monks and nuns following the rule of St. Basil the Great, first published A.D. 263. The order spread with so great rapidity that it is said to have numbered at the death of the founder about 90,000 members. In the West it established convents in Spain, Italy, Germany, and Sarmatia, and the Basilian rule, up to the time of St. Benedict, was the basis of all monastic institutions. After the separation of the Greek Church from the Roman, the Basilian order remained the only one in the Greek churches of Russia (where there are about 400 monasteries of monks with about 6000 monks, and about 110 monasteries of nuns with some 3000 nuns), Austria (which in 1849 bad 44 monasteries of monks with 271 members, but no nuns), and Greece, and in the Armenian Church. In Turkey, where especially the monastic establishments of Matthew Athos (q.v.) are celebrated, all the convents of the Greek Church follow the rule of St. Basil, with the exception of those on Mts. Sinai and Lebanon.
In the Roman Church, the monks of St. Basil, formerly constituting several independent communities, were placed by Pope Gregory XIII, in 1579, under an abbot-general. They were divided into the provinces of Rome, Calabria, Sicily, Spain, Germany, and Poland, and followed partly the Greek, partly the Roman rite. A congregation of Reformed Basilians (Tardonites) was established by Matteo de-la Fuente in Spain in 1557, and joined by a part of the Spanish convents. In Germany and Spain they disappeared with the other convents. In Russia, large numbers of Basilians, together with the whole, body of United Greeks, separated from the Roman Church in 1839. At present only a few convents of Basilians acknowledge the jurisdiction of the pope. They are divided into four congregations:
(1.) the Ruthenian. in Russia, Poland, and Hungary, with 24 houses;
(2.) the Italian, the principal convent of which is that of St. Savior at Messina, in Sicily, which still preserves the Greek rite;
(3.) the French, which has its principal house at Viviers;
(4.) the Melchite, in the United Greek Church of Asia Minor, which held, a few years ago, a general chapter, under the presidency of the papal delegate in Syria.
According to the historians of the order, it has produced 14 popes, numerous patriarchs, cardinals, and archbishops, 1805 bishops, and 11,805 martyrs. One house of Basilians is at Toronto, Canada. Altogether there are about fifty houses with 1000 members. See Helyot, Ordres Religieux, 1:379 sq.