« Alexandria, Synods of Alexians Alexius I., Comnenus »


ALEXIANS: An order, aiming to care for the sick and bury the dead, which originated in the Netherlands at the time of the black death about the middle of the fourteenth century. The members were at first called Cellitæ (Dutch, Gellebroeders, “Cell-brothers”) and Lollards, or Nollards, on account of their monotonous intoning at burials. When and where they chose St. Alexius—according to the legend, a son of rich parents who gave all his possessions to the poor, lived for many years unrecognized as a beggar in his father’s house, and died July 17, 417—as patron is not known. The place may have been Antwerp, or Cologne, or elsewhere in Lower Germany. A certain Tobias is said to have had a part in their foundation, and the name Fratres voluntarie pauperes, which is sometimes applied to them, may have been their oldest and chosen designation. From the fifteenth century they were found in great numbers in Belgium and western Germany. In 1459 Pius II. permitted them to take the solemn vows. To avoid being taken for Beghards, and to escape persecution, they adopted the monastic rule of St. Augustine (with black cassock), and Sixtus IV. confirmed the arrangement in 1472. Later they appeared in the four provinces of the Upper Rhine, Middle Rhine, Flanders, and Brabant, without central government or priests at the head of the different monasteries. Jan Busch, the monastic reformer of the fifteenth century, took note of their illiterate and deficient lay character. A reform of the order, which was verging on decay, was undertaken in 1854 by the monastery of Mariaberg in Aachen, and was confirmed by Pius IX. in 1870. About fifteen houses, for both sexes, scattered over western Germany, are affiliated with Aachen, and there are others in Belgium.

O. Zöckler†.

Bibliography: Helyot, Ordres monastiques, iii. 401-406; G. Uhlhorn, Die christliche Liebestätigkeit im Mittelalter, pp. 390 sqq., Stuttgart, 1884; W. Moll, Vorreformatorische Kirchengeschichte der Niederlande, ii. 250 sqq., Leipsic, 1895; Heimbucher, Orden und Kongregationen i. 479-481.

« Alexandria, Synods of Alexians Alexius I., Comnenus »
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