine monasticism which had for a long time a national, if not a regional character, is now spread throughout four continents. St. Sylvester, through the works of his sons, has lived by now, for more than 750 years of the history of the church and the world.
The fundamental characteristic of the Congregation was its centralization. The focus on Montefano and its Prior was clear from the beginning, and was expressed explicitly in the Constitutions of the fourteenth century (54).
The first juridical and organizational elements of the Congregation are contained in the document Religiosam vitam (The Privilegium confirmationis), promulgated by Innocent IV at Lyon, on 27 June 1248. The papal Bull speaks of the monasteric Order Founded in the hermitage of St. Benedict at Montefano under the Rule of St. Benedict. The monasteries called loca (places) to distinguish them from the hermitage, depended on Montefano, whose Prior was elected for life « according to the will of God and the Rule of St. Benedict ».
From documents of the thirteenth century we learn that the Orior of the hermitage of Montefano, or Prior General, was elected at the General Chapter, convoked by the Vicar of the Order. All the monks had the right to participate and to vote. If a monk could not attend, for a just reason, he could nominate a confrere as his proxy by means of an affidavit sent to the Vicars. The Prior, with the consent of the General Chapter, nominated the Vicars (two or three) who in the case of death would take up the government until a new election. The Prior would also preside at the General Chapters, and, at times, also the Conventual Chapters.
The documents which we posses do not allow us to establish the frequency, nor all the powers of the General Chapter in the thirteenth century. Besides the task of electing the Prior of the Order, it nominated the councillors or procurators to both civil and ecclesiastical authorities and courts.
The oldest Sylvestrine Constitutions known to us come from the beginning of the fourteenth century and were the work of the fourth Prior General, Andrew of James from Fabiano (1298-1325). They exist in two editions, substantially the same, conserved respectively in the Württembergische Landesbibliothek in Stuttgart and in the archives at Montefano. They remained in power, with a few modifications, until 1610. The copy in Stuttgart can be dated between 1303 and 1308, and that of Montefano to the period 1311-1317 (55).
Recent studies have identified the Premonstratensian and Cistercian legislations as the main sources for both texts (56). Nevertheless, elements derived from the Priviegium Confirmationis of 1248 and from the customs of the Order are not lacking, as can be seen from the documentary sources and Sylvestrine writing of the thirteenth century (57). The question as to whether there was an earlier legislative text is still being debated. Some scholars, who desire to find direct links to the founder not only in spirit but also in terms of juridical continuity, maintain that there could be a text which goes back to the founder himself (58). In the light of the most recent studies, however, it seems difficult to attribute one to Guzzolini himself, who was a charismatic founder but not a legislator (59).
In the legislation of Andrew of James individual houses seem to have been immediately subject to Monefano head and mother of the Order. The Prior of the hermitage, or Prior General, was for life and elected by the General Chapter. The local Priors, with two monks from each community, made up the General Chapter.
The General Chapter was held annually at Montefano, on 1-3 May, for the purposes of repairing the Order, of assuring peace, and for preserving charity. First on the agenda was the election of four Definitors, who, together with the Prior General, ordered, reformed, corrected, defined all that was considered most useful for maintaining observance, renewing–according to the opportunity and/or necessity–the local Priors, and transferring monks. Another important task of the Chapter was that of nominating or dismissing, as the case may be, the Councilors or Procurators, and of choosing two or three Visitors who helped the Prior General in the annual Canonical Visitation of every community.
The Constitutions of 1610 are only an Italian translation of the earlier Constitutions. At the end of every chapter there is an « Avvertimento » (note), where the juridical and institutional innovations, already introduced following papal directives or decrees from the Council of Trent, are cited.
The 26 « orders » which came from the Apostolic Visitor Timothy Bottoni, in the General Chapter of 1586, are quoted after the legislative text. In the Constitutions of 1618 the Avvertimenti (notes) were inserted into the text.
The result is two documents that differ in form but not in content.
In comparison with the fourteenth century legislation, one notices several important changes: the generalate was no longer for life, but for three years, as Pope Paul III decreed in 1544 with the Bull Exposcit debitum, and was renewable only after two subsequent mandates.
The title « Abbot » or « Father » was conferred on the Prior General, who resided in the monastery of St. Benedict of Fabriano from the end of the fourteenth century. The pontifical insignia (mitre, crozier and ring) had already been permitted by Pope Nicolò V in 1449.
Participation at the General Chapter was restricted to only one monk from each community, who was called a « Discreto » (i.e. selected delegate), as well as the local Prior.
A chapter on the Procurator General was introduced, who resided permanently in Rome from 1563 on, in order to take care of the business of the Congregation and of the individual communities with the Roman Curia.
After the election of the Abbot General, the members of the General Chapter proceeded immediately to the election of the Vicar of the hermitage of Montefano, who also became the Vicar General; the Vicar, however, did not receive the title of Prior or Abbot, because it was reserved to the Abbot General as head of the Congregation.
The four Definitors were restored (having been reduced to two in the course of the sixteenth century). The office of Visitors was reconfirmed (according to the Constitutions of 1610 their tasks were performed by the Reformers), having been suppressed by the Apostolic Visitor of 1586.
In comparison with earlier legislative documents, the Constitutions of 1690 introduce a more centralized and complex structure into Congregation.
The term of office for the Abbot was lengthened to four years. It had already been decided by the General Chapter of 1681, ratified by Pope Innocent XI in 1683, and was now codified.
The General Chapter was no longer celebrated in May, but at Pentecost, and the participation of the « Discreti » was not provided for.
Two years after the conclusion of the General Chapter, which was now celebrated every four years, it was decreed that a « Diet » should be held, with a more limited participation than at the Chapter. It did not have any elective function, but was to make provision of any offices which had fallen vacant since the Chapter.
It was fixed that all the Superiors of the Monasteries could enjoy the title « Abbot » (a norm introduced in 1660).
Titular Abbots participated at the General Chapter with both active and passive voice. They had been introduced into the Sylvestrine Congregation in 1665 in conformity with Vallombrosan usage, (during the Sylvestrine-Vallombrosan union of 1662-1667).
The Constitutions of 1690, finally introduced another new element in Sylvestrine legislation: the perpetuity of the « Graduati » (i.e., those who held rank or had held rank) and the Vocali (i.e., those with voting power in Chapters). Nevertheless, it was established that the ruling Abbots, when their time was up, could not be re-elected to the same place without an interval of eight years.
After the Napoleonic suppression of 1810, the number of monasteries and monks having fallen, new Constitutions were drafted in 1838.
Among the principal innovations, were the prolongation of the rule of Abbot General, from four to six years (a norm introduced already in 1764) with the possibility of re-election only after an interval of six years, and the end of the office of « Definitor », whose functions were joined to those of the « Visitors ». As in the Constitutions of 1690, the perpetuity of the offices was provided for.
In the General Chapter of 1919 the task of drawing up a new legislative text, « in conformity with the Codex Juris Canonici and in keeping with the daily monastic practice » of the Congregation, was given to a commission of monks.
The new Constitutions, approved in 1931, moved away in both form and content from the earlier documents: the division into Distinctions disappeared, replaced by that of Chapters which were to be preserved in later Constitutions.
The re-election of the Abbot General for an immediate second six-year period was allowed.
It was established that the monks of Ceylon (Sri Lanka) would be governed by a Major Superior with faculties similar to those of a Provincial, a new juridical figure within the framework of the Congregation. This innovation was extended to the Sylvestrines in the USA in 1950 (60).
In the General Chapter of 1959 a commission of monks was charged with the responsibility of revising the Constitutions of 1931. The new draft was discussed at the extraordinary General Chapter of 1962, and, after further elaboration, taking into account the documents of the Second Vatican Council, was approved in 1966.
The most important innovation concerned the decentralizing of the functions of government and the division of the Order into Major Priories (61).
New formulations of the legislation occurred in 1972 and 1977. The latter, for the first time in the history of the Order, placed alongside the Constitutions, a « Declaration », of a spiritual and theological character, « regarding the fundamental elements of daily Sylvestrine life », seen in the light of Vatican II, and along the lines indicated by the Church (62).
Perhaps a significant change was that of the Abbot General, having completed his mandate of six-years or at most twelve years (continuous), lost his title and abbatial insignia. There is nothing said about this in the Constitutions of 1984.
The Constitutions of 1984, approved by the Holy See on 2 February 1984, abolished Major Priories, replacing them with Conventual Priories.
Other notable changes included abolishing any limit of re-election of an Abbot General, and the reintroduction of the « Diet », which had not been provided for in the Constitutions of 1966, 1972, and 1977 (63).
The spiritual ideals of the Sylvestrine Congregation are, so to speak, incarnated in the person of Sylvester Guzzolini, hermit at Grottafucile and then founder of monasteries in solitary places, and in his first disciples, eleven of whom are venerated with the title of Blessed.
The monastic experience of Sylvester is clearly linked to that of St. Benedict, who had also begun as a hermit in the Speco cave of Subiaco. It is presented as a faithful, yet, original, re-reading of the great Benedictine tradition within the new socio-cultural, as well as religious and ecclesial context of the Marche in the thirteenth century.
Conversion, search for God, love of the desert, the primacy of scripture, spiritual fatherhood, docility to the Spirit are the classical themes of monastic literature which recur in the Life of Sylvester, in the Life of John of the Staff and in the Life of Hugo–two of Sylvester’s first disciples–as well as in the Life uf Bon fil, which the tradition attributes to Sylvester himself (65).
Without a doubt Sylvester was influenced by his environment. The Marca of Ancona, in this period was pervaded by an intense ferment for renewal, both social and religious, due mainly to the presence of the Franciscans. As distinct from the local monasticism of the time, tied to political prestige and economic power, Sylvester proposed to his spiritual followers a style of life that was at the same time poor, humble, simple and austere in line with the renewal movements of the thirteenth century (66).
The history of the Congregation shows how different aspects of Sylvestrine spirituality have been emphasized in differing ways at various times.
The devotio moderna movement, which was widespread throughout Italian Monasticism of the fifteenth century, seems to have been of little interest to the Sylvestrine monasteries, which remained isolated and without contact with the Congregation of Santa Giustina, which initiated the rebirth of monasticism on the peninsula.
Subsequently, (sixteenth to nineteenth centuries), florilegia and collections of prayers, methods of praying and meditating, treatises on devotion, were very widespread in the Sylvestrine communities (67).
In the 19th century the pious and devout practice of the month of June dedicated to the Sacred Hear was popular in the monasteries. The Abbot General, Vincent Corneli, solemnly consecrated the entire Congregation to the Sacred Heart, in 1873.
