Basilian Monks, Or Monks Of St. Basil, a religious order founded by St. Basil the Great, about the middle of the 4th century. When the saint retired into the deserts of Pontus ho found there a vast number of solitaries whoso manner of life he strove to copy. Crowds of followers gathered around him, and so rapidly did their number increase that he found it necessary to build a large monastery, and to embody in a code of written laws instructions for their conduct. These rules were published in 362, and received the sanction of Pope Liberius. The new order spread rapidly throughout the East, and it is said that before his death Basil saw himself the spiritual father of over 90,000 monks. In the 8th century they were treated with great severity by the emperor Constantine Coprony-mus, a violent iconoclast. The Basilian rule was translated into Latin by Rufinus, and thereupon passed into the West, where it became the basis of all monastic institutions up to the time of St. Benedict. Great numbers embraced it in Italy, Sicily, and Spain; but, though calling themselves by the common name of " monks of St. Basil," these various communities were independent of each other until Pope Gregory XIII. united them under one head, and at the same time corrected several abuses which had crept in among them during the lapse of years.
Various causes have since led to their decline in the West, but the order is still large and important. Their principal monastery is that of St. Saviour at Messina. In Spain, where they are very numerous, the Latin rite is universally followed; in Italy and Sicily they generally conform to the ritual of the Greek church, with a few modifications. Most of the monks of the Greek church in Russia claim to belong to the order of St. Basil, but if so they have deviated widely from their original rule. The historians of the order state that it has produced 14 popes, numerous patriarchs, cardinals, and archbishops, 1,800 bishops, and 11,-800 martyrs.