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Posted July 27, 2006
A Note on the history of the Carmelites as given here: It reflects much of what is presently happening between Israel and Lebanon. History is forever repeating itself. Crusades are never ending!

Book: The Ten Books on the Way of Life and Great Deeds of Carmelites
Edited and translated by: Richard Copsey, O. Carm.
Saint Albert's Press, Faversham, Kent. U.K. 2005. Pp. 187

An Excerpt from the Jacket:

In compiling The Ten Books on the Way of Life and Great Deeds of the Carmelites in the late fourteenth century, Felip Ribot, a friar from Catalonia, constructed a legendary history of his religious order that would dominate its spirituality for centuries.

The text, better known under the title The Book of the First Monks, was widely read across medieval Europe. It begins with the Carmelites' supposed foundation in the Holy Land by the Old Testament prophet Elijah, and traces the Order's adoption of Christianity and its international expansion. Highlighting the Carmelite's devotion to the Mother of God, their attentiveness to the Bible, and the Rule of Life by which they were guided, Ribot attempts to show his Order's antiquity, its privileged place within the Christian Church, and even its unique role in the history of salvation.

Held up as a spiritual masterpiece by the likes of Saint Teresa of Jesus (of Avila), and derided as a work of fantasy by rival religious orders, The Ten Books has attracted a surge of revived interest in recent years from historians and theologians. Carmelites and not-believers, scholars and the wider public.

An Excerpt from the Book:

Carmelite Origins

When the crusader forces conquered Jerusalem in 1099, to great acclaim throughout Christendom, it was thought that the Latin kingdom then established would endure for centuries, thus preserving the Holy Land in Christian hands. However, this was not to be the case, and it was not long before the Moslem forces, regrouping under their new leader Saladin, inflicted a disastrous defeat on the Christian army at the Battle of Hattim in 1187. Once again, the whole of the Holy Land was under Moslem control and it was only in the Lebanon that the surviving crusaders could find refuge. With the arrival of the Third Crusade, led by Richard the Lionheart from England and Philip II from France, a determined effort was made to recapture as much of the Holy Land as possible. Acre fell to the crusading forces in 1192, and Richard led a campaign which regained control of a narrow costal strip down to Ascalon. This area remained under Christian control until the final assault and fall of Acre to the Moslem forces in 1292.

Within the confines of the coastal strip was the mountain range of Mount Carmel overlooking the bay of Haifa, and it provided one of the few places where those Christians seeking to live as hermits could find solitude in relative safety. Following the recapture of Acre, a few of them began to gather around the well of Elijah on Mount Carmel. Some time between 1206-1214, they sent a deputation down to the patriarch of Jerusalem, Albert Avogadro, then resident in Acre, asking for him to draw up some guidelines for them so that they could live together as a community. He provided them with a formula vitae, or 'way of life', and gave them his blessing. The small community flourished and grew in size. After the death of Albert, the community sought some permissions and approval of their way of life from Rome, which were granted by Honorius III in a bull dated 1226, and by Gregory IX in two bulls dated 1226 and 1229.

Relations with the surrounding Moslem kingdoms were never easy and increasing attacks on the small Latin kingdom led some of the hermits to move away from Mount Carmelin in search of safer places. A foundation was made in Cyprus around 1235, and then other hermits returned to Europe, founding houses in Messina in Sicily and Les Aygalades near Marseilles in France around 1238. Carmelite hermits arrived at Hulne and Aylesford in England in 1242. In Europe, though, the hermits found new problems. The fact that they were unknown in the West, and their strange dress (they wore a striped cloak), meant that many bishops were reluctant to have them in their dioceses or to grant them permission to undertake any public functions. So the new Order had to struggle for survival. A sequence of petitions to Rome led to the issue of some papal documents frm Innocent IV in their support, which urged the bishops to foster the new arrivals. A change of name from the 'hermits of Mount Carmel' to the 'brothers of the blessed Mary of Mount Carmel' also helped their image. Then, in 1247, a general chapter was convened on Aylesford, and it sent a delegation to the pope seeking formal approval of the Order' 'way of life.' Later the same year, after seeking advice from two Dominicans, pope Innocent IV gave his approval and Albert's document - subject to certain small modifications and amendments - became a formal Rule. This marked the beginning of a rapid expansion for the Order. The total of 17 houses in 1250 was effectively doubled by 1260 (to 33) and quadrupled by 1270 (to 69).

Table of Contents:


1. God explains the life of the monk to Elijah
2. Elijah forms the first community
3. The first communities and their way of life
4. Ascent of Elijah and succession of Elisha
5. How the Order became Christians
6. The titles of the Order
7. The habit
8. Letter of Cyril to Eusebius & Sibert de Beka, Commentary on the Rule
9. Chronicle of William of Sandwich
10. Papal approval and confirmations