The publication, in 1977, of the Declaration regarding the fundamental elements of Sylvestrine daily life, which synthesized the principal theological and spiritual aspects of the experience of Sylvestrine life, in the light of the teachings of Vatican II, has marked a return to the authenticity of the sources. This is an attempt to recover the values of the monastic tradition of Montefano, freed from the superstructures and additions of subsequent centuries (68).
The liturgy, likewise, has been celebrated and valued with varying intensity in different periods. Without having precise data, we could say with a fair amount of certainty that the liturgical life of the Sylvestrines in the thirteenth century was very simple and sober, though spiritually invigorating, and in harmony with the original spirit of the Order.
The liturgical life of Sylvestrine communities as represented in the fourteenth century seems to have been fairly demanding: one or two conventual Masses per day, depending on the grade of Feast; three Offices: that of the day, that of Our Lady and that of the Dead; the daily chapter of faults, the lection divina, and the collatio (i.e., spiritual talk).
In successive centuries this liturgical structure was simplified and adapted more to the small number of monks in most communities.
Until 1586 the Sylvestrines had their own proper liturgical legislation. They were later obliged to abandon their old customs and to adopt the books published by the Holy See after the Council existed for more than the two hundred years required by the Council for the preservation of particular rites. This marked the definitive loss of the ancient monastic rite, in its Sylvestrine form, in favour of the Roman Rite (70).
Stability for Sylvestrines has always been seen within the context of the whole Congregation: monastic profession has never created special juridical ties to individual houses. Eventually, around the mid-sixteenth century (according to documentation which has come down to us), affiliation to a particular house came into use. It existed until 1923, but the monks could, nevertheless, be transferred from one monastery to another within the Congregation (71).
Work within the Congregation has taken many forms down through the centuries, due to the changing social climate and the different circumstances of each community: from manual work, which prevailed in the thirteenth century, to studies and teaching in the later centuries; from the task of copying codices to that of the apostolate (pastoral care, missions); from involvement in civil or ecclesiastical affairs to preaching; from educational to artistic activities and craft work.
The Sylvestrine monastic family, from the thirteenth to the sixteenth century, was made up of monks, conversi (lay-brothers) and oblates.
The « conversi » (73), relatively numerous at the time of the founder, gradually decreased in number. So much so, that, from the end of the thirteenth century, the oblates (74) became more numerous, and enjoyed considerable growth in the following century.
The « conversi » became important again in the sixteenth century when they were entrusted with the running of economic affairs (especially in the case of monasteries having some property but no stable community), and above all after the suppression of the oblates decreed by the Constitutions of 1618.
The distinction between monks and lay-brothers (who, according to the Constitutions of 1690, had to wear the oblate’s habit for« at least four years » before being admitted to profession was terminated with the legislation of 1972.
The monastic habit of the Sylvestrines originally consisted only of the cowl de gattinello (i.e., of a dark ash grey colour), made of woolen cloth. For this reason the monks of Montefano together with the Vallombrosans, were known as the grey monks (gresei) as distinct from the black monks (nigri: Cluniacs and monks of Santa Giustina), and from the white monks (albi: Cistercians, Camaldolese, Olivetans) of medieval times.
The « conversi » wore the scapular, which was also used by the monks when working. It consisted of a short tunic with scapular and hood as we know them.
The Constitutions of 1619 provided for a buff coloured cowl –which in the meantime had replaced the grey– for the choir monks only when in church and in Chapter on Solemnities and when they went outside the monastery. The normal habit consisted of long tunic with wide scapular and hood on top. The tunic of the conversi was shorter (reaching about half way up the leg) and had a scapular which was narrower.
The buff colour assumed various shades with time (violet and purple) until it became tan (i.e., a chestnut and coloured brown–a tone between red and black).
The Constitutions of 1690 established that the cowl, the tunic and the cape should be if possible of the same colour tan or buff tended towards darker shades.
During the years 1663-1667, at the time of the union with the Vallambrosans, the Sylvestrines wore black, the colour imposed by the Holly See, for the sake of uniformity, on the new Congregation.
In the sixteen hundreds tan gave way to cobalt blue and then blue.
The Constitutions of 1838 decreed that the cowl, the tunic and the cape should be blue in colour.
The Constitutions of 1931 established that the habit, made up of the tunic, the belt, the scapular, the hood and the cowl should be the traditional dark blue.
In the General Chapter of 1933 it was decreed that for the sake of uniformity… the colour black be adopted, instead of the varying shades of blue in use until then. The choral habit remains unchanged. And so it is until the present.
In Sri Lanka and in India, the monks wear a white habit with a black belt. The white habit is optional in Australia.
The oldest designs of the coat-of-arms of the Congregation are found in two codices of the fifteenth century. They belonged to the Prior General, Stephen of Anthony from Castelletta, and are now held in Staatsbibliothek derStiftung Preussischer Kulturbesitz, West Berlin, and in the British Library, London (75).
The coat of arms is made up of a gothic shield topped by a mitre. In the shield there are three hills: the central one is higher than the other two, and above it appears a precious crozier; above each of the other hills there is a single rose (76).
In all probability, such a coat-of-arms was adopted following the Bull Exposcit taue devotionis, 30 October 1449, with which Pope Nicolò V (who at that time was at Fabriano) granted to the Prior General, Stephen of Anthony from Castelletta, and his successors governing the Order, the use of the pontifical insignia (77).
Worth remembering above all are eleven disciples of St. Sylvester, to whom the tradition has attributed the title Blessed, and who are the protagonists of the Sylvestrine hagiography, not to mention the spiritual life at the heart of the Order in the thirteenth century (78):
Philip from Recanati was the first disciple of the founder, at Grottafucile (79). Sylvester took him frequently on journeys as his companion, and rewarded him with a miracle. He died in the monastery of St. Pietro del Monte, near Osimo, some years before the founder’s death. It was the 12th December.
John of the Staff, from Paterno near Fabriano, so-called because he had to use a staff due to an imperfection in his thigh-bone, was also one of the first disciples of Sylvester at Montefano. He lived there in a small cell for sixty years. A spiritual father for monks and faithful, he was a counselor to the founder himself and to the immediate successors at the head of the Congregation (80). He died at Fabriano on 24th March, and his body is venerated where it is buried, in the crypt of the church of St. Benedict in Fabriano. In 1772, the Pontiff Clement XIV approved the veneration, numbering him among the Blessed of the Church (81).
John the Solitary (or John of the Cell), so called because he led an eremitical life at Montefano in a cell separated from the monastery. A monk of great piety, he recited twice a day the Psalms which the other monks sang daily in choir. At the moment of Sylvester’s death he is said to have seen angels descending from heaven who then took the soul of the founder and bore it up into paradise. His memory is celebrated on 31st August.
Hugo degli Atti (i.e., of the Atti family) from Serra San Quirico, was received by Sylvester in the monastery of St. John of Sassoferrato, where, after a life taken up with spiritual exercises of perfection, he died the 26 July about 1270 (82). He was proclaimed Blessed by Pope Benedict XIV in 1756. He is patron of Sassoferrato and Serra San Quirico.
Joseph degli Atti, from Serra San Quirico, brother of Blessed Hugo, was the immediate successor of St. Sylvester as head of the Order (1268-1273). Documents from the time praise his prudence, his integrity of conduct, his sense of justice, and his love for the regular observance. He died in the monastery of St. Benedict of Perugia on 24 August 1273. He was buried at the monastery of Montefano.
Benvenuto from Piticchio, near Arcevia, a lay-brother, was very tormented by the devil, against whom he struggled with the weapons of prayer and mortification. He slept little, supporting his tired body on the walls of the monastery or on a hard seat. Tossed about by evil while he was praying, he fell from the attic of the hermitage of Montefano. He survived for ten days in great pain, suffered with tremendous patience, and died on 6 December 1273.
James from Attiggio, near Fabriano, another lay-brother, was a man of marvelous simplicity and of a holy life. He merited seeing Montefano illuminated at the death of the founder (83).
Simon from Ripalta, near Arcevia, also a lay-brother, was known for his humility. Even though he was illiterate, he enlightened Sylvester one day on a difficult passage from the prophet Jeremiah, having been asked by the founder. His feast is celebrated on the 26th August.
Bartolo from Cingoli, of the noble family of Simonetti, was the second successor of Sylvester (1273-1298). He founded eight monasteries, and was famous for his prudence and love for the regular observance. He died on 3 August 1298, in the monastery of St. Pietro della Castagna, near Viterbo. He was buried in the church at the hermitage at Montefano, where an altar dedicated to him may be found.
Bonaparte from Jesi. He is recorded as having had a vision of Sylvester’s glory at the moment of his blessed transit.
Paulinus of the Counts Bigazzini of Coccorano. Although the agiographical documents of the time do not speak of him, his cult at Perugia and its environs is attested to from the fourteenth century on. According to the Sylvestrine historian of the sixteen hundreds, Sebastian Fabrini, Paulinus had been a devotee of the regular observance and of monastic discipline. On 26 November 1267, while he was in the monastery of Saints Mark and Lucy of Sambuco, about 40 km. from Fabriano, he had during an extasy the revelation from God of the soul of the founder flying to heaven. He died about 4 May 1280 (84).
Among the monks more representative of the Congregation in the course of the 750 years of its existence we may recall:
Andrew of James from Fabriano, vicar to the Bishop of Florence, Francis Monaldeschi, and then the fourth Prior General of the Order (1298-1325). Many of his initiatives were decisive for the Congregation’s juridical structure and spirituality. He promulgated the Liber Constitutionum (The Book of the Constitutions), the oldest so far known. He founded four monasteries including St. Mark of Florence, and Holy Spirit of Siena, preferring urban centres to the solitary places of the founder. He edited the Life of Sylvester, the Life of John the Staff, and the Life of Hugo, fundamental for a knowledge of the original Sylvestrine spirituality. He was a distinguished devotee of the early history of the Order. With good reason he is considered the first great historian of the Congregation. On 30 July 1325 Pope John XXII nominated him Commendatory Abbot of the monastery of Saints Andrew and Gregory in Clivo Scauri at Rome, where he died on 1 August of the following year. The tradition has given him the title Venerable because of the merit of his life (85).
Fra Bevignate (i.e., Brother Bevignate) from Cingoli, was a celebrated artist who worked at the end of the thirteenth and the beginning of the fourteenth centuries, mainly at Perugia. He was responsible for the design and construction of the Fontana Maggiore (principal fountain) in the city (1277-1278), whose decorative figures were carried out by the famous sculptors Nicholas and John Pisano. At Orvieto, he was the inspirer and first director of works on the Cathedral (1290-1310), whose facade is considered the masterpiece par excellence of Italian gothic. He was also responsible for the church of St. Francis at Gubbio (86).
