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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

The Theatines or the Congregation of Clerks Regular of the Divine Providence are a male religious order of the Catholic Church, with the post-nominal initials "C.R."



The order was founded by Saint Cajetan (Gaetano dei Conti di Tiene), Paolo Consiglieri, Bonifacio da Colle, and Giovanni Pietro Carafa (afterwards Pope Paul IV). Carafa was Bishop of Chieti; Chieti (Theate) is a city of the Abruzzi in Central Italy, from which the congregation adopted its specific name, to distinguish it from other congregations (Jesuits, Barnabites, Somaschi, Caracciolini, etc.) modelled upon it.

Cajetan consecrated his order to the Cross, which he adopted as its emblem, and the foundation took place on the feast of the Finding of the Holy Cross, May 3, 1524. It was approved on June 24 of that year, by Pope Clement VII in the Brief Exponi Nobis. On September 14, feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, Cajetan and his companions made solemn profession before the papal altar of St. Peter's Basilica in Rome, in the presence of Mgr. Giovanni Battista Bonziano, Bishop of Caserta, a special papal delegate.

The chief object of the order was to recall the clergy to an edifying life and the laity to the practice of virtue. Cajetan and his companions zealously endeavoured to combat the teachings of Martin Luther, which, having gained a foothold in Switzerland, Germany, England, and France, then threatened Italy. They founded oratories (among them the celebrated Divino Amore) and hospitals, devoted themselves to preaching the Gospel, and reformed lax morals. Through their good example clergy and laity were induced to better living.

Growth and accomplishments

Notwithstanding their severe rule of life and strict vow of poverty, the congregation rapidly developed, and soon numbered among its members illustrious names of the Italian aristocracy. They founded many beautiful churches, among them that of Sant'Andrea della Valle in Rome, a gift of Costanza Piccolomini D'Aragona, Duchess of Amalfi. This church is a masterpiece of Carlo Maderno and contains several paintings by Domenichino. The Theatines were invited to all of the major cities of Italy by the authorities of these places.

They also attained a great development in foreign countries. In France, through the efforts of Cardinal Mazarin, they built the Church of St. Anne la Royale opposite the Louvre in 1644. In Spain, under Philip II, the Theatine Cardinal Paolo Burali d'Arezzo, afterwards beatified, filled various embassies at the command of the viceroy of Naples. In Portugal, John IV, in 1648, gave the Theatines a splendid house and college for the education of noble youth. In England, under Henry VIII, Thomas Goldwell, Bishop of St. Asaph, entered the order of Theatines. In Bavaria, the Theatine Church St. Kajetan was built from 1663 to 1690, founded by Elector Ferdinand Maria

Image:Sant'Andrea della Valle.inside.JPG
Sant'Andrea della Valle, theatine church in Rome.

The Theatines were the first to found papal missions in foreign lands, as in: Golconda (in present-day India); Ava (Burma); Peru; Mingrelia (Georgia); the East Indies, the history of which was written by the Theatine Bartolomeo Ferro (Missioni Teatine nelle Indie Orientali); Arabia; Armenia, in which latter country Father Galano, author of the history of the Armenian Church, negotiated and concluded the reconciliation and union of that Church with the Roman Catholic; Persia and in many other places, as is shown by Theatine manuscripts dating from 1530 until the end of the 18th century. In the 19th century the order began to decline, and in 1860, through the well-known suppression of religious orders, it was reduced to a shadow of its former greatness. In accordance with the spirit of its rule, it had never acquired possessions and is the only order which felt the consequences of the law of suppression.

Decline of the Order

Father Francesco di Paola Ragonesi, general of the order and the last surviving representative of its ancient traditions, restored the Church of S. Andrea della Valle to its former splendour, by his care and zeal, and aided by the munificence of Comm. Filippo Giove Romano. The Theatines maintain a flourishing mission at Durango, Colorado, U.S.A. Pope Pius X, in a Motu Proprio (a papal rescript) of December 15, 1909, decreed the union of the ancient Congregation of the Regular Theatine Clergy with the youthful Spanish Congregation of the Holy Family at Barcelona.

Besides the two saints, Gaetano, invoked for the interposition of Providence, and Andrea Avellino, against sudden death, the order furnished one pope, Paul IV (Giovanni Pietro Carafa), 250 bishops, archbishops, and papal legates, and the cardinals: Blessed Giovanni Marinoni, Blessed Paolo Burali d'Arezzo, Saint Giuseppe Maria Tomasi, Giovanni Bernardino Scotti, Francesco and Domenico Pignatelli, Giuseppe Capece-Zurlo, Francesco Maria Banditi, and Ferdinando Pignatelli, the last named created cardinal by Pope Gregory XVI. Father Anton Francesco Vezzosi wrote on notable members of the order in his work I scrittori de' chierici regolari detti Teatini.

The last famous Theatine was the philosopher, littérateur, and great sacred orator, Father Gioacchino Ventura dei Baroni di Raulica, a Sicilian. He preached and wrote in both Italian and French. His most celebrated work is his funeral oration on the death of Daniel O'Connell. He was the friend of the most illustrious men of his day, among them the Abbé de Lamennais. He died at Versailles in 1860.

See also

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