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The popular name of a religious order which is canonically known by the title, given to it by Pope Paul III in 1535, of Regular Clerics of St. Paul (Clerici Regulares Sancti Pauli). This institute was founded by three Italian noblemen: St. Anton Maria Zaccaria (canonized by Leo XIII, 27 March, 1897), Ven. Barthélemy Ferrari, and Ven. Jacopo Morigia, the last two of Milan. Second in seniority of the orders of regular clerics (the Theatines being first), the foundation of the Barnabites as a congregation dates form the year 1530. Clement VII, by the Brief "Vota per quae vos", 18 February, 1533, canonically approved of the congregation; Paul III, by the Bulls "Dudum felicis recordationis", 28 July, 1535, and "Pastoralis officii cura", 29 November, 1543, exempted them from the jurisdiction of their diocesan. Lastly, the Bulls of Julius III, "Rationi congruit" and "Ad hoc nos Deus praetulit", dated respectively 22 February, and 11 August, 1550, confirmed and augmented the existing privileges of the institute, which, from being a congregation, thenceforward became a religious order in the strict canonical sense, its members, however, still adhering to the custom of calling it "the Congregation".

The popular name Barnabites came naturally to the Congregation through its association with the church of St. Barnabas, Milan, which came into its possession within the earliest years of the foundation of the institute, which was at first peculiarly Milanese. St. Charles Borromeo, Archbishop of Milan, presided, in 1579, as Cardinal Protector, over the commission which determined once for all the constitution of the order, and the general chapters were regularly held at Milan until the reign of Alexander VII (1655-67), who ordered them to convene in Rome. Innocent XI (1676-89), however, finally decreed that the general chapters of the Barnabites should assemble in Rome and Milan alternately. These assemblies of the provincials are held every three years for the election of a new general, whose term of office is limited to that period, only one re-election being allowed to each incumbent of the office. The members of the order make, in addition to the three regular vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, a vow never to strive for any office or position of dignity, or to accept such otherwise than under a command of the Holy See. The scope of their special vocation, besides preaching in general, catechizing, hearing confessions, giving missions, ministrations in hospitals and prisons, and the education of youth, includes also a particular devotion to the thorough study and exposition of St. Paul's Epistles. Their habit is the black soutane (tunica talaris) which formed the usual garb of Milanese secular priests in the time of St. Charles Borromeo.

Spread of the order

The Congregation has never failed of the holy object for which it was instituted: to revive the ecclesiastical spirit and zeal for souls among the clergy. Church history records the substantial assistance which that saint received from them in his great work of reforming the Diocese of Milan; his biographies make mention of his affection for them and of the satisfaction which he took in sojourning at their house of St. Barnabas. St. Francis of Sales, who loved to call himself a Barnabite, invited the Congregation into his diocese, to establish colleges at Annecy and at Thonon; while the Barnabite Guérin was his coadjutor and later, having succeeded him in the See of Geneva, was conspicuous for the zeal with which he promoted his canonization. The Barnabites, who take a holy pride in the title of episcoporum adjutores, have constantly cultivated the meek and gentle spirit of St. Francis of Sales in their relations with ecclesiastical authorities, the diocesan clergy, and members of other religious orders. Though never very extensive, the spreading of the order in Europe began very soon after its foundation. Their chief theatres of action were in Italy, France, Savoy, Austria, and Bohemia.

In 1582, Pope Gregory XIII, at the solicitation of the Sovereign Order of St. John of Jerusalem, sent Barnabite Fathers to Malta, and in 1610 Henry IV of France obtained their services in defence of Catholicism in Bearn, whence they spread to Paris and other parts of France. The Emperor Ferdinand II invited them into Austria, in 1627, to oppose the spread of Protestantism, and gave them the court parish of St. Michael, where a house was built for their accommodation. The order also possesses at Vienna the parish church of Maria-Hilf, a famous sanctuary erected in thanksgiving for Sobieski's deliverance of the city from the Turks in 1683. Belgium has recently proved a providential refuge for the order, those expelled from France by the Government of that country having established themselves at Brussels and in other parts of the neighbouring kingdom.

Foreign missions

In 1718, when Clement XI sent Monsignor Mezzabarba to the Emperor of China to attempt a settlement of the famous question of the Chinese Rites, His Holiness attached five Barnabites to the special mission. No substantial result was obtained, but when the rest of the party left the country, one member of the order, Father Ferrari, remained in China, taking up his residence first at Peking and then at Canton, where he sowed the first seed of that work of the Holy Infancy with which the name of the French Bishop Forbin-Janson is justly associated. From that time until 1738 the companions of Father Ferrari preached the Gospel in Cochin China, where Father Alessandro degli Alessandri was for sixteen years vicar Apostolic. The Holy See meanwhile desiring a regular Barnabite mission in Ava and Pegu, the order willingly assumed that duty, and the mission was maintained until 1832, when the inability to supply labourers for this field, the consequence of Napoleon's suppression of the religious orders necessitated its transfer to the Paris Society of Foreign Missions. An account of what the Barnabites accomplished in Ava and Pegu may be found in Cardinal Wiseman's translation (published by the Asiatic Society) of Sauzerman's "Religione del regno Birmano". The Regular Clerics of St. Paul also kept missionaries, for some time, in Scandinavia. Their missions are now established in Brazil.