Stephen of Anthony from Castelletta near Fabriano, a teacher of Sacred Theology, skilled in both canon and civil law, Prior General from 1439-1471, played a significant role within the Congregation during the difficult period of the Commendam. His action in 1436, when the Congregation’s survival was in real doubt, proved particularly effective. He encouraged studies, bought codices containing the works of Aristotle, Thomas Aquinas, Augustine and others, and had the transcribed or copied them himself. He performed important tasks outside the Congregation as well: he was Judge in spiritualibus for Marca of Ancona, represented the Comune (the city Council) of Fabriano before the Holy See several times, undertook delicate missions for Eugene IV–who held him in high esteem–and for John Castiglioni, the Cardinal Legate for the Marche (87).
Peter Anthony Perotti from Castelfidardo (1521), Governor of the Holy House of Loreto (1512-1519), was titular Bishop of Salona (1519-1521). He put into practice the pontifical constitution which removed Loreto from the jurisdiction of the bishop of Recanati, and he organized it in such a way as to cater to the needs of pilgrims. He initiated numerous building works which Pope Julius II wanted undertaken at the Sanctuary, and had already planned and signed the contract with Bramante in 1510–on the occasion of their meeting at the sanctuary–for the following structures:–the present Apostolic Palace; the first bell-tower of the church (demolished in 1750 because it had been damaged by lightning); the oldest and most artistic bell (750 kg.) of Loreto still preserved today; the walls of the city (finished in 1521); the sculptures on panels of marble depicting the life of the Madonna, and destined to adorn the external walls of the Holy House. Perotti’s wise and enlightened administration encouraged a rapid development of the sanctuary, so that by the second half of the sixteenth century, it had became of great significance, religiously and artistically, and was for many pilgrims and visitors the most important religious destination in Europe (88).
Stephen Moronti from Camerino (1587), was the second great historian of the Congregation, and Prior General for two three-year terms (1559-1562, 1568-1571). He was responsible for the oldest ordering of the Congregation’s archives, when in 1581, at the behest of the Prior General of the time, John-Mary from Castelletta, all the documents from the existing Sylvestrine monasteries were gathered together. He arranged them according to their place of origin and set up a register, cited in his Repertorio de le scritture de tutt’i luoghi de la Congregatione Silvestrina (ms. of 1581). Many documents, now lost, are known to us only through this register. The Repertorio is, therefore, a source of primary importance for the history of the Congregation from the thirteenth to the sixteenth century. It has been the point of reference for historians of the Order until now, and was used in the compilation of the works of Sebastian Fabrini (early seventeenth century), John Matthew Feliziani (late seventeenth century), Amadeus Bolzonetti (nineteenth century), and Anthony Cancellieri (twentieth century).
Clement Tosi from Serra San Quirico, Abbot General for three-year terms (1627-1630, 1636-1639, 1645-1648), was one of the principal architects of the geographical expansion, the numerical increase and the cultural and economic flowering of the Congregation in the first half of the seventeenth century. During his terms of office he opened four monasteries and, in particular, carried out–in 1645– a revision of the Constitutions which, probably because they were so innovatory in both form and content, were never put into effect. He regarded the old Constitutions as anachronistic since they were adapted to a solitary life of contemplation, but not to the urban monasticism of the Sylvestrines in the seventeenth century.
As a theologian he was a Consultor to the Congregation for the Index. As an orator, he was invited to preach from the principal pulpits of Italy: in this he emulated his confrere Athanasius Staccioli from Matelica (1701 1783), censor and dean of the Theology Faculty of La Sapienza in Rome. As a writer, he was a member of many academies and in particular he left behind the work Il gentilesimo confutato, dove si descrive l’India intra Gangem e l’Impero del Gran Mogol (2 volumes, Rome, 1669), which was for a long time a vademecum for missionaries destined for the East Indies.
Sylvester Amanzio Moroncelli from Fabriano (1652-1719), was a cartographer and cosmographer. Two of his maps have survived and are of very great importance: one of Umbria and the other of the Marche, published in Rome from 1711 to 1712. There are also numerous globes of the world and of the heavens. These examples of precious workmanship, which are preserved in Venice (Palazzo Ducale), Rome (the Casanatense Library), Cortona (Entruscan Academy), and elsewhere. Moroncelli was official cosmographer to Queen Christina of Sweden (89).
Joseph Marziali from Camerino (1703-1769), was the first great missionary of the Congregation. He was in Cochin-China (South Vietnam) (1732-1740), and there worked tirelessly in spreading the Gospel. He was appointed Pro-Vicar of the mission (1737), and the Vicar Delegate (1738). However, following disputes on questions of doctrine and church discipline with a group of French secular priests, members of a Missionary Institute of Paris, he was forced to return to Rome (1740) to defend himself before the Congregation of Propaganda Fide. He was judged harshly and, at first, condemned. After a year of humiliations he was rehabilitated, but could no longer return to Cochin-China. He later became Master of Novices and ruling Abbot (90).
Joseph Mary Bravi from Potenza Picena (1813-1860), was a missionary in Ceylon (Sri Lanka) from 1846 until his death. He worked in very difficult circumstances, but was able, with tact and prudence, to patch up the Padroado schism. This had followed the separation of the island–erected as an Apostolic Vicariate in 1836–from the ecclesiastical jurisdiction of Goa, and had been encouraged by the Portuguese. In 1849 Bravi was nominated titular Bishop of Tipasa and Coadjutor of the Apostolic Vicar of Colombo, Gaetano Anthony Perera, a Filipino of the Oratory of Goa, whom he succeeded in 1857 (91).
Hilarion Sillani from Civitanova Marche (1812-1879), followed Bravi as ruler of the Apostolic Vicariate in Colombo (1863-1879). His rule has been described as « the golden age of the Catholic Church in Ceylon ». He built churches and chapels; opened a seminary, a monastery, colleges and catholic schools. He also founded the fortnightly newspaper the « Ceylon Catholic Messenger » (1869) and the Singhalese monthly « Gnanartha Pradipaya” (1873), for which he set up the necessary printing equipment in Colombo, and which served to publish school books, and devotional booklets. Sillani promoted the institution and growth of numerous confraternities as well. About twenty confreres joined him from Italy during the years of his episcopal ministry (92).
Clement Pagnani from San Michele (Fabriano), (1834-1911), was elected Apostolic Vicar of Colombo at the death of Sillani. In 1883, seeing that the religious needs of the vicariate, where Christianity had now taken root, were too much for the small number of Sylvestrines–with only six priests–he withdrew to Kandy, at the centre of the island, starting a new vicariate, which became an episcopal See in 1886. At his death Bede Beekmeyer (1911-1935), a native of Colombo, and a confrere, succeeded him as head of the diocese.
Bernard Regno from Balleremita (Fabriano), (1886-1977), was Bishop of Kandy from 1936 until 1958. For more than 70 years–a record difficult to equal–he was a missionary in Sri Lanka. His death, which occurred in the monastery of St. Sylvester of Ampitiya, near Kandy, on 22nd August 1977, was the end of an era for the Congregation. He was the last surviving Italian Sylvestrine missionary on the island (93).
The diocese of Kandy was ruled by a Sylvestrine monk, Leo Nanayakkara, from 1959 until 1972, when he transferred to the diocese of Badulla. He died the in 1982 (94).
Hildebrand Gregori from Poggio Cinolfo (1894-1985), held many difficult and important offices within the Congregation. He was Master of the Aspirants (1923-1933), Prior of the Monastery of St. Sylvester at Montefano (1933-1939), and Abbot General (1939-1959). A tireless worker, he was distinguished for his vocational, educational and apostolic work, as well as for that in forming the younger monks. He favoured the development of the Congregation by means of new foundations, occupying himself at the same time with the promotion of regular observance in the communities. He possessed the charisma of spiritual fatherhood and was much appreciated as a spiritual director to monks and laity. Love for his neighbour impelled him, especially during and after the Second World War, to help those persecuted for racial or political reasons, the dispersed and evacuees. Above all he cared for the poor and needy children, building for them appropriate institutes, among which St. Vincent’s at Bassano Romano near Rome, deserves special mention.
He also founded a pious association of young women to look after poor girls and old people, with statutes moulded after the Rule of St. Benedict. The association became soon a diocesan religious Congregation of Sisters, and in 1977 received pontifical approval under the title of Congregazione Benedettina delle Suore Riparatrici del Santo Volto di Nostro Signore Gesù Christo (95).
The following list is made up of all those who ruled over the Congregation as Superiors General: Priors General, Abbots General, Vicars General (the latter taking over during the periods of « interregnum »).
Initially for life, the office was for a three-year period after 1544, for a four-year term after 1683, and for six-years after 1764 (96).
