« Antonelli, Giacomo Antonians Antoninus Pius »


ANTONIANS, an-tō´ni-ans, or ANTONINES, an"to-nainz´: 1. Religious orders among the Roman Catholic Chaldeans, Maronites, and Armenians, which follow a rule called the rule of St. Anthony. In reality St. Anthony (251-356), although he is justly styled the father of cenobitic life, left no rule to his followers save those scattered directions found in his writings. The so-called rule of St. Anthony is, therefore, the work of some later writer who took its substance, however, from the teachings of the saint. At the present time the Antonians are grouped in four congregations; the Chaldean Antonians of St. Hormisdas, founded in Mesopotamia in 1809 for missionary work, with about one hundred members; the Maronite Antonians of Aleppo, with 120 members; the Maronite Baladite Antonians, the most numerous of all, with 700 members; and the Maronite Congregation of St. Isaiah, with 240 members.

John T. Creagh.

A fifth congregation called after St. Anthony, now almost extinct, was founded among the Roman Catholic Armenians by Abraham Attar-Muradian, a merchant, who in 1705, with his brother James, a priest, retired to Mount Lebanon to lead an ascetic life. Here, in 1721, they established the monastery of Kerem, followed by another at Beit-Khasbo near Beirut. In 1761 a third community was founded in Rome, near the Vatican. About 1740 the exiled bishop of Haleb (Aleppo), Abraham Ardzivian, who had found refuge at Kerem, took advantage of a long vacancy in the Cilician patriarchate to set himself up as catholicos of Cilicia, and secured papal confirmation in 1742. His first successor was the above-mentioned James, who was followed by Michael and Basil, also Antonians. In 1866 the patriarch of the Catholic Armenians, Anthony Hasun, residing in Constantinople, adopted the title “Patriarch of Cilicia,” and put an end to the nominal Antonian patriarchate. The Antonians usually numbered fifty or sixty, and served the Roman Catholic mission in Turkey. In 1834 they transferred their novitiate and school to Rome, only the abbot and a few brothers remaining in the Lebanon. In 1865 Sukias Gazanjian was chosen abbot and was consecrated by the last Lebanon patriarch. He lived in Constantinople as head of the anti-Hasun party. On Hasun’s charges, he was summoned to Rome in 1869; but before his case could be heard, the Vatican council met. He and his monks were among the first to reject papal infallibility, and were obliged to escape by night, with the help of the French ambassador. In 1876 Malachi Ormanian, the best-known and best-educated of the Antonians, went to Rome and finally closed their house there. (He afterward joined the Armenian Church, and has published Le Vatican et les Arméniens and other works.) The present members of the congregation, having made their submission to the pope, are concentrated in one community in Constantinople.

2. An antinomian sect which originated in the canton of Bern, Switzerland, early in the nineteenth century, founded by Anton Unternährer (b. at Schüpfheim, in the canton of Lucerne, Sept. 5, 1759; d. in the jail of Lucerne June 29, 1824). Unternährer was educated and confirmed in the Roman Catholic Church; after a varied career as cowherd, cabinet-maker, private teacher, and quack doctor, he settled in 1800 at Amsoldingen, near Thun, and began to hold religious meetings, to preach, and to issue books. He announced himself as the Son of God, come to fulfil the incomplete work of Jesus, to judge mankind (especially rulers and judges, who were all to be abolished), and to cancel all debts. On Apr. 16, 1802, he appeared before the Minster of Bern with a crowd of adherents, to whom he had predicted the occurrence of some great event. The tumult was suppressed, and Unternährer was condemned to two years’ imprisonment. On his release he was received by his adherents with enthusiasm, and riots again occurred. For five years Unternährer was confined in Lucerne as a lunatic. He returned to the world more collected and more serious, but by no means cured, and in 1820 he was permanently confined in the jail.

Unternährer’s publications comprise about fifteen pamphlets, including, with others, Gerichtsbüchlein; Buch der Erfüllung; and Geheimniss der Liebe. He taught that the primitive relation between God and man was expressed in the two commandments, to love and multiply, and to abstain from the tree of knowledge. Tempted by Satan, man violated the second commandment and attained great wisdom, which is the curse of mankind. It began with the distinction between good and evil, and ends in institutions innumerable—State, Church, courts, schools, and the like. From the curse there is only one means of salvation; namely, through the fulfilment of the first commandment, to love and multiply; and for this purpose all restraints arising from such ideas as marriage, family, etc., must be thrown off. The principal seat of the sect was Amsoldingen, whence it spread to Gsteig, near Interlaken. Suppressed here in 1821, it reappeared at Wohlen, near Bern, in 1830, under the leadership of Benedict Schori, and again at Gsteig, in 1838-40, under the leadership of Christian Michel. Severe measures were necessary to suppress its excesses.

Bibliography: J. Ziegler, Aktenmässige Nachricten über die sogenannten Antonisekte im Kanton Bern, in Trechsel, Beiträge zur Geschichte der schweizerischen reformirten Kirche, iii. 70 sqq., Bern, 1842; G. Joss, Das Sektenwesen im Kanton Bern, ib. 1881.

« Antonelli, Giacomo Antonians Antoninus Pius »
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