Saints and other distinguished members of the congregation

Besides its canonized Saints Anton Maria Zaccaria and Alexander Sauli, and Blessed Xavier M. Bianchi (d. 1815) who was known as the Thaumaturgus of Naples, the Barnabite Order glories in a number of Venerables, among whom have been several religious distinguished for their austere purity and taken to their reward while yet young. Upon the extraordinary graces, such as miracles and vision, undeniably vouchsafed to members of the order, it is not expedient here to insist; Alfonso Paleotti, however, who in 1591 succeeded his cousin, Cardinal Gabriel Paleotti, In the Archbishopric of Bologna, relates in his autobiography that when he was praying for light and help in the government of his archdiocese, a holy man who was commonly called il Vidente, on account of his gift of vision, told him, as a message from the Blessed Virgin, that he out to send for the Barnabites and make them penitenzieri, because they had a great devotion for her, were her faithful servants, and she would assist them in drawing souls to the practice of daily Communion.

Learning, the pursuit of which the Barnabites regard as a great preservative of religious observance has always been cultivated among them in all its branches. To cite only a few names, the order has been distinguished in theology by Rotarius, Pozzobonelli, and Maderni; in Biblical science by Corio and Vercellone; in ecclesiastical history by Tornielli, whose "Annales Sacri" are regarded as an introduction to those of Baronius; in liturgiology by Gavantus; in archaeology by Caronni, whose work receives praise in Eckel's "Doctina nummorum veterum"; Cortenova, who illustrated the antiquities of Friuli and Aquileia; Delle Torre, who restored the Forum Julii of Cividale; Ungarelli the Egyptologist, friend of Champollion and Rosellini, and interpreter of the Roman obelisk; and Benzi, who elucidated the inscription of Vercelli. Among the name of Barnabites who have been eminent in philosophy are those of Baranzano, the friend of Galileo and of Francis Bacon, who communicated to him first the theory of the "Novum Organum", of Cardinal Gerdil, and of Pini, the author of "Protologia"; among those eminent in physical and mathematical science, Frisi, Cavallezi, Denza, founder of the Italian Meteorological Society and first director of the Vatican Observatory, and Bertelli, the seismologist. To the Barnabite architect Binaghi is due the restoration of the Escorial towards the close of the sixteenth century, whilst the Barnabite Mazenta was the architect both of the Cathedral of Bologna and of the fortifications of Leghorn. To these name might be added those of many Barnabites who have become famous in literature, and the order has given to the Catholic Church more than fifty bishops and these six members of the Sacred College: Caddini, Fontana, Gerdil, Lambruschini, Bilio, and Graziello.

In 1856 Count Schouvaloff, a distinguished Russian convert, joined the Barnabite Congregation, and died in 1859. It was his ardent desire that his brethren might do something for the reunion of Christendom. With this object the order has founded an Association of Masses, and by the Brief "Apositum super Nobis", dated 30 April, 1872, Pius IX granted a plenary indulgence to all who should assist at the Mass for the reunion of Christendom to be celebrated once a month in the Chapel of the Barnabites at Paris. His Holiness, moreover, granted to the general of the order faculties for extending the like privilege to any other church in which a monthly Mass for the same intention should be said upon the day appointed by the ordinary. This privilege is freely extended by the general to all bishops who may desire it.


Sicco and Mosio, De Cleric, Reg. S. Pauli Cong. Et Parentibus Syonpsis (Milan, 1682); Barelli, Memorie dell' origine . . . della Congregazione dei Chierici Reg . . . Barnabiti (Bologna, 1703-07); Constitutiones Cleric. Reg. S. Pauli Decollati (Milan, 1579; Milan, 1617; Naples, 1829); Grazioli, Praestantium virorum qui in Congregatione S. Pauli vulgo Barnabitarum memoria nostra floruerunt (Bologna, 1751); Ungarelli, Bibliotheca Script. E Cong. Cleric. Reg. S. Pauli (Rome, 1836); Gabuzio, Hist. Cong. Cleric. Reg. S. Pauli (Rome, 1852); Colombo, Profili biografici di insigni Barnabiti (Lodi, 1871).

About this page

APA citation. Tondini di Quarenghi, C. (1907). Barnabites. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.

MLA citation. Tondini di Quarenghi, Cesario. "Barnabites." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 2. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1907. <>.

Transcription. This article was transcribed for New Advent by Susan Birkenseer.

Ecclesiastical approbation. Nihil Obstat. 1907. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John M. Farley, Archbishop of New York.

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