1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Tertiaries
TERTIARIES (Lat. tertiarii, from tertius, third), associations of lay folk in connexion with the Mendicant Orders. The old monastic orders had had attached to their abbeys confraternities of lay men and women, going back in some cases to the 8th century. The Confraternity Book of Durham is extant and embraces some 20,000 names in the course of eight centuries. Emperors and kings and the most illustrious men in church and state were commonly confraters of one or other of the great Benedictine abbeys. (On this subject see article by Edmund Bishop in Dawnside Review, 1885.) The confraters and consorors were made partakers in all the religious exercises and other good works of the community to which they were affiliated, and they were expected in return to protect and forward its interests; but they were not called upon to follow any special rule of life.
Although something of the kind existed among the Humiliati in the 12th century, the institution of Tertiaries arose out of the Franciscan movement. It seems to be certain that St Francis at the beginning had no intention of forming his disciples into an Order, but only of making a great brotherhood of all those who were prepared to carry out in their lives certain of the greater and more arduous of the maxims of the Gospel. The formation of the Franciscan Order was necessitated by the success of the movement and the wonderful rapidity with which it spread. When the immediate disciples of the saint had become an order bound by the religious vows, it became necessary to provide for the great body of laity, married men and women, who could not leave the world or abandon their avocations, but still were part of the Franciscan movement and desired to carry out in their lives its spirit and teaching. And so, probably in 1221, St Francis drew up a Rule for those of his followers who were debarred from being members of the order of Friars Minor. At first they were called “Brothers and Sisters of the Order of Penance”; but later on, when the Friars were called the “First Order” and the nuns the “Second Order,” the Order of Penance became the “Third Order of St Francis”—whence the name Tertiaries: this threefold division already existed among the Humiliati.
In 1901 Paul Sabatier published a “Rule of Life of the Brothers and Sisters of Penance,” which probably contains, with additions, the substance of the original Rule of 1221. It prescribes severe simplicity of dress and of life, and certain abstinence's and prayers and other religious exercises, and forbids the frequentation of the theatre, the bearing of arms and the taking of oaths except when administered by magistrates. In 1289 Nicholas IV. approved the Third Order by a Bull, but made some alterations in the Rule, and this form of the Rule remained in force until our own day.
Immediately on its establishment in 1221 the Third Order, spread with incredible rapidity all over Italy and throughout western Europe, and embraced multitudes of men and women of all ranks from highest to lowest. Everywhere it was connected closely with the First Order, and was under the control of the Friars Minor.
In time a tendency set in for members of the Third Order to live together in community, and in this way congregations were formed who took the usual religious vows and lived a fully organized religious life based on the Rule of the Third Order with supplementary regulations. These congregations are the “Regular Tertiaries” as distinguished from the “Secular Tertiaries,” who lived in the world, according to the original idea. The Regular Tertiaries are in the full technical sense “religious,” and there have been, and are, many congregations of them, both of men and of women.
There can be little doubt, whatever counter claims may be set up, that the Third Order was one of St Francis' creations, and that his Third Order was the exemplar after which the others were fashioned; but at an early date the other Mendicant Orders formed Third Orders on the same lines, and so there came into being Dominican Tertiaries, and Carmelite, and Augustinian, and Servite, and also Premonstratensian and many others. These followed the same lines of development as the Franciscan Tertiaries, and for the most part divided into the two branches of regular and secular Tertiaries. The Rules of the various Third Orders have proved very adaptable to the needs of modern congregations devoted to active works of charity; and so a great number of teaching and nursing congregations of women belong to one or other of the Third Orders.
The Franciscan Third Order has always been the principal one, and it received a great impetus and a renewed vogue from Leo XIII., who in 1883 caused the Rule to be recast and made more suitable for the requirements of devout men and women at the present day. In consequence it is estimated that the number of lay Franciscan Tertiaries now exceeds two millions.
Bibliography.-The most serviceable authority on the Franciscan Tertiaries is probably Max Heimbucher, Orden und Kongregationen (1907), ii. §§ 103, 104, 105, where an ample bibliography is supplied. The same work gives information on the other Tertiaries at the end of the sections on the various Orders. Similarly information will be found in Helyot, Histoire des Ordres religieux (1714), after the chapters on the different Orders. Heimbucher names Tachy, Les Tiers Ordres (1897), and Adderley and Marson, Third Orders (1902).