History of Camaldoli


See Camaldoli guide for highlights and historic monuments

Founding of Camaldoli

The story of Camaldoli starts with Saint Romuald, born in 952 AD - Romuald of Ravenna arrived in the territory of Arezzo near the end of his life. Before he died he trained five monks - thereby creating the core of the Holy Hermitage of Camaldoli, called the "Campus Malduli", on land donated to St. Romuald by the Earl of Arezzo Maldolo.

He then died at Valdicastro (at that time called “Vallis de Castro”), between Fabriano and Cingoli in the Marche region of central Italy).

Creation of the Order of Camoldoli

Romuald's ideas about a moral reform of the Church met favorably with those of the Bishop of Arezzo, Teodaldo of Canossa [1023-1036], at the suggestion of whom S. Romuald founded, around 1027, the Holy Hermitage of Camaldoli. In the "Consuetudo Camaldulensis", the foundation of the monastery was told like this:

“We inform you, dearest brothers, that the Holy Hermitage of Camaldoli, founded with a basilica by the Holy Father Romuald, by the will of the Holy Spirit and the Reverend Teodaldo Bishop of Arezzo, was consecrated by the predicted Bishop in the year 1027 by the Incarnation of Christ". [3].

As we said above, Saint Romuald instructed five monks at Camaldoli, then he left them to end his life at Valdicastro. He enforced a set of rules over his brothers, who recognized him as their spiritual guide, rules which drew heavily from the Benedictine, then were perfected over the centuries.

The Legal origin of the Order of Camaldoli dates back to the Bull of Pope Paschal II (1099-1118):

“Thus spoke the Predicted Pope Paschal, servant of the servants of God to the Venerable son Guidone, Prior of Camaldoli: We order that no one, cleric, monk and lay  of any rank and dignity, is allowed today and in future to submit or divide the places where there is the Holy Hermitage of Camaldoli" [4].

After 1027, with the death of Romuald, the Holy Hermitage of Camaldoli became the Mother House of a congregation which increased its assets until the 13th century.

Sources telling us of the origins of the Holy Hermitage of Camaldoli are various and conflicting, but certainly the most authentic and reliable is the diploma with which Teodaldo of Canossa, Bishop of Arezzo in 1027 gave the venerable hermit Peter Dagnino, a disciple of Romuald, the oratory of San Salvatore. Thus was formed a monastic congregation, which was recognized in 1027 by the Bull "Nulli Fidelium" of Pope Alexander II, later confirmed by Pope Gregory VII (1028-1085).

During the pontificate of Pope Alexander III (1159-1181), Camaldoli  faced the first difficulties due to its wide feudal power, challenged by the Diocese, and by some neighbor Lords, and also by the same subjects. In 1187 in addition to confirmation of its rights and property by Pope Clement III (1181-1191), the Emperor Henry VI (died 1197), besides numerous donations, granted immunity to the Holy Hermitage of Camaldoli.

During the Humanist period it became an important cultural center, while the forest resources were a key source for the enrichment of the Camaldolese Order.

The Napoleonic period, which resulted in the suppression of many religious orders, and the dispersal of numerous works of art, marked the decline of the Camaldolese Order, which continued even after the unification of Italy, when the goods of the Order were confiscated by the state.

A renewed vigor of the Camaldolese Order was recorded in the second half of the 20th century and today Camaldoli is one of the key points of the spiritual and cultural tourism of Italy [5].

Origins of the name Camaldoli

It was from the name "Campus Malduli" that the modern place name "Camaldoli" was derived:

“the place that stands out is called "Campo Malduli", a beautiful and lovable field, where seven clear fountains flow and there are green and sweet places" [1].

However, some scholars believe that the name derives from the attributes of the site, defined as "Campus Amabilis" [=sweet field], as we can read in a Papal Bull, where Camaldoli is just called "Campus Amabilis":

"Girolamo da Piaga, father Agostino Fiorentino and Arnoldo Vion claim that the name of Camaldoli derives from a certain Maldolo, who donated this field to St. Romuald, who founded his monastery here, so that the place is called 'Campum Malduli' and 'Casam Malduli', and then 'Camalduli'...

... But Pope Alexander II [1061-1073] in the constitution given to this religious order seems to derive its name from 'Campus Amabilis', which was so called bifore St. Romuald dwelt in that place. In the constitution of October 29, 1072, we read: 'Approval of the Congregation of the monks of Camaldoli, called 'Campi Amabilis', of the Order of St. Benedict'. It is not improbable that 'Amabilis' was in fact defined the field given by  Maldulo to St. Romuald " [2]

However, it is more likely that the toponym refers to the donor, that is to the Count Maldolo, from whom, by linguistic contraction, “Ca[mpus] Malduli leads us to Ca-maldoli.

See also our detailed Camaldoli travel guide.

References

1. See G. Vedovato, “Camaldoli e la sua Congregazione dalle origini al 1184. Storia e documentazione”, Cesena, 1994 p. 127

2. See “I Fasti della chiesa nella vita dei santi ...”, Milano, 1824, Vol II, pp. 246-247 note 1

3. See L. Licciardello, “Consuetudo Camaldulensis. Rodulphi Constitutiones Liber Eremitice Regule”, Firenze,  2004,  pp. 2-4

4. See “Monumenta Historiae Patriae”, 1861, Tomo X, p. 191 and Vedovato, “Camaldoli”, pp. 72-76

5. for a detailed history of St. Romuald and Camaldoli, See “Codice forestale Camaldolese. La regola della vita eremitica, ovvero le 'Constitutiones Camaldulenses',  edited by Raoul Romano, Roma, INEA, 2010, Vol. I, pp. 67-89