Carmelites, an order of friars in the Roman Catholic church. Mt. Carmel appears to have been a favorite place of resort for Hebrew ascetics, and after the Christian era hermits were fond of fixing themselves in the same region; and hence appears to have sprung up among the Carmelites the tradition that their order was founded by the prophet Elijah upon Mt. Carmel. The account of the origin of the order given by the Bollandists, though violently opposed by the Carmelites, is generally followed. A crusader of the 12th century, Berthold, count of Limoges, made a vow in the heat of battle to embrace a monastic life if he obtained the victory; and the battle being won, he fulfilled his vow by retiring to a cave on Mt. Carmel, called the cave of the prophet Elijah. He was accompanied by some others, and their increasing numbers made it soon necessary to build a monastery. Berthold's successor obtained a rule from Albert, patriarch of Jerusalem, which was confirmed by Pope Honorius III. in 1224. Under Alanus, their fifth general, the Carmelites migrated to Europe, to escape from the persecution of the Saracens; and a modified rule, suited to the western climate and manners, was adopted and approved by Innocent IV. This order, which was very severe, extended itself widely, and gained a high reputation in Europe. The female branch of the order was founded by John Soreth in the 15th century.
In process of time, great relaxation having been introduced into the rule, St. Teresa and St. John of the Cross (1562) set on foot in Spain a reformation, on the basis of the original rule of Albert, as modified by Innocent IV. This resulted in a division of the order into two branches - the reform being known as Discalced Carmelites. The houses of this order have shared the general fate of religious communities in many parts of Europe. They have maintained houses in Ireland, and within a few years have established themselves in Kansas. A convent of Carmelite nuns founded at Port Tobacco in 1790, and subsequently removed to Baltimore, was the first convent established in the original territory of the United States. There is a second convent near St. Louis. This order was the first to admit the laity to participate in the prayers and good works by giving them the scapular worn by the friars in a reduced shape; and this, under the name of scapular of our Lady of Mount Carmel, continues to be a favorite devotion with Roman Catholics. (See Scapulae).