1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Humiliati
HUMILIATI, the name of an Italian monastic order created in the 12th century. Its origin is obscure. According to some chroniclers, certain noblemen of Lombardy, who had offended the emperor (either Conrad III. or Frederick Barbarossa), were carried captive into Germany and after suffering the miseries of exile for some time, “humiliated” themselves before the emperor. Returning to their own country, they did penance and took the name of Humiliati. They do not seem to have had any fixed rule, nor did St Bernard succeed in inducing them to submit to one. The traditions relating to a reform of this order by St John of Meda are ill authenticated, his Acta (Acta sanctorum Boll., Sept., vii. 320) being almost entirely unsupported by contemporary evidence. The “Chronicon anonymi Laudunensis canonici” (Mon. Germ. hist. Scriptores, xxvi. 449), at date 1178, states that a group of Lombards came to Rome with the intention of obtaining the pope’s approval of the rule of life which they had spontaneously chosen; while continuing to live in their houses in the midst of their families, they wished to lead a more pious existence than of old, to abandon oaths and litigation, to content themselves with a modest dress, and all in a spirit of Catholic piety. The pope approved their resolve to live in humility and purity, but forbade them to hold assemblies and to preach in public; the chronicler adding that they infringed the pope’s wish and thus drew upon themselves his excommunication. Their name, Humiliati (“Humiles” would have been more appropriate), arose from the fact that the clothes they wore were very simple and of one colour. This lay fraternity spread rapidly and soon put forth two new branches, a second order composed of women, and a third composed of priests. No sooner, however, had this order of priests been formed, than it claimed precedence of the others, and, though chronologically last, was called primus ordo by hierarchical right—propter tonsuram (see P. Sabatier, “Regula antiqua Fr. et Sor. de poenitentia” in Opuscules de critique historique, part i. p. 15). In 1201 Pope Innocent III. granted a rule to this third order. Sabatier has drawn attention to the resemblances between this rule and the Regula de poenitentia granted to Franciscanism in the course of its development; on the other hand, it is incontestable that Innocent III. wished to reconcile the order with the Waldenses, and, indeed, its rule reproduces several of the Waldensian propositions, ingeniously modified in the orthodox sense, but still very easily recognizable. It forbade useless oaths and the taking of God’s name in vain; allowed voluntary poverty and marriage; regulated pious exercises; and approved the solidarity which already existed among the members of the association. Finally, by a singular concession, it authorized them to meet on Sunday to listen to the words of a brother “of proved faith and prudent piety,” on condition that the hearers should not discuss among themselves either the articles of faith or the sacraments of the church. The bishops were forbidden to oppose any of the utterances of the Humiliati brethren, “for the spirit must not be stifled.” James of Vitry, without being unfavourable to their tendencies, represents their association as one of the peculiarities of the church of his time (Historia orientalis, Douai, 1597). So broad a discipline must of necessity have led back some waverers into the pale of the church, but the Waldenses of Lombardy, in their congregationes laborantium, preserved the tradition of the independent Humiliati. Indeed, this tradition is confounded throughout the later 12th century with the history of the Waldenses. The “Chronicon Urspergense” (Mon. Germ. hist. Scriptores, xxiii. 376–377) mentions the Humiliati as one of the two Waldensian sects. The celebrated decretal promulgated in 1184 by Pope Lucius III. at the council of Verona against all heretics condemns at the same time as the “Poor Men of Lyons” “those who attribute to themselves falsely the name of Humiliati,” at the very time when this name denoted an order recognized by the papacy. This order, though orthodox, was always held in tacit and ever-increasing suspicion, and, in consequence of grave disorders, Pius V. suppressed the entire congregation in February 1570–71.
See Tiraboschi, Vetera humiliatorum monumenta (Milan, 1766); K. Müller, Die Waldenser (Gotha, 1886); W. Preger, Beiträge zur Geschichte der Waldensier (Munich, 1875). (P. A.)