Mechitarists a congregation of Armenian Christians, who reside on the island of San Lazaro at Venice, but who have also obtained a footing in France and Austria. They derive their name from MECHITAR DA PETRO SEE MECHITAR DA PETRO (q.v.), Who in the year 1701 founded this religious society for the purpose of diffusing a knowledge of the old Armenian language and literature. The Mechitarists, like their founder and instructor, acknowledge the supremacy of the Roman pontiff, and seek to spread the faith and practices of the Church of Rome in the East. The rules of the Mechitarists are modelled after those of the Benedictines, but every member must be of the Armenian nation, and promise an active devotion to the cultivation of the Armenian language and literature. The result, as we have said above, has been the formation not only of a convent but of an academy; and, in fact, the best schools for the study of Armenian are in the houses of the order. A division was provoked in 1773, and some of the Mechitarists settled at Trieste, and there founded an institution like that at San Lazaro. In 1810 these seceders removed to Vienna, the Austrian capital, and there they still remain, busy mainly in the publication of Armenian classical productions and instructing young Armenians. A third society has recently been founded at Paris, and efforts are making for the establishment of a fourth at Constantinople. Several hundred volumes have already been published by the Mechitarists. Of these the theological portion has a Roman Catholic circulation only, but the others have been welcomed by the Armenians generally. They publish a periodical like the English Penny Magazine. See Boze, De Convent de St. Lazare a Venise on Histoire succincte de l'Ordre des Mechitaristes Armeniens (Paris, 1837).

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