and place of origin
from Serra S. Quirico
from Serra S. Quirico
|ANDEREW OF JAMES
|STEPHEN OF ANTHONY
|SYLVESTER OF VENANZO
|PETER ANTHONY PEROTTI
|prior / abbot general||Fabriano||1521-1535|
|GENTILE FAVORINO CIMA
from Serra S. Quirico
from Serra S. Qirico
from Gualdo Tadino
from Serra S. Quirico
from Gualdo Tadino
from Serra S. Quirico
from Serra S. Quirico
|JOHN DOMINIC COSPI
from Serra S. Quirico
from Serra S. Quirico
from Serra S. Quirico
from Serra S. Quirico
from Serra S. Quirico
|JOHN DOMINIC MOROLI
from Serra S. Quirico
from Serra S. Quirico
from Gualdo Tadino
from Serra S. Quirico
from Serra S. Quirico
|CAMILLUS DELLA TORRE
from Serra S. Quirico
|CHARLES MATTHIAS BOSI
|JOHN MATTHEW FELIZIANI
|JOHN MATTHEW FELIZIANI
from Serra S. Quirico
|JOHN BAPTIST BERTI
|JOHN MATTHEW FELIZIANI
|LUDWIG FRANCIS MARCHETTI
|BALTHASAR ANTHONY MERIGGIANI
|BALTHASAR ANTHONY MERIGGIANI
|ROBERT FELIX FEDELI
|ROBERT FELIX FEDELI
|JOHN BAPTIST MARSILI
from Nocera Umbra
from Serra S. Quirico
|ANDREW NICOLÒ BARTOLINI
|CHARLES SLYVESTER FRANCESCHINI
from Serra S. Quirico
|LAWRENCE BENEDICT LORENZETTI
|LAWRENCE BENEDICT LORENZETTI
from Serra S. Quirico
|ANTHONY MARY ANTONELLI
|LOUIS MARY MERLUZZI
from S. Donato
from Poggio Cinolfo
from Pittsburg, Kansas
from Colle di Tora
|Antonio Iacovone||abbot general||Matera||1989 – 1995|
|Andrea Pantaloni||abbot general||Precicchie di Fabriano||1995 – 2007|
|Michael Kelly||abbot general||Parramatta, NSW||2007 –|
of the monastery
|1) St. Mary||Grottafucile||1228 (98)||1810|
|2) St. Sylvester
|3) St. Mark||Ripalta||1238||1581|
|4) St. Benedict||Fabriano||1244||1983|
|5) St. Bonfil||Cingoli||1248||1810|
|6) St. Bartolo Della Castagna||Serra
|7) St. Pietro Del Monte||Osimo||1253||1581|
|8) Saints Mark and Lucy||Sambuco||1260||1327|
|9) St. Thomas||Jesi||1262||1547|
|10) St. Bartolo||Acrevia||1265||1581|
|11) St. Benedict||Perugia||1267||1296|
|12) St. James in Settimiano||Rome||1268||1393|
|13) St. John||Sassoferrato||1268||1653|
|14) St. Lucy||Serra
|15) St. Pietro Della Castagna||Viterbo||1280||1327|
|16) St. Gregory of Sualto||Orvieto||1287||1327|
|17) St. Maria Nuova||Matelica||1288||1861|
|18) St. Mary||Belforte||1291||1810|
|19) St. Martin||Bura di
|20) St. Maria Nuova||Perugia||1296||1580|
|21) St. Nicolò||Tolentino||1298||1650|
|22) St. Mary||Bagnoregio||1298||1577|
|23) St. Mary||Fiano Romano||1299||1328|
|24) St. Mark||Florence||1302||1436|
|25) St. Angel||Casacastalda||1311||1577|
|26) Holy Spirit||Siena||1322||1437|
|27) St. Maria Novella||Orvieto||1326||1327|
|28) St. Mary||Recanati||1327||1810|
|29) St. Benedict||Cingoli||1330||1810|
|30) St. Anthony||Camerino||1332||1837|
|31) St. Nicolò||Montepulciano||1332||1332|
|32) St. John the Baptist||Montepulciano||1332 (ca)||1653|
|33) St. Fiorenzo||Osimo||1370||1401|
|34) St. Fortunato||Perugia||1377||1989|
|35) Holy Crucifix||Sassoferrato||1380||1821|
|36) St. Benedict||Fossato||1383||1652|
|37) St. George||Petroio||1389||1652|
|38) St. Lawrence||Esanatoglia||1392||1392|
|39) St. Anthony||Esanatoglia||1392||1649|
|40) St. George||Florence||1436||1448|
|41) St. Lawrence||Percenna||1437||1466|
|42) St. Biagio||Caprile||1443||1810|
|43) St. Angel Infra Ostia||Esanatoglia||1472||1531|
|44) St. Mary||Morrovalle||1524||1810|
|45) St. Stefano del Cacco||Rome||1563||extant|
|46) St. George||Nepi||1584||1598|
|47) St. Maria Dell’Immagine||Nepi||1594||1600|
|48) St. Sylvester||Nepi||1602||1815|
|49) St. Nicolò||Gualdo Tadino||1614||1810|
|50) St. Sylvester||Osimo||1617||1920|
|51) St. Sylvester||Acrevia||1619||1652|
|52) St. Mary||Montefiore||1637||1653|
|53) St. Mary||Romagnano||1637||1653|
|54) St. Nicolò||Ripatransone||1637||1653|
|55) St. Joseph||Collescipoli||1618||1647|
|56) Holy Sacrament||Filottrano||1641||1653|
|57) St. Maria Dell’Edera||Viterbo||1642||1652|
|58) St. Mary||Chiusi||1642||1652|
|59) Holy Sudarium||Macerata||1642||1643|
|60) St. Anthony||Pescina||1660||1792|
|61) Holy Cross||Attigio||1665||1861|
|62) St. Mary||Sassoferrato||1821||1861|
|63) St. Theresa||Matelica||1842||extant|
|64) St. Maria del Piano||Sassoferrato||1861||1979|
|65) St. Anthony||Kandy||1874||1886 (99)|
|66) Sacred Heart of Jesus||Frontenac||1912||1928|
|67) St. Maria del Carmine||Rome||1920||1933|
|68) Sylvester of Montefano||Ampitiya||1928||extant|
|69) St. Sylvester||Detroit||1928||2011|
|70) St. Vincent||Bassano
|71) St. Gertrude||Smithfield||1950||2003|
|72) Holy Face||Clifton||1951||extant|
|73) Holy Face||Giulianova||1953||extant|
|74) St. Benedict (Subiaco)||Rydalmere||1957||1961|
|75) St. Benedict||Oxford||1960||extant|
|76) St. Benedict||Arcadia||1961||extant|
|77) St. Joseph||Makkiyad||1962||extant|
|78) St. Benedict of Adisham||Haputale||1962||extant|
|79) St. Joseph||Terni||1962||1977|
|80) St. Maria Mater Ecclesiae||Saluggia||1964||1988|
|81) St. Thomas||Castel Fusano||1964||1974|
|82) St. Anthony of Padua||Wahacotte||1966||extant|
|83) St. Sylvester of Vanashram||Bangalore||1973||extant|
|84) Our Lady of Czestochowa||Rome||1974||extant|
|85) Jevvan Jyoti Ashram||Shivpuri||1982||extant|
|86) Sacred Heart||Rajagiriya||1974|
|87) Maryon Hill||Katugastota||1979|
|88) JeevanJyoti Ashram||Shivpuri||1982|
|91) AshirSadan Ashram||Teok||1999|
|92) St Benedict’s||Corte||1999|
|93) St Anthony’s||Thoduwawa||2005|
|94) St Benoît||Butembo||2006|
The original text issued at Lyon (France) by Innocent IV on 27 June 1248 has been lost. In the historical archives of the Congregation, at Montefano, there survives a copy–an authentic exemplar of the original–which is dated 3rd April 1251. It was made « by order of Brother Sylvester, Prior of the hermitage of Montefano ».
We offer here and English translation–the original text being in Latin (100). Footnotes within the text are from the editor:
« Innocent Bishop, servant of the servants of God. To the beloved sons… (101) [Sylvester], Prior of the hermitage of Montefano, and his monks, present and future, who have professed the regular life. In perpetuity.
To those who choose religious life it is befitting to offer them apostolic protection, so that it does not happen that a sudden levity distracts them from their purpose, or weakens–which God does not will–the strength of sacred religion. Therefore, beloved sons in the Lord, we kindly consent to your request, welcoming under the protection of St. Peter and ourselves, the hermitage of St. Benedict of Montefano, in the diocese of Camerino (102), where you are dedicated to the divine service, and strengthened by the present ‘Privilegium’.
First of all we determine that the type of life, begun in that same hermitage according to the will of God and under the Rule of St. Benedict, should always be inviolably observed. Therefore all possessions and all goods that the hermitage legitimately and canonically possesses or that it will have in the future as a result of papal grants, or bestowed by kings and princes, or a gift of the faithful, or in other fitting ways, are to remain permanently and integrally in your hands, and in those of your successors.
Amongst such property we regard it opportune to mention explicitly the place itself where the hermitage is situated, the church at Grottafucile, the church of St. Bonfil and the church of Ripalta, with all their goods and with all their freedom and immunity.
Nor may anyone dare in the future to exact or extort the profits of the fields which you cultivate with your own hands, or at your own expense, since till now they have been collected by no one, including those (fields) on which your animals are grazed.
It is also permitted to you to receive clerics or laity free and without ties, who flee from the world for the reformation of their lives, and to keep them without your being questioned. Moreover we forbid any confrere, after profession, to leave the hermitage without the permission of the Prior, unless it is to join a more rigorous Order. No one then should dare to accept those without your letter of recommendation.
During a general interdict you may celebrate the Divine office behind closed doors, with the exclusion of the excommunicated and the persons subject to the interdict. It is to be without the sounding of the bell, in low voices provided that it was not yourselves who provoked the ecclesiastical censure.
You will receive the chrism, the holy oil, the consecration of altars and church, and the ordination of clerics from the diocesan bishop, as long as he is Catholic, in grace and communion with the most Holy See, and acting without evil intent.
We prohibit, besides, anyone building « ex novo” (new) chapels or oratories within the boundaries of one of your parishes without the consent of the diocesan bishop, except in the case of the privileges granted by the Roman Pontiff. Furthermore, we ban archbishops, bishops, archdeacons, deacons, and any other persons, ecclesiastical or secular, from imposing new and illegal taxes on you. We decree as well that all those who through devotion or by legal testament have requested burial at Montefano, may be received by you, unless they be excommunicates or public usurers, and provided that the rights of the churches from where the bodies of the deceased come, are safeguarded.
We also grant, by power of our authority, the redemption and release, by all legal means, of any profits and possessions that might be usurped by lay-persons, but which are due, by right, to your church, and we reassign them to the bodies to which they belong.
Coming then to your death, present Prior or the hermitage, or that of any of your successors, no one may take charge there by fraud, trick or violence, but only he whom the confreres by consensus or by the majority of those of wise counsel have decided to elect according to God and the Rule of St. Benedict.
Wishing also to provide for the future, with fatherly care, with respect to your peace and tranquility, by the power of our apostolic authority, we ban anyone from stealing or burglary, from setting fire from spilling blood, from capturing a man by treachery or killing men, or from using violence within the confines of your monasteries or your properties.
We confirm, as well, with the present ‘Privilegium’ all the freedoms and immunities granted to your hermitage by the Roman Pontiffs who were our predecessors, as well as exemption from taxes, justly conceded by kings and princes or by others. We determine, then, that no one is permitted to disturb the life of the said hermitage, to deprive it of possessions, to hold on to those already usurped, to diminish them or to molest them with any desire for vexation, but that the said hermitage by preserved integrally so that it may be of use to those to whom it has been granted to administer and to maintain, except in the case of the authority of the Apostolic See and the recognized rights of the diocesan bishop.
If therefore in future some person, whether ecclesiastical or secular, even know this our constitution, attempts imprudently to contravene it and admonished a second and third time, does not make up for his own offence with an adequate satisfaction, he should be deprived of his dignity and of his privileges and should know that by this he falls under divine judgment. He is to abstain, moreover, from receiving the most sacred Body and Blood of our Lord and Redeemer Jesus Christ, and will be subject to rigorous condemnation at the final judgment. Upon all those, then who respect the rights of the hermitage of Montefano may the peace of our Lord Jesus Christ descend, in such a way that here on earth they may become aware of the fruit of his good works and find the reward of eternal peace before the just Judge. Amen. Amen. Amen.
(R) (103) I Innocent, bishop of the Catholic Church, signed (BV) (104).
Lyon, by the hand of Master Martin, vice-chancellor of the Holy Roman Church, 27 June, on the sixth indiction, in the year of the Incarnation of the Lord 1248, fifth year of the pontificate of Innocent IV.
