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Camaldolese Priory on Bielany in Kraków, Poland

The Camaldolese are part of the Benedictine family of monastic communities which follow the way of life outlined in the Rule of St. Benedict, written in the 6th century.

The Camaldolese branch was established through the efforts of the Italian monk Saint Romuald at the start of the second Christian millennium. His reform sought to renew and integrate the eremetical tradition of monastic life with that of the cenobium.

In his youth Romuald became acquainted with the three major schools of western monastic tradition. His first monastery, Sant' Apollinare in Classe was a traditional Benedictine community under the influence of the Cluniac reforms. Romuald chose to be under a spiritual master, Marinus, who followed a much harsher ascetic and solitary lifestyle that was originally of Irish eremitical origins. Some years later, Marinus and Romuald settled near the Abbey of Sant Miguel de Cuxa, where Abbot Guarinus was also beginning reforms but was building mainly upon the Iberian Christian tradition. Later drawing on his various early experiences, Romuald was able to establish his own monastic pattern, though he himself never thought of it as a separate unit, seeing it as a full part of the Benedictine tradition.

Nearly a thousand years ago, Saint Romuald founded the Sacred Hermitage of Camaldoli, high in the mountains of central Italy, near the city of Arezzo. There are Camaldolese hermitages and monasteries throughout Italy. The most ancient is the urban monastery originally established by Saint Gregory the Great in the heart of Rome in the sixth century.

The order is currently divided into two autonomous congregations. The one headquartered at Camaldoli maintains a mix of monasteries and hermitages among the communities of men. The other, known as the Congregation of Monte Corona, was established by the Renaissance reformer, Saint Paolo Giustiniani. This group lives solely in hermitages, usually with a very small number of monks comprising the community. Unlike the other congregation, it is not a member of the larger Benedictine Confederation.

The Camaldolese order extended its presence to the United States in 1958, with the founding of Immaculate Heart Hermitage, more commonly called New Camaldoli Hermitage in the Santa Lucia Mountains of Big Sur, California. It was joined in 1959 by Holy Family Hermitage, Bloomingdale, Ohio, belonging to the monks of Monte Corona. Additional U.S. Camaldolese monasteries are Incarnation Monastery in Berkeley, California, and Transfiguration Monastery, for nuns, located in Windsor, New York. For several years, there was also a small community, Epiphany Monastery, in New Boston, New Hampshire, which was closed in 1998. There are also Camaldolese communities in Poland, India, Brazil, Colombia and Tanzania.

Communities of Camaldolese monks existed in France, during the Middle Ages and Renaissance. These, however, were destroyed in the French Revolution and never recovered. A small monastery of nuns was established by Polish nuns of the order but is on the verge of closure, with just one nun in residence.

In the Kingdom of Hungary four Camaldolese monasteries were established: Zobor Hill (1695), Lánzsér (1701), Vöröskolostor (1710) and Majk (1733). In 1782 Joseph II ordered the dissolution of every monastic order that in his view didn't pursue useful activities. Camaldolese monasteries were secularized.

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