Orders, Religious are conventual communities comprehended under one rule, subject to. one superior, and wearing the same dress. Religious orders may be reduced to five kinds, viz. monks, canons, knights, mendicants, and regular clerks. They are, however, generally classified simply as monastic, military, and mendicant. White order denotes the order of regular canons of St. Augustine. Black order denotes the order of St. Benedict. Religious military orders are those instituted in defense of the faith, privileged to say mass, prohibited from marriage, etc.
The earliest comprehension of monastic societies under one rule was effected by St. Basil, archbishop of Caesarea, who united the hermits and coenobites in his diocese, and prescribed for them a uniform constitution, recommending at the same time a vow of celibacy. The Basilian rule subsists to the present day in the Eastern Church. Next in order of time was the Benedictine Order, founded by St. Benedict at Nursia, who considered a mild discipline preferable to excessive austerity. The offshoots from the Benedictine Order include some of the most important orders in ecclesiastical history, among others the Carthusians, Cistercians, and Praemonstrants. The Order of Augustinians professed to draw their rule from the writings of St. Augustine; they were the first order who were not; entirely composed of laymen, but of ordained priests, or persons destined to the clerical profession. The military orders, of which the members united the military with the religious profession, arose from the necessity under which the monks lay of defending the possessions which they had accumulated, and the supposed duty of recovering Palestine from the Saracens, and retaining possession of it. The most famous orders of this kind were the Hospitallers or Knights of St. John of Jerusalem, the Knights Templars and the Teutonic. Order. Many other military orders existed, and not a few continue to exist, particularly in Spain and Portugal. The phraseology of the old military orders is preserved in the orders of knighthood of modern 'times, into which individuals are admitted in reward for merit of different kinds, military and civil. The three mendicant orders of Franciscans, Dominicans, and Carmelites were instituted in the 13th century. Their principal purpose was to put down the opposition to the Church, which had begun to show itself, and also to reform the Church by example and precept. At a later period the Order of the Jesuits was founded, with thee object of increasing the power of the Church and putting down heresy. Chambers, Cyclop. s.v. Notices of the more important orders, monastic, military, and mendicant, will be found underseparate articles. SEE KNIGHTS; SEE MONASTICISM; SEE MENDICANTS.