This copy was read, and listened to attentively by Stephen of Peter from Cingoli, and Nicholas of Morico, ordinary judges by royal privilege, who authorized its publication. At the reading of the authentic exemplar and of the copy, the two judges, Stephen and Nicholas, were present, as well as the priests Palmerio and Simon, Morico (parish priest of the parish of Cingoli), William of Ugolino, Benvenuto of Gualtiero and Compagno of Bartolone, public notaries, Compagno of Scolaro, adiuto of Atto and Simon of Ugolino.
In the year of our Lord 1251, in the ninth indiction, at the time of Innocent IV Pope, the third of April, at Cingoli, in front of the house of the sons of Peter of Stephen.
What I Benevenuto, notary, have found in the authentic exemplar, I have here transcribed faithfully and in an orderly fashion, adding omitting or changing nothing deliberately, except the decoration and format. The exemplar was provided with a lead bull pendant, round in form, on which was printed on one side the following words « Innocent, Pope, and IV » and on the other: « St. Paul, St. Peter ». I published this copy, read and heard with great attention by the above-mentioned witnesses and provided with my usual signature, by order of Brother Sylvester, Prior of the hermitage of Montefano, and of the judges Stephen of Peter, and Nicholas of Morico ».
(*) A synthesis of this work is on the way to be published in the VIII vol. of Dizionario degli Istituti di Perfezione, Edizioni Paoline 1974-ff.
(1) For a brief note on these archives, cf. U. PAOLI, The Archives of Montefano, in Montefano, pp. 271-281.
(2) The Lives are published in Bibliotheca Montisfani 8, pp. 37-148; 155. 175; 183-272; 279-329. An English translation edited by F. FATTORINI, The Saints of the Benedictine order Montefano. Clifton 1972, 16-49; 5& pp. 112: 153-223: 237-266, is available.
On the interpretation of the Lives, cf. R. Gregoire, La Sacra Scrittura nella vita di S. Silvestro, in « Inter Fratres », 30 (1980/1), pp. 83-88 – English translation in Montefano, pp. 106-109, R. Gregoire, Proposte di interpretazione dell’agiografia Sillvestrina, in Bibliotheca Montisfani 6, pp. 345-362 – English translation in Montefano, pp. 225-237. Cf. also v. Fattorini, Temi biblici nell’agiografia silvestrina, in « Inter Fratres » 26 (1976/II), 115 pp. 129 English translation in Montefano, 259-270.
For the Life of St. Sylvester, cf. S. Prete, La vita S. Silvestri: note agiografiche, in Bibliotheca Montisfani 5, pp. 129-146 – English translation in Montefano, pp. 185-196. For the Life of Blessed John of the Staff, cf. G. Fattorini, La Vita B. Joannis a Baculo confessoric et mirifici eremitae, in « Inter Fratres » 26 (1976/I), pp. 9-23 – English translation in Montefano, pp. 197-206. For the Life of Blessed Hugo degli Atti, cf. v. Fattorini, La vita Beat Hugonis confessoris monaco silvestrino, in « Inter Fratres », 24 (1974), pp. 8-9 – English translation in Montefano, pp. 207-224.
(3) In the latin editions of the Life of Sylvester of 1599 and 1612, Fabrini does not mention the priesthood of the founder.
4) On the importance of the Bible in the choice of vocation of the young Sylvester, cf. R. Gregoire, La Sacra Scrittura nella vita di S. Silvestro, in La « Inter Fratres », 30 (1980/1), pp. 88-90 – English translation in Montefano, pp. 109-111.
(5) The biographer gives us no information about the priesthood of Sylvester while the later tradition, from the seventeenth century on, is unanimous in calling Sylvester priest. Recently, following a careful and detailed study of the Life, the scholar J. Leclercq has raised the question of sylvester’s priesthood, without however, coming to any definitive conclusionS. (J. Leclercq), La vita di silvestro L’irraggiamento del santo dei suoi primi discepoli, in S.e Bibliotheca Montisfani 5, pp. 107-115 – English translation in Montefano, pp. 79-84; J. LECLERCQ, S. Silvestro Guzzolini era sacerdote in « Inter Fratres » 30 (1980/II), pp. 147-152). Cf. also R. Gregoire, La Sacra Scrittura , nella vita di S. Silvestro, in « Inter Fratres » , 30 (1980/I), p. 93 – English translation in Montefano, p. 113.
(6) C. GRILLANTINI, Storia di osimo, I, Pinerolo 1957, pp. 222-223.
(7) cf. I. DI NICOLA, Grottafucile, « Inter Fratres », 26 (1976/I), in pp. 44-60.
(8) Cf. U. PAOLI, Cronotassi dei Superiori Generali della Congregazione silvestrina, in « Inter Fratres » 33 (1983/I), p. 41. On the meaning of the place-name Grottafucile , cf. G. PAGNANI, Ricerche intorno alla vita e all’opera di S. Silvestro, in Bibliotheca Montisfani 5, pp. 197-198 English translation in Montefano, p. 134.
(9) Cf. Bibliotheca Montisfani 4, pp. 42-57 and C. TUDERTI, S. Silvestro riformatore monastico e la legislazione del concilio Lateranense Iv (1215) sullavita religiosa, in Bibliotheca Montisfani 5, 149-160 English translation pp. in Montefano, pp. 145-153.
(10) C. G. AGNAN, Ricerche intorno ala vita e aropera di S. Siluesro, in Bibliotheca Montisfani 5, pp. 201-207 English translation in Montefano, pp. 135-138.
(11) Cf. U. PAOLI, Le p antiche carte del monastero di S. Silvestro, in « Inter Fratres », 31 (1981/I), pp. 1-7. Cf. also I. DI NICOLA, Le pergamene dell’Archivio del Sacro Eremo di S. Silvestro Ab. dal 1231 fino all’elezione del primo successore del fondatore (4-1-1268), in Bibliotheca Montisfani 5, Pp. 56 64 Partial English translation in Montefano, pp. 284-285.
(12) Cf. G. PAGNANI, Ricerche intorno alla vita e l’opera di S. Silvestro in Bibliotheca Montisfani 5, pp. 195-197 English translation in Montefano pp. 133-134.
(13) Cf. U. PAOLI, Cronotassi dei Superiori Generali della Congregazione silvestrina, in « Inter Fratres » 33 (1983/I), p. 19, note 78.
(14) Cf. P. 98.
(15) C. I. D Nicola, Documenti dell Archivio di Montefano relativi al primo periodo della congregazione Silvestrina (sec. X111), in Bibliotheca Montisfani 6, pp. 435-439 – Partial English translation in Montefano, p. 291 The Sylvestrine insertion into the Fabriano environment is analysed by E. SARACCO PREVIDI, Uomini e ambiente dalla documentazione silvestrina nd secolo XIII, in Bibliotheca Montisfani, 6, pp. 547-551.
(16) Cf. pp. 97-102, and I. Dr Nicola, Documenti dell’Archivio di Montefano relativi al primo periodo dell Congregazione silvestrina (sec. XIll), in Bibliotheca Montisfani 6, pp. 415419 Partial English translation in Montefano, pp. 287-288.
(17) Cf. I. DI NICOLA, Le pergamene dell’Archivio del Sacro Eremo di S. Silvestro Ab. dal 1231 fino all’elezione del primo successore del fondatore (4-1-1268), in Bibliotheca Montisfani 5, pp. 64-67 – Partial English translation in Montefano, pp. 294-295.
(18) Cf. S. Prete, L’antica arca di San Silvestro Guzzolini, in « Inter Fratres », 28 (1978/II), pp. 196-200.
(19) Cf. La nuova urna di S. Silvestro. Ricordi personali e note illustrative dell’Abate Generale D. Pio M. Federici, in « Inter Fratres », 18 (1968), pp. 52-56.
(20) Cf. V. Fattorini, La figura del “pater spiritualis” nell’agiografia silvestrina, in « Inter Fratres », 28 (1978/II), pp. 183-195 – English translation in Montefano, pp. 175-184
(21) On Sylvester’s heremitical charism cf. J. LECLERCQ, A Monastic Pioneer of the Thirteenth Century. A spiritual Portrait of St. Sylvester Guzzolini, in Montefano, pp. 67-78; J. LECLERCQ, S. Silvestro nelle Marche, in Bibliotheca Montisfani 6, pp. 27-344 – English translation in Montefano, pp. 120-132.
(22) Cf. B. CALATI, La “Vita Silvestri” letta nel confronto con i dialoghi di S. Gregorio Magno e con la Regola di S. Benedetto, in Bibliotheca Montisfani 6, pp. 363-344 – English translation in Montefano, pp. 94-105.
(23) On the state of monasticism in the Marche at the time of Sylvester, cf. Bibliotheca Montisfani 2, pp. 51-56; Bibliotheca Montisfani 4, pp. 31-39; G. CASTAGNARI, Il monastero di S. Vittore delle Chiuse: Ricerche su un feudo comitale, in Bibliotheca Montisfani 6, pp. 61-72.
(24) Cf. G. PAGNANI, Ricerche intorno alla vita e all’opera di S. Silvestro in Bibliotheca Montisfani 5, pp. 207-208 – English translation in Montefano, p. 139.
(25) Cf. U. PAOLI, Le più antiche carte del monastero di S. Silvestro, in « Inter Fratres », 31 (1983/I), pp. 2 and 4
(26) Till now I have found only four documents which speak of Sylvester as “Abbot” – three in the archives at Montefano and the other in the Cathedral Chapter archives in Fabriano. (Cf. U. PAOLI, Cronotassi dei Superiori Generali della Congregazione Silvestrina, in « Inter Fratres », 33 (1983/I), p. 42, note 262)
(27) For a spiritual portrait of Sylvester, cf. Bibliotheca Montisfani 2, pp 129-151 – Partial English translation in Montefano, pp. 2-10; S. GIULIANI, Who was and who is St. Sylvester?, in « Inter Fratres », 29 (1979/II), pp. 214-220; R GRÉGOIRE, Appunti per un ritratto spirituale di S. Silvestro (^1267), in « Inter Fratres », 35 (1985), pp 37-46.
(28) G. FATTORINI, L’ufficio e la messa di S. Silvestro estesi a tutta la Chiesa, in « Inter Fratres », 11 (1960/61), pp. 27-29; R. GRÉGOIRE, Una presentazione agiografica popolare di S. Silvestro, in « Inter Fratres », 31 (1981/I), pp. 68-73; R. GRÉGOIRE, Appunti per la storia del culto liturgico di S. Silvestro, in « Inter Fratres », 32 (1982/II), pp. 217-230; R. GRÉGOIRE, Testimonianze agiogrfiche moderne su S. Silvestro (^1267), in « Inter Fratres », 33 (1983/II) pp. 169-197’ R. GRÉGOIRE, Informazioni agiografiche moderne su S. Silvestro (^1267), in « Inter Fratres », 34 (1984/I), pp. 50-62.
