White Brethren

White Brethren a body of enthusiasts who appeared in Italy about the beginning of the 15th century, and were so called from being all clad in white linen robes reaching to their feet, with hoods of the same material that left only their eyes exposed. They were first collected together by a priest, whose name is unknown, among the villages on the southern side of the Alps. He led them down, a large multitude, into the Italian plains under the pretence that he was the prophet Elias. Bearing a cross at their head, he bade them follow him in a crusade against the Turks for the purpose of regaining the Holy Land; and so great was his influence that not only the peasantry, but some priests and even cardinals, are said to have enrolled themselves among his army of "penitents." They advanced in troops of ten, twenty, and forty thousand, marching from city to city, singing hymns and muttering loud prayers; and wherever they went multitudes were ready to give them alms and join in their pilgrimage. They were met at Viterbo by a body of papal troops, which had been ordered to march against them by Boniface IX under the impression that their leader intended to dethrone him and seize upon the papal dominions. The pilgrims were dispersed by the troops, and their leader taken captive to Rome and burned as a heretic, about the year 1403. Their history is very similar in many respects to that of the Apostolicals, led by Srgarenili and Dolcino a century earlier; hence some have supposed that both uprisings were by the same sect. SEE APOSTOLICI.

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