(29) Cf. Montefano, pp. 298-299. For the Cocolla de gattinello, cf. p. 70.
(30) Cf. A. Tomei, Materiali per Iconografia di S. Silvestro abate, in Bibliotheca Montisfani 7, pp. 1143-1150.
THE SYLVESTRINE CONGREGATION
(1) Cf. Bibliotheca Montisfani 4, pp. 7-16.
(2) Cf. pp. 97-102
(3) Cf. S. Silvestro di Fabriano. Antiche pergamene, Edited by U. PAOLI, Fabriano 1984, pp. XLVI, 12-23.
(4) Cf. I. DI NICOLA, Le pergamene dell’Archivio del Sacro Eremo di S. Silvestro Ab. dal 1231 fino all’elezione del primo successore del fondatore (4-1-1268), in Bibliotheca Montisfani 5, pp. 51-56.
(5) Cf. S. Silvestro di Fabriano. Antiche pergamene. Edited by U. PAOLO, Fabriano 1984, pp. 68-69.
(6) For more information on the period of the founder, see the first part “Sylvester Guzzolini”
(7) Cf. S. Silvestro di Fabriano. Antiche pergamene. Edited by U. PAOLI, Fabriano 1984, pp. 87-88.
(8) Cf. I. DI NICOLA, Le pergamene dell’Archivio del Sacro Eremo di S. Silvestro Ab. dal 1231 fino all’elezione del primo successore del fondatore (4-1-1268), in Bibliotheca Montisfani 5, pp. 64-67 – Partial English translation in Montefano pp. 294-295.
(9) Cf. I. DI NICOLA, Documenti dell’Archivio di Montefano relativi al primo periodo della Congregazione Silvestrina (sec. XIII), in Bibliotheca Montisfani 6, pp 421-424 – Partial English translation in Montefano, pp. 288-289.
(10) Cf. U. PAOLI, La Congregazione Silvestrina nei secoli XIV-XV, in Bibliotheca Montisfani 7, pp. 599-601, 667-668, 708-711.
(11) Cf. V. FATTORINI L’eremitismo nell’agiografia silvestrina, in Bibliotheca Montisfani 5, pp. 161-189 – English translation in Montefano, pp. 239-257.
(12) Cf. I. DI NICOLA, Documenti dellArchivio di Montefano relativi al primo periodo della Congregazione Silvestrina (Sec. XIII), in Bibliotheca Montisfani 6, pp. 432-435 – Partial English translation in Monterfano, p. 291.
(13) Cf. I. DI NICOLA, Documenti dell’archivio di Montefano relativi al primo periodo della Congregazione Silvestrina (sec. XIII), in Montefano, pp. 292-293; U. PAOLI, La Congregazione Silvestrina nei secoli XIV-XV, in Bibliotheca Montisfani 7, pp. 712-713.
(14) Cf. I. DI NICOLA, Monasteri silvestrini nella diocesi di Nepi in secoli passati, in « Inter Fratres », 26 (1976/II), pp. 134-150; I. DI NICOLA, Documenti dell’Archivio di Montefano relativi al primo periodo della Congregazione Silvestrina (sec. XIII), in Bibliotheca Montisfani 6, pp 425-441 – Partial English translation in Montefano, pp. 290-292; U. PAOLI, La Congregazione Silvestrina nei secoli XIV-XV, in Bibliotheca Montisfani 7, pp. 587-588, 607-608, 611-612; E TAURINO, I Silvestrini a Recanati: appunti e osservazioni, in Bibliotheca Montisfani 7, pp. 753-763; S. CORRADINI, S. Antonio di Camerino: difficili primordi di una fondazione silvestrina, in Bibliotheca Montisfani 7, pp. 88-111; R. CICCONI, Il monastero di Santa Maria di Belforte, in « Inter Fratres », 35 (1985), pp. 70-119.
(15) Cf. I. DI NICOLA, Documenti dell’Archivio di Montefano relativi al primo periodo della Congregazione Silvestrina (sec. XIII), in Bibliotheca Montisfani 6, pp. 455-457 – English translation in Montefano, pp. 295-297; U. PAOLI, La Congregazione Silvestrina nei secoli XIV-XV, in Bibliotheca Montisfani 7, p. 587.
(16) The Lives are published in Bibliotheca Montisfani 8, pp. 37-148; 155- 175; 183-272; 279-329. An English translation edited by F. FATTORINI, The Saints of the Benedictine order of Montefano, Clifton 1972, pp. 16-19; 58-142; 153-223; 237-266, is available.
(17) On the person and the works of Andrew of James from Fabriano, cf. U. PAOLI, La congregazione Silvestrina nei secoli XIV-XV, in Bibliotheca Montisfani 7, pp. 586-605.
(18) Cf. U. PAOLI, La Congregazione silvestrina nei secoli XIV-XV, in Bibliotheca Montisfani 7, pp. 602-604
(19) Cf. U. PAOLI, La Congregazione Silvestrina nei secoli XIV-XV, in Bibliotheca Montisfani 7, pp. 606-607, 729-730.
(20) On the question cf. U. PAOLI, La Congregazione Silves nei secoli XTV-XV, in Bibliotheca Montisfani 7, pp. 608-610.
(21) On the effects of the beneficial system, commonly known as Commenda (that is, the entrusting of the govemment of a monastery or an order to a person not elected by the community) in the life of the Congregation, cf. U. PAOLI, La Congregazione Silvestrina nei secoli XIV-XV, in Bibliotheca Montisfani 7, pp. 728-740.
(22) Numerous sylvestrine monks were among the victims of the black plague of 1348. Documents in Fabriano speak of many deaths, in the year of our Lord 1348 . The Olivetans, as a result of the epidemic, lost their founder Bernard Tolomei together with 80 of their monks in the city of Siena. (cf. U. PAOLI, La Congregazione Silvestrina nei secoli XIV-XT in Bibliotheca Montisfani 7, pp. 613-614).
(23) Cf. PAOLI, La Congregazione Silvestrina nei secoli XIV-XV, in U. Bibliotheca Montisfani 7, pp. 617-619.
(24) Cf. U. PAOLI, La Congregazione Silvestrina nei secoli XIV-XV, in Bibliotheca Montisfani 7, pp. 621-622. Of some interest is the case of the monk John of Bartholomew from Fabriano, who desirous of a better life and regular observance obtained with difficulty from the Prior General John from Sassoferrato, permission to withdraw to the Priory of St. Lawrence, a lonely place near Esanatoglia, which did not belong to the order of Montefano.
(25) Cf. U. PAOLI, La Congregazione Silvestrina nei secoli XIV-XV, in Bibliotheca Montisfani 7, pp. 627-629.
(26) On the question of where the Prior General resided, cf. U. PAOLI, Cronotassi dei Superiori Generali della Congregazione Silvestrina, in « Inter Fratres » 33 (1983/I), pp. 17-19
According to the sylvestrine historian John Mattew Feliziani, the hermitage at Montefano was calmost destroyed by the fire, started by impious men who were without scruples (Monimenta of 1683, p. 57). It probably suffered the fate as other monasteries of the countryside around Fabriano same which, between the end of the fourteenth century and the beginning of the fifteenth, were totally partially destroyed as a result of the civil wars between or partisans and the enemies of the Chiavelli, the nobles of Fabriano. Another sylvestrine historian, Stefano Moronti, claims that Montefano was abandoned because of the plague the wars and the lack of monks (Repertorio In 1394 Boniface Tx recommended that the Prior General of 1581, c. 77v.) not reduce the usual number of monks and ‘ministers, in the monastery at Montefano.
(27) Cf. U. PAOLI, La Congregazione Silvestrina nei secoli XIV-XV, in Bibliotheca Montisfani 7, pp. 633-638
(28) Cf. G. AVARUCCI, Sulla brovenienza dei codici dell’Archivio di S. Silvestro in Montefano, in Bibliotheca Montisfani 6, pp. 402-404; U. PAOLI, La Congregazione Silvestrina nei secoli XIV-XV, in Bibliotheca Montisfani 7, pp. 638-646; G. AVARUCCI, Duc codici scritti da Gerardus Helye padre di Erasmo, in « Inter Fratres » , 36 (1986/I), pp. 55, 62-68.
(29) For the story of this monastery, cf. A. Brocci, L’abbazia di S. Biagio in Caprile, in « Inter Fratres », 21 (1971), pp. 14-34: 22 (1972), pp. 44-65, 23 (1973), pp. 8-26; 24 (1974), pp. 55-77.
(30) The Chiavelli, nobles of Fabriano, were killed in the church of St. Venanzo, Fabriano, on 26 May 1435. It was the result of a conspiracy and occurred during Mass on the feast of the Ascension. The inheritance was contested for a long time by the Camera Apostolica and the « Comune » of Fabriano. Many times the Prior General Stephen of Anthony was sent as ary to the Pontiff, but Fabriano gained nothing.
(31) On the question of cf. U. PAOLI, Precedenti storici dell’erezione di Fabriano a citta e diocesi, in « Inter Fratres » , 27 (1977/1), pp. 29-33, 39-52
(32) The only cenobium of sylvestrine nuns existing at the time was that of St. Benedict’s outside Porta Sole (today St. Erminio, occupied by Clarissans at Perugia, which the sylvestrines had given to the female branch in 1297. In 1640 the nuns withdrew inside the walls of the city in an ex-convent of the Augustinians which they restored and caled Benedetto Novelo the new St. Benedict’s. In 1820 the monastery was suppressed by Pope Pius VII. Today it houses the administrative offices of the University of Perugia. On the monastery of female Benedictines of Isola d’Isaac, near Serra San Quirico, to which Sylvester received the ius patronatus in 1235, and which subjected the and the order of Montefano in the hands was to monastery of “Fra Giorgio Prior of St. Bartolo’s at Serra San uirico, cf. I. DINI , Q COLA, Documenti derArchivio Montefano melaii primo eriodo della Congregazione silvestrina (sec. XIII), in Bibliotheca Montisfani 6, pp. 419- 421 Partial English translation in Montefano, pp. 287-288.
(33) Cf. U. PAOLI, La Congregazione silvestrina dalla fine della commenda alla visita di Nicolo Bobadilla (1544-1556), in « Inter Fratres » , 28 (1978/I), pp. 48-57.
(34) Cf. S. MORONTI, Repertorio del 1581, cc. 79v, 88r.
(35) Cf. U. PAOLI, Contatti fra la Congregazione Silvestrina e il monachesimo portoghese e braziliano?, in « Inter Fratres », 32 (1982/II), pp. 129-159.
(36) Cf. Costitutioni della Riforma Apostolica fatta al della felice di tempo papa Sisto v l’anno 1586 in Fabriano, in Regola di S. Benedetto memoria on la Costitutioni de monaci di Montefano, detti Silvestrini, novamente date in luce, Camerino 1610, pp. 82-89.
(37) Cf. I. DI NICOLA, Monasteri Silvestrini nella diocesi di Nepi in secoli passati, in « Inter Fratres » , 27 (1977/I), pp. 65-80; U. PAOLI, Monasteri silvestrini nella diocesi di Nepi in secoli passati, in « Inter Fratres » , 28 (1978 m, pp. 141-175.
(38) Cf. Bibliotheca Montisfani 1, pp. 40-41, 47-55 and E. BOAGA, Vita dei Silvestrini nelle Marche a meta Seicento, in Bibliotheca Montisfani 7, pp. 887-922.
(39) Cf. Bibliotheca Montisfani 1, p. 52, note 56.
(40) Bibliotheca Montifa 1, pp 77-92: U. PAOLI, L’unione delle Congregazioni l’allombrosana e Silvestrina (1662-1667), in « Inter Fratres » , 25 (1975), pp. 11-18 English translation, pp. 19-26, 26 (1976/I), pp. 36- 43 English translation, 26 (1976/II), pp. 108-114.
(41) On of the economic life of the monasteries of Monte- some aspects fano, of St. Benedict of Fabriano (with the dependent house of St. Biagio in Caprile), of St. Bartolo and of St. Lucy of Serra San Quirico, of St. Benfil and St. Benedict of Cingoli and of St. Maria Nuova of Matelica, cf. G. PICCININI, Nell’alta valle dell’Esino: presenza economica dei Silvestrini, in Bibliotheca Montisfani 7, pp. 815-819. More general is the study of W. ANGELN, Eventi politici ed economici nelle Marche in eta moderna in rapporto a fondazioni e proprieta dei silvestrini, in Bibliotheca Montisfani 7, pp. 781-814.
(42) Cf. P. CARTECHINI, Note sulla soppressione napoleonica dei Silvestrini nel Maceratese (1808-1810), in Bibliotheca Montisfani 7, pp. 947-1008.
(43) From a letter sent by Baroncini to Pope Pius VII in 1818 (cf. C. Sa- MERARO, I Silvestrini nelle Marche della Restaurazione. Contributo la co. per noscenza dele fonti e degli avvenimenti del primo ottocento, in Bibliotheca Montisfani 7, P. 1042).
(44) Cf. L. BUGARI, Cronistoria del monastero di S. Teresa, scritta in occa sione della ricorrenza della di della parrocchia di S. Antoni presa possesso s. Teresa da parte dei monaci silvestrini. Anno 1842-1942, in « Inter Fratres » 7 (1956), pp. 29-36; 8 (1957), pp. 47-53.
(45) On the beginnings and the developments of the mission in Sri Lanka. c. The apostolae of the right rev. d. Joseph M. Bravi o. s. B. in Ceylon Colombo 1945; Memoirs of Father Philip, in « Inter Fratres » , 8 (1957), Pp. 41 46; 9 (1958), P. 7-10, 10 (1959), pp. 7-10, 18 (1968), pp. 33-11; 21 (1971), pp. 3541; O. FILIPPONI, sessanta anni in terra di missione, in « Inter Fratres » 16 (1966), pp. 68-72; F, POMPEI. Dr NICOLA, Lineamenti di spiritualita e di storia nella Congregazione Benedettina Silvestrina dell’ottocento, in « Inter Fratres » , 28 (1978/1), pp. 79-95; R. BOUDENS, weal and woe of the Colombo vicariate. The episcopate of bishop sillani (1863-1879), in « Inter Fratres » , 31 (1981/1), pp. 56-67; R. BOUDENS, Four years of crisis in the Golombo vicariate 1879-1883, in « Inter Fratres » , 31 (1981/II), pp. 130-139 For a discussion of some questions related to the inculturation of monasticism into the buddhist reality of Sri Lanka cf. H. FERNANDO, The ways and means of incultureing the Sylvestro-Benedictine Monasticism in the Buddhist- third-world context of Sri Lanka, in « Inter Fratres » 29 (1979 II) pp. 186-208. ,
(46) C. I. DI NICOLA, La Congregazione Sioestrina in Italia ne! periodo della soppressione (1860-1880), in « Inter Fratres », 5 (1954), pp. 9-17. On the consequences of the suppression in the Marche, cf. G. BROCANELLI I monaci Silvestrini e i frati minori nelle Marche durante il pontificato di Pio IX, in Bibliotheca Montisfani 7, pp. 1088-1095. For Fabriano, cf. N. LaPPARONI, 1 monasteri benedettini fabrianesi e le leggi soppressive del Regno d’Italia: ripercussioni nell’assetto socio-economico locale in Bibliotheca Montisfani 6, pp. 295-303.
(47) Cf. L. Bugari, Condizioni della Congregazione Silvestrina nei trascorsi ultimi 80 anni, in « Inter Fratres », 4 (1953), p. 25.
48) Cf. history of St. Scholastica School, in « Inter Fratres » , 6 (1955), pp. 52-55: C. TUDERTI, Frontenac, in « Inter Fratres » , 7 (1956, pp. 21-23; Memoirs of Father Philip, in « Inter Fratres » , 23 (1973), 70-76. pp.
(49) Cf. A. DE MEL, The new monastery in Ceylon, in « Inter Fratres » , 13 (1963), pp. 7-8 Italian translation pp. 9-10.
(50) Cf. Smithfield e il santuario di s. Benedetto, « Inter Fratres » , in 26 (1976/1), pp. 69-75 e pp. 76-78 from Australia J. MEssORE, sylvestrine monasticism in Australia, in « Inter Fratres » 28 (1978/II, pp. 176-182. ,
(51) Cf. P. VADAKEPATTAN, Our new foundation in India, in « Inter Fratres »1 (1950), pp. 72-73; Sylvestrians in the land of st. Thomas. Beginnings, progress and aims, in « Inter Fratres » 17 (1967), p. 64.
(52) Cf. Indian Newletter, in « Inter Fratres » , 16 (1964), pp. 5-8 Italian translation pp. 9-12; Sylvestrians in the St. Thomas. Beginnings, land of progress and aims, in « Inter Fratres » 17 (1967), pp. 63-67
(53) Cf. P. VADA KEPATTANY, Our Mission in North India, in « Inter Fratres »31 (1981/I), pp. 87-89 Italian translation pp. 90-93, S. TONN, Shivpuri. An experiment in Missionary Monasticism, in « Inter Fratres » 32 (1982/11), pp. 231-238: on pp. 233-238 the aim and the meaning of the foundation are described.
(54) For a quick overview of Sylvestrine legislation in the 14th to the 19th centuries, cf. C. TUDERTI, Le costituzioni silvestrine sviluppi e aggiornamenti nella storia della Congregazione (sec. XIV-XT), in Bibliotheca Montisfani 7, pp. 743-752. A brief introduction to the constitutional texts from the beginnings to the present day (14th Century, 1610, 1618, 1690, 1838, 1931, 1966, 1972, 1977, 1984) is found in L. BUX, Istituti Costituzionali della Congregazione Silvestrina O. S. B., in « Inter Fratres » 36 (1986/I), pp. 1-31.
(55) For the dating of the two texts of the Constitutions, cf. U. PAOLI, La Congregazi sile estrina nei 7. secol XIV-XV, in Bibliotheca Monisfani pp. 589-595.
(56) Cf. Bibliotheca Montisfani 3. pp. 250-274 e Bibliotheca Montisfani 4, pp. 166-186.
(57) Cf. U. PAOLI, La Congregazione Silvestrina nei secoli XIV-XV, in Bibliotheca Montisfani 7, pp. 596-599.
(58) C. I. DI NICOLA – R. BALDUCCI, Fondazione del primo monastero silvestrino a Matelica, in « Inter Fratres », 33 (1983/n, 104: « We are convinced that a written text of the Constitutions already existed in the order of Montefano while the founder still alive ».
(59) cr. R. GREGOIRE, Aspetti e problemi del monachesimo Marche nelle (The text which presents the Acts of the Study-Conference, held 4-7 June on 1981 = Bibliotheca Montisfani 6-7), in « Inter Fratres », 33 (1983), pp. 161 162. To the families listed by R. Grégoire, which one can trace the in passage from the founder to the organizer (Cluniacs, Cistercians, Carthu- sians…), I would add the Camaldolese and the Vallombrosans: St. Ro- muald t 1027, whose body is preserved in the church of St. Biago, Fabriano gave to his disciples the Rule of St. Benedict, while the first draft of the « Customs » of Camaldoli goes back to the Prior General Rudolf I (1080- 1085); the draft of the Customs of Vallombrosa is the work of « Archimandrita » Rustico, the second successor of St. John Gualberto.
(60) Cf. L. BUX, Origine e sviluppo della figura del Superiore Maggiore nella Congregazione Silvestrina, in « Inter Fratres » , 32 (1982/I), pp. 79-101.
(61) Cf. L. BUX, origine e sviluppo della figura del Superiore Maggiore nella Congregazione Silvestrina, in « Inter Fratres » 32 (1982/m, 160-178. pp.
(62) Cf. A. IACOVONE, La Dichiarazione: perché, come, che cosa, in « Inter Fratres » 29 (1979/I), 1-11 English translation 12-22. pp.
(63) Cf. L. BUX, Novia delle costituzioni silvestrine 1983, in « Inter Fratres » 34 (1984/II), pp. 173-194; 3 pp. 120-138. (1985),
(64) Cf. Bibliotheca Montisfani 2. In the Appendix (pp. 271-278) the author speaks of the spiritual heredity of St. Sylvester over the centuries, affirming that it is preserved intact in essence, but that it had various expressions in different epochs (p. 278).
(65) The Lives are published in Bibliotheca Montisfani 8, pp. 37-148: 155- 175; 183-272; 279-329. An English translation edited by F. FATTORINI, The Saints of the Benedictine order of Montefano, Clifton 1072, pp. 1649; 58- 142; 153-223; 237-266, is available.
(66) Cf. I. Di NICOLA, Documenti dell’Archivio di Montefano relativi al primo periodo della Congregazione Silvestrina (sec. XIII), in Bibliotheca Montisfani 7, pp. 448-455- Partial English translation in Montefano, 293- pp. 294. For the practice of begging, cf. U. PAOLI, La Congregazione Silvestrina nei secoli XIV-XV, in Bibliotheca Montisfani 7, pp. 714-717 On the importance of going back to the poor and simple style of life of the beginnings as a point of contact with Buddhist monasticism in Sri Lanka, A. FONSEKA, Monastic Poverty, a point of contact between Christian and Buddhist monasticism, in « Inter Fratres » 29 (1979/I), pp. 46-98 Partial Italian translation pp. 99-105.
(67) For the 17th century, cf. Bibliotheca Montisfani 1, pp. 99-110 Partial English translation in « Inter Fratres » , 26 (1976/II), pp. 108-110 and E. BONGA, Vita dei Silvestrini nelle Marche a meta seicento, in Bibliotheca Montisfani 7, pp. 891-896; for the 18th century, cf. G. FATTORINI, Lineamenti di spiritualita fra i Silvestrini nel settecento, in Bibliotheca Montisfani 7 pp. 923-946; for the 19th century, cf. G. FATTORINI, La vita spirituale tra i Benedettini silvestrini nell’ottocento, in « Inter Fratres » , 20 (1970), pp. 52-59 and F. POMPEI – I. DI NICOLA, Lineamenti di spiritualita e di storia nella Congregazione Benedettina Silvestrina dell’ottocento, in « Inter Fratres » , 28 1978/1), pp. 1.79.
(68) An attempt to go back to the contemplative dimension of the origins may be seen in the Shivpuri experience: besides the bibliography given on the footnote 53 cf. G. KUTHUKALLUNKAL, Ashram (monastic) life in India, in « Inter Fratres » , 31 (1981/II), pp. 176-183; G. KUTHUKALLUNKAL, Ashram and Prayer, in « Inter Fratres » , 33 (1983/I), pp. 75-87.
(69) Cf. Bibliotheca Montirfani 3 Partial English translation in Montefano, pp. 154-174.
(70) Cf. v. FATTORINI, La liturgia silvestrina dalla fine del sec. XIV d Concilio di Trento in « Inter Fratres », 30 (1980/I), pp. 64-82, V. FATTORINI La liturgia nella Congregazione Silvestrina del Seicento, in Bibliotheca Montisfani 7, pp. 859-886.
(71) C. DI NICOLA, Converione de’ costumi sabia preso gli antichi silvestrini, in « Inter Fratres » , 27 (1977/I), pp. 4-13.
(72) For the 13th century, cf. I. Dr NICOLA, Documenti dell’Archivio di Montefano relativi al primo periodo della Congregazione Silvestrina (sec. XIII), in Bibliotheca Montisfani 6, pp. 431-435, 441-448 Partial English translation in Montefano, pp. 291-293; for the 14th-15th centuries, cf. U. PAOLI, La Congregazione Silvestrina nei secoli XIV-XV, in Bibliotheca Montisfani 7, pp. 706- 714; for the 17th century, cf. Bibliotheca Montisfani 1, pp. 106-108; for the 18th century, cf. G. FATTORINI, Lineamenti di spiritualita ra i Silvestrini nel Settecento, in Bibliotheca Montisfani 7, pp. 930-933, 944-946.
(73) Cf. U. PAOLI, La Congregazione Silvestrina nei secoli XIV-XV, in Bibliotheca Montisfani 7, pp. 669-673.
(74) Cf. U. PAOLI, La Congregazione Silvestrina nei secoli XIV-XV, in Bibliotheca Montisfani 7, 673-682.
(75) The two codices, containing the IIa-IIae of the Summa Theologica of St. Thomas and De Civitate Dei of St. Augustine, were lost, as were many other manuscripts, during the soppression of 1861.
(76) G. VARUCCI Due codici scrit da Gerardus Helye padre di Erasmo, in « Inter Fratres » , 36 (1986/I), p. 67
(77) Cf. U. PAOLI, La Cong silvestrina nei secoli XIV-XV, in Bibliotheca Montisfani 7, pp. 640-641.
(78) On Blessed Simon James, Benvenuto and John of the Cell, cf. Bibliotheca Montisfani 2, pp. 163-165 and v. FATTORINI, Figure minori dell’agio- grafia alvestrina, in « Inter Fratres » , 32 (1982/I), pp. 62-78. For Blessed Joseph degli Atti and Blessed Bartolo, cf. Bibliotheca Montisfani 2, pp. 161- 163. Regarding the burial of Blessed Joseph degli Atti, Bartolo, Benevenuto and John the Solitary (or John of the Cell), cf. Notisie storiche sulle reliquie di alcuni discepoli di S. Silvestro, in « Inter Fratres » , 13 (1963), pp. 80-83 Partial English translation pp. 83-84.
(79) Cf. G. PAGNANI, Ricerche intorno alla vita e all’opera di S. Silvestro, in Bibliotheca Montisfani 5, pp. 201-207 English translation in Montefano, pp. 135-138.
(80) Cf. Bibliotheca Montisfani 2, pp. 151-157 and V. FATTORINI, L’ascesa alla perfezione nella Vita del beato Giovanni dal Baseone , in « Inter Fratres »34 (1984/I), pp. 21-38.
(81) Cf. A BOLZONETTI, Cenni biografici di alcuni monaci silvestrini di Fabriano, in e « Inter Fratres » , 16 (1966), pp. 48-52
(82) Cf. Bibliotheca Montisfani 2, pp. 157-160.
(83) Cf. A. BOLZONETTI, Cenni biografici di alcuni monaci silvestrini di Fabriano, in « Inter Fratres », 16 (1966), pp. 53-54.
(84) Cf. A. BOLZONETTI, Cenni biografici del B. Paolino Bigazzini, in « Inter Fratres », 12 (1962), pp. 11-30 – Partial English transltion pp. 31-34.
(85) Cf. Bibliotheca Montisfani 2, pp. 167-170; A. BOLZONETTI, Cenni biografici di alcuni monaci silvestrini di Fabriano, in « Inter Fratres », 31 (1981/I), pp. 37-42; U. PAOLI, La Congregazione Silvestrina nei secoli XIV-XV, in Bibliotheca Montisfani 7, pp. 586-605.
(86) Cf. M. PAPI, Fra Bevignate, gloria umbra e benedettina, in « Inter Fratres » 6 (1955), pp. 11-24.
(87) Besides the bibliography cited in footnote 28, cf. R. SASSI, Profili di monaci silvestrini. Maestro Stefano della Castelletta, in « Inter Fratres » 9 , (1958), pp. 11-16 and A. BOLZONETTI, Cenni biografici di alcuni monaci silvestrini di Fabriano, in « Inter Fratres » , 31 (1981/I), pp. 43-47.
(88) Cf. F. GRIMALDI, Pietro Antonio Perotti governatore della Santa Casa di Loreto (1512-1519), in Bibliotheca Montisfani 7, pp. 851-858.
(89) Cf. R. SASSI, Due insigni cosmografi fabrianesi, in « Inter Fratres », 16 (1966), pp. 45-46 and A. BOLZONETTI, Cenni biografici di alcuni monaci silvestrini di Fabriano, in « Inter Fratres », 31 (1981/II), pp. 122-126.
(90) Cf. A. BROCCHI, D. Giuseppe Marziali, missionario silvestrino, e un episodio di storia missionaria della Cocincina, in « Inter Fratres », 16 (1966), pp. 5-32; 18 (1968), pp. 3-29; 20 (1970), 8-14 – Partial English translation in « Inter Fratres » pp. , 20 (1970), 45-47 pp.
(91) Besides the bibliography given in footnote 45, H. RUDOLPH, The Incorrupt Body of Msgr. Bravi, in « Inter Fratres » 2 (1951), pp. 5-12; In the footsteps of great missionaries. A peace-maker: Msgr. Joseph Bravi, in « Inter Fratres », 10 (1959), pp. 12-14.
(92) Cf. V. FATTORINI, Mons. Maione lani vicario apostolico di Colombo, in « Inter Fratres » 16 (1964), pp. 46-52 Partial English translation pp. 53-55; B. HYDE, Bishop Hilarion Sillani O.S. B. silv., Tit. Bishop of cali- nico, vicar Apostolic of Southern Vicariate, Ceylon, 1863-1879, in « Inter Fratres » 20 (1970), pp. 3-7.
(93) Cf. O. FILIPPONI, Sessanta anni in terra di mission, in « Inter Fratres »16 (1966), pp. 69-72; O. FILIPPONI, Mons. Bernardo Regno vescovo sil vestrino in Sri Lanka (Ceylon), in « Inter Fratres », 28 (1978/I), pp. 61-65 – English translation pp. 66-70; D. BARSENBACH, The coolie bishop. The life story of dom Bernard Regno bishop of Kandy, Sri Lanka, Kandy 1979; O. FILLIPPONI, Un monaco in Sri Lanka. Ricordi di t misionario, Bologna 1980.
(94) C. The late Bishop Leo Nanayakkara of Badala, in « Inter Fratres » (1981/I), pp. 121-122; A. PIERIS, Dom Leo Nanayakkara, in « Inter Fratres », 34 (1984), pp. 84-92; S. TONN, Bishop Leo Nanayakkara. As I rememhim, in « Inter Fratres » , 34 (1985), pp. 30-36.
(95) Cf. L. SCARINC, L’Abate Ildebrando Gregori, in « Inter Fratres » 35 (1985), pp. 152-157 – English translation , pp. 158-162. 82
(96) For some introductory notes to the chronology of the Superior Ge- nerals, cf PAOLI, Crono assi dei Superiori Generali della Congregaione sil vestrina, in « Inter Fratres » , 33 (1983/1). pp. 9-40; ,41-74 the sources on pp and bibliography relative to each Superior is given.
(97) 1231 which refers to the foundation of the hermitage of Montefano, « head » and mother of the monastic movement begun by Sylvester at Grottafucile about 1228, is accepted as the conventional date for the start of the Order of St. Benedict of Montefano.
(98) The oldest document which speaks of the monastery is from 1235. 1228 is approximate (cf. pp. 14-15, 25).
(99) In 1886 the monastery became the Episcopal Seat of the Diocese of Kandy.
(100) The latin document is edited in Bibliotheca Montisfani pp. 222- 4, 226 (for a brief introductory note and synthesis, cf. pp. 149-161) and in San Silvestro di Fabriano. Antiche pergamene, edited by U. PAOLI, Fabriano 1984, pp. 42- Italian translation pp. 45-17: a colour photographic reproduction of the document may be found at the end of the volume.
(101) The two points on the horizontal line stand for the name of the person to whom it is addressed (in our case Sylvester, in so much as it was directed to him because of his office (Prior of the hermitage of Montefano). The privilege, however, applied not only to Sylvester but to the successive Priors as well.
(102) Since 1728 Montefano is in the Diocese of Fabriano.
(103) (R) = Rota (wheel). It consists of two concentric circles, which form a circular ring, in which is written « Notas fac mihi Domine vias tuas ». Inside the second circle are written the names of the Apostles Peter and Paul (in the upper part) and that of Innocent IV (